Sage is a highly productive perennial herb that grows into a medium-sized shrub up to around waist height. Common sage is evergreen which means it holds its dusty grayish green rounded leaves year round. There are also varieties available with purple and variegated green and yellow foliage. These coloured varieties allude to the fact that sage is often seen to make an aesthetic contribution to a garden – thanks not only to its foliage but also to its mature size. As such, like rosemary, sage can be used to give a vegetable or flower garden structure throughout the year. Sage is very popular with bees when it’s nectar-rich, blue flowers open in late spring and summer. These flowers also look great in salads.
Companions Cabbage, beans, carrots, rosemary,
Quantity You are unlikely to need more than one plant as long as you look after it.
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Common sage greenish grey leaves with strong aromatic flavour that intensifies when foliage is dried.
Pineapple sage large growing shrub with pointed leaves that smell of pineapple when crushed. The red flowers look great scattered over salads.
Purple sage purple foliage with more delicate flavour than common sage. Use fresh scattered over salads.
Plant from spring to late summer.
Sage likes to be in full sun with good air circulation and no humidity. This can make it a great plant for coastal gardens. It can be grown in containers – but is best grown in open ground.
Sage needs a free-draining, poor soil to thrive. If you have fertile soil with obvious particles of organic material in it then dig in plenty of fine pumice or coarse sand so that good drainage is assured.
Best to grow sage from cuttings or as a seedling. Plant shop-bought seedlings or cuttings with an average spacing of a good stride between them – if in garden soil. If planting in a container choose something on the larger side – a half wine barrel will do the job and you can grow other herbs – thyme, marjoram, oregano - around the edges.
Water cuttings and young seedlings in dry periods. Once they are established and starting to grow strongly you shouldn’t need to continue with watering unless weather is persistently dry and your soil dries out. Like rosemary, sage is a plant that can be killed with kindness – so don’t over feed or over water.
Pick the tender tips as these have a more delicate flavour than older foliage. .
If your garden gets anything more than the lightest of frosts in winter then you may want to protect young plants with frost cloth or keep them in containers and move to a protected spot if frosts are forecast. (Once these plants get larger they can be planted into the garden to stay there through winter).
Trim foliage with shears after flowering to maintain a good compact shape.