The sage plant is a dense, upright bush about 2 to 3 feet in height. The stems are woody and square and the leaves are arranged oppositely on the stem. The plant is grown for its aromatic leaves, which are used as seasoning.
It is well suited to growing in containers and will grow indoors if given sufficient light. Add to this the nicely textured velvet grey-green leaves and violet flowers and you have a herb or flowering plant well-suited to all gardeners.
There are several varieties of sage with different coloured flowers and even variegated leaves (some fine for kitchen use), although none are as hardy as the common sage.
Where To Grow Sage
Sage will grow almost anywhere as long as it is in full sun for a good part of the day.The best soil is a well-dug medium one, with a handful or two of bonemeal worked in twice during the summer. What sage does not like is soil that is moist all the time - it is a native of Mediterranean areas.
Sage is sold at most garden centres in small pots - as long as they are purchased after all danger of frost has passed, they can be planted straight outside. This is the quickest and most reliable way to start growing sage. Make sure that a 90cm (3ft) is in place near the main stem - the plant can be tied to it as it grows. Sage can stand by itself most of the time, but the odd strong wind may snap the brittle woody stem. You should be able to pick a few leaves in July time if planted in Spring.
It is more satisfying to raise sage from seed, but be prepared to wait. Sow indoors in March (potting compost is fine), or in April outside. The plants will grow very slowly and you will only be able to begin harvesting in June the next year.
Sage looses some of its strength after three or four years, so it is necessary to take cuttings in Spring (5cm or 2in long) to replace the plant the next year.
Care of Sage
Work in a couple of handfuls of bonemeal to the surrounding soil at the beginning and end of each summer. After the flowers die down, prune the plant to about half it's size. Other than that, leave it to fend for itself.
One word of warning - in dry spells, resist the temptation to water, sage prefers dry sunny conditions.
Simply cut off the leaves with scissors or pinch off with your fingers as and when required. One plant should be sufficient for the kitchen needs of most households. Sage is best used fresh, although leaves frozen in a plastic bag are an excellent alternative. Dried sage lasts almost indefinitely if stored in an airtight bottle in a dry place out out of sunlight.
Container Growing Sage
Simplicity itself - use potting compost (remember to put a good layer of stones at the bottom for drainage) and keep the plant on the dry side throughout it's life. A feed every month with general purpose liquid plant food will be enough. Prune as described above.
Sage can be grown indoors as long as it is placed on a sunny windowsill - it will stand direct sunlight with no problems.
PLANT TYPE: Perennial
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Salvia officinalis
ZONE / HARDINESS: 5 to 9
MATURE PLANT SIZE: 12 to 30 inches high x 24 inches wide
LIGHT: Full Sun
FLOWERING PERIOD: June
SOIL TYPE: Fairly rich, light, dry, well-drained soil
pH RANGE: 6.4
KNOWN PESTS: Slugs, spider mites, spittle bugs.
KNOWN DISEASES: Root rot and wilt.
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