Tis The Season for Sage - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Tis The Season for Sage

Thanksgiving dinners filled with the fragrance of sage dusted turkey and dressing may be an American tradition, so it may surprise you to know that the sage plant (Salvia officinalis) is native to the Mediterranean.

Picture of a sage plant showing the Sage Leaves

Sage leaves
Photo Credit: Rosie Lerner

Today sage is used primarily as a culinary herb, but in older times it was a common medicinal plant.  The origin of the salvia name belies it medicinal value from the Latin salvus “to save” and salvere, “to heal”.

Sage is actually a diverse group of herbs belonging to the genus Salvia, many species of which are well-adapted to the home garden.  Common sage, S. officinalis, is grown for its leathery gray-green foliage on 1.5 – 2 foot tall stems that become slightly woody with age.   Frequent cutting of the stems will encourage stronger new growth to emerge.  Plants can be propagated by division, stem cuttings, or seed.  There are a number of cultivars available in variegated foliage colors. – ‘Berggarten’ with its large, dusty blue-green leaves, ‘Tricolor’ with red, white, and green; ‘Purpurea’ in purple; and ‘Icterina’ with yellow-edged green leaves.

Sage performs best in full sun with well-drained soil.  Garden sage will grow easily from seed, though harvest will be small the first year. After its second growing season, sage should be trimmed back in the spring to avoid the center of the plant becoming semi- woody.

If left to flower, sage will produce blue blooms that attract butterflies, but this leaves less oil content translating to reduced flavor in the leaves. Sage plants should be able to provide a dependable supply of fresh cut leaves for three to five years after which the plants should be replaced or divided to rejuvenate.


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