Roots 'n' Shoots: Sage: How to Grow - Herb of the Month

Why is RnS Moving to

Google had brought out an algorithm update in May 2017. With previous updates like Panda or Penguin, Mr G had penalized blogs or websites with low quality content and those more focused on aggressive adverts (including multiple ads or pop-up ads in articles). However, many blogs/websites that weren't shady got penalized beyond recovery too and a lot of people lost their income. The May 2017 update has had wide-scale effect on blogs and websites, but without any explanation from Mr G as to why or what it does. RnS has been hit by it too and hard. RnS organic search stats (i.e. users from Google) have dropped by 75% since. Even though RnS is not a source of income, I tried to figure out why RnS is being culled. It seems that it doesn't really have anything to do with RnS per se, but likely because RnS is FREE and not paying for page ranking (via AdWords or Ad Ranking). Now it is likely being aggressively shoved to lower page rankings to accommodate the paid ads.

I cannot rely on Mr G anymore to get RnS' content where it is needed. So I am busy moving RnS to Wordpress where you can find me as Whisker Flowers @

I am also imposing 301 redirects from already moved posts and pages!

- The Shroom - (AKA Whisker Flowers)

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Sage: How to Grow - Herb of the Month

Sage stats/requirements at a glance

Ease of Raising:
5/5 – Very Easy, plant and leave
1/5 – Minimal, weekly (especially in a container)
5/5 – Full sun
1/5 – Minimal (only to shape)
1/5 – Minimal (at least during the growing season)
Time to Harvest:
1/5 – Immediate (purchased a seedling) to Soon (from seed)
Frost Hardiness:
1/4 – Very Hardy (can’t take black frost)

Culinary, Medicinal, Pollinator attractor & Predator sheltering
Most Problematic Nemesis:
None, some die-back with over-watering
Container Plant:
Yes (preferably grown in the garden rather than container)

Salvia officinalis
Krauterbuch 1914
Kurt Stueber Online Library

Quick intro

Sage is a hardy grey-green shrub. It is mostly used in savoury dishes, such as cheese, meat dishes sausages and stuffing, but has been historically used in beverages, such as tea. There are many different species of sage with leaf and flower colours, as well as aromas (pineapple or apple for pork dishes and clary sage as a perfume).


Sage has its origins in the northern Mediterranean coast and has been cultivated in many countries. It was an important medicinal plant to the ancient Greeks and Romans, used as an antiseptic to treat wounds (especially snake bites). Hence, its scientific name is derived from Latin “salvere” which means ‘to feel well or heal’. Sage used as a tea is known as an antiseptic, astringent, antispasmodic and systemic antibiotic, but overuse is not recommended due to possible toxic effects.

Science Stuff

Common or Culinary sage, Salvia officinalis, is a member of the aromatic herb family, Lamiaceae. This family includes several well-known species, such as basil, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, savory, mint and lemon balm.

Sage, thyme and oregano

Several different species of sage exist – over 900 species of annuals, perennials and evergreen shrubs! Pineapple sage, Salvia elegans, has a hint of pineapple that works really well in pork dishes. Clary sage, Salvia sclarea, is used in perfumes and as an essential oil for its pleasant aroma and healing properties. Apple sage, Salvia pomifera, has violet flowers and egg shaped leaves with a pleasant apple note.

Growing & Pruning Sage

Sage is generally care-free. It should be in a full sun position and should not be over watered. Waterlogged sage will eventually die back, blackening of leaf tips and shoots.

Sage does well in pots, but regardless of the planting site, requires pruning. Sage can withstand a hard prune (several centimetres of the established plant), but generally a 1/3 – ½ of the plant can be pruned back in winter to allow new growth.

Other Tips

To always have a steady supply of strongly aromatic leaves, sage plants should be replaced every 4-7 years.

Sage is evergreen and will always give you a fresh supply. It can be dried to impart a milder taste to food. The pruning cut-offs can be used as mulch, compost or give-aways to friends J. With all my herbs I throw the cuttings back into the herb garden to provide mulch and shelter for all the garden critters.

Insects don’t find sage palatable, due to it containing strong aromatic oils, but some damage can result from certain butterfly species’ caterpillars.

Trichomes (tiny hairs) also make sage unpalatable to insects

Variegated sages don’t have such strong flavours and are medicinally less potent, due to their lower aromatic oil content.

Aromatic sages (pineapple, apple etc.) are not frost hardy and need protection during winter.

Harvesting & Storing

Drying sage: Simply save the pruned leaves and dry on a paper/cloth towel indoors for a few days in a dry (airy) place. Once dry they can be stored in glass jars.

Sage scented oil: Similar to rosemary and oregano, sage can be heated in oil (no boiling, only smoking oil, else the oil is destroyed and become heart-unhealthy J Boiling oil also destroys the aromatic oils form the herb). The oil is allowed to cool a bit (so that you retain heat as the sterilising agent, but not too hot that it will break the glass container you want to store it in J). The sage leaves are removed and the oil is poured into a glass bottle (the leaves will become mouldy if left in the oil). This oil is especially useful for meat and savoury dishes!

The flavour of aromatic sages destroyed during the cooking process and only a small amount is added to dishes right at the end of cooking.

Seed Saving & Propagation

If left to flower, the plant will produce lovely purple flowers, a vibrant contrast to its green-grey foliage – the bees and other pollinators will love it too!

The flower clusters are harvested when dry and separated before storing in a glass container. Seeds are viable for 1 year only. Seeds require stratification (cold winter period of 1-6 months) to break seed dormancy – a refrigerator works well at 0.5-5oC (33-41oF). Seeds are sown in a sunny position when the soil has reached 20oC (68oF) and germination takes 7-21 days.

Many of the aromatic herb family members can be propagated by the division of large plants. Any divisions should immediately be replanted at a different locations – that is to say if you want more than one J. You divide the plant by cutting straight down the centre (you can decide on the appropriate tool, such as scissors – a spade works well too!) Stem cuttings can also be rooted in the appropriate rooting hormone during spring and summer.

My Sage

Common Sage: A must have for any respectable herb garden J.

Common or Culinary Sage
Salvia officinalis

Pineapple Sage: Bright red flowers are produced on long spikes, which the bees adore!

Pineapple Sage
Salvia elegans

Do you have an aromatic sage favourite? Or do you simply stick to good ol' common sage?


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