Recently I wrote about using sage in a post on Savor the Southwest. Following that – here is how to grow sage!
The sage we use in cooking is Salvia officinalis, and has well over 1500 closely related Salvia species, many of them with sage somewhere in the common name. Sage itself has many common names, including true sage, common sage, garden sage, kitchen sage, culinary sage, Dalmatian sage, and broadleaf sage. Originally native to the Mediterranean region, sage can be grown here in the Southwest.
A rich, well-drained loamy soil that is high in organic matter is great for sage. Sandy soils drain too quickly and clay soils become waterlogged and don’t hold oxygen well. Either case makes for unhappy basil plants. Soil pH for sage is between 6.5 to 7.2, yet most desert soil is around 8.0. Add ample organic matter or grow your sage in large containers with potting soil.
Sage does best with 8 hours of light per day, but we are blessed with more than that in summer! Ideally provide noon or afternoon shade. The east side of a home is a good place to plant sage.
Sage has grey-green leaves that are soft to the touch due to the many fine trichomes (plant hairs). The trichomes help the plant conserve moisture, thus plants can survive our low humidity; it is the summer heat they do not appreciate. Sage is cold tolerant to USDA Zone 4, and heat tolerant to Zone 8. So – if you want sage in Zone 9 or 10, you can plant it as an annual, get just the right site for it, or grow it in unglazed clay or terra cotta pots so the evaporation through the porous sides of the pot keeps the roots cool in summer. Move the pots into a shady area in summer.
Sage is a low water plant, but it does require sufficient water during the hot months.
Like many herbs, sage needs little fertilizer. Indeed, it is believed that too much fertilizer will reduce the amount of flavor-producing essential oils. Half-strength fertilizer will help leaf production, but avoid fertilizer after October 15 or before February 15 when the nutrients would trigger frost-tender growth.
There are a number of colorful varieties of sage to choose from. Why not grow a selection for subtle color in the garden? Sage can be planted from seed, bought as seedlings from a nursery, and occasionally found potted and for sale in the grocery store. No matter how you start sage – You Can Grow That!
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including “Farther Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today,” (Tierra del Sol Press, $15). And yes, this book includes how to grow & use sage!
© Article is copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.