Plant, care for and harvest real sage


Sage works wonders for colds and refines various dishes as a spice. We'll show you what to consider when planting and caring.

© Josie Elias / stock.adobe.com

The real sage (Salvia officinalis) is a popular spice and medicinal plant, which is at home in the Mediterranean, but has now spread throughout Europe. The heat-loving, aromatic plants adorn cottage gardens and give meat and fish dishes a very special touch. The tradition of sage as a medicinal plant goes back a long way. We benefit from this today after eating a sumptuous meal, because sage makes heavy food more digestible.

Small plant description

Real sage (Salvia officinalis)
Spread:35 - 40 cm
Height:30 - 60 cm
Plant spacing:40 cm planting distance, 6 to 8 pieces per m²
Use:Herb garden, open spaces, farm garden, spice plant, medicinal plant
Ground:slightly dry to fresh, well-drained, low in humus, calcareous
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It is a perennial subshrub that grows about half a meter high. If the site conditions are ideal, growth heights of one meter cannot be ruled out.

The real sage forms weak stems. These can be square to rounded and are heavily branched. The leaves appear in pairs and opposite. The elongated egg-shaped leaves can grow almost ten centimeters long and reach a width of about five centimeters. The leaf surfaces are covered with a whitish felt, which gives the plant a gray-green color.

The stems become woody on older plants. The upper leaves are petiolate shorter than the leaves appearing at the lower stem ends. Older leaves can become bald on the top. If you look at a sage leaf with a magnifying glass, you will be able to make out the small oil glands that contain the essential oils, responsible for the fragrance and healing properties of the plant.

Use and benefit

The aromatic and slightly spicy taste of the real sage gives fish, poultry, game or meat dishes a spicy, Mediterranean note. The sage can be used raw and finely chopped for soups, sauces or poultry fillings. A traditional pastry is served with sage cakes in many places in Germany for the parish fair.

Tip: Sage can prevent fats from becoming rancid quickly.

Sage contains numerous active ingredients:

  • essential oils
  • tannins
  • bitters
  • flavonoids

Sage tea is often served in many countries. Sage contains thujone. This component of essential oils is toxic if overdosed.

Attention: Sage tea is not recommended for permanent consumption.

While the spice only found its way into kitchens in the Middle Ages, its importance as a medicinal plant is of much older origin. Real sage is valued for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects. In case of inflammation in the mouth and throat, sage tea is recommended as a garlic solution. Drinking tea can help prevent excessive sweating. Indigestion can also be alleviated.

Plant real sage

Find the right location

The real sage is a very frugal plant, which grows preferentially on stony and rocky surfaces. The location should be sunny and warm. The plant is quickly visited by numerous insects in the herb bed.

In addition, the culture in the planter is also possible. Clay pots have proven their worth. Sage thrives particularly well on the south side of balconies.

Choose the ideal floor

Lean soil is preferred. A sandy bottom is very suitable. Loamy soils should be treated with lava. A particularly nutritious soil, which does not appear permeable enough and thus promotes waterlogging, is not suitable for the cultivation of real sage.

Tip: Herbal soil mixed with sand is suitable for pot culture.

Planting instructions - step by step

1. Select location
2. Prepare the soil
3. Dig out the planting hole
4. Insert the plant in the middle
5. Close the planting hole
6. Press the earth lightly
7. Water the plant well

Roots, weeds and stones should be removed from the soil. Soils that are too heavy should be loosened. Garden lime can be mixed in to promote the growth of the plants. The planting hole should be excavated at least twice the diameter of the root ball. After the plant has been planted, the earth is filled in and pressed on well. The soil must be watered sufficiently.

An overview of the most important planting tips

Select location
  • sunny
  • warm
  • sheltered
Prepare the soil
  • permeable
  • skinny
  • calcareous
Make planting
  • Cultivated on the windowsill from March
  • Outdoor in May
  • Pot culture possible

Experience biodiversity

Purple sage (Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens') © Maria Brzostowska / Stock.adobe.com

Colorful spice sage (Salvia officinalis 'tricolor') © Astrid Gast / Stock.adobe.com

Yellow-colored spice sage (Salvia officinalis 'icterina') © Riccardomotti / Stock.adobe.com

White sage (Salvia officinalis 'Alba') © Etfoto / Stock.adobe.com

Broad-leaf spice sage (Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten') © Fabian / Stock.adobe.com

Pink spice sage (Salvia officinalis 'Rosea') © Marina / Stock.adobe.com

Sage is not the same as sage. Different types of spice plants expand the color spectrum in the herb garden. The pink spice sage blooms in midsummer and is a popular bee pasture. The pink flowers also make it suitable for use as an ornamental plant.

The particularly compact growth and the broad leaves characterize the sage "Berggarten". The small variety "Dwarf" sets contrasts. The variety "Alba" is characterized by pretty white flowers.

With their pretty leaf decorations, the types "Tricolor", "Purpurascens" and "Icterina" are eye-catchers in the ornamental and utility garden.

Cultivate real sage

Water real sage properly

The real sage needs regular watering. However, the hobby gardener should not overdo it with irrigation. The sage originally grew on dry mountain slopes. He rarely experienced precipitation. The plant therefore cannot cope with waterlogging. Drought, on the other hand, is remarkably well tolerated. Irrigation should be moderate, especially on hot days.

Tip: Perform a finger test before watering - if the soil is already dry to the fingernail depth, it should be watered. If the substrate still feels wet, there is no need to water it yet.

Fertilize real sage properly

Real sage is also frugal in terms of nutrient supply. Sage in the herb garden does not need to be fertilized regularly. It is sufficient to include some compost mixed with sand during planting.

If the real sage is cultivated in the plant pot, its nutrient requirement increases. During the growing season in spring and summer, fertilization can be carried out at regular intervals.

Cut real sage properly

No cutting measures are necessary for young plants. Older plants easily wood from below. If the sage is cut back in spring, the lignification can be stopped. Furthermore, the plant grows more attractively and does not tend to break apart. The growth of the leaves is stimulated with a pruning.

Tip: The pruning should not be done too far into the old wood.

If you want to prevent the sage from diligently sowing itself in the garden bed, you should regularly remove withered flowers.

The most important care tips at a glance

to water
  • water moderately
  • Avoid waterlogging
  • longer drought is tolerated
  • low nutrient requirements
  • Compost when planting
  • Fertilize container plants regularly
To cut
  • cut back in spring
  • do not cut too far into the old wood
  • Cutting measures promote growth

Multiply real sage

The propagation of the real sage is possible by seeds, by division and by cuttings.

Propagation by seeds

Sage seeds can be sown as early as February and grown on a sunny windowsill. The real sage is one of the light germs. The seeds are consequently sprinkled on the substrate and only slightly pressed into the soil, but not completely covered with soil. Germination begins after about two weeks.

In mid-May, when frost is no longer to be expected, the early plants can go outdoors. It is also possible to sow directly in the field from May. However, it will take longer before the first sage can be harvested.

Multiplication by division

If the plant is well developed, the real sage can also be propagated by division. To do this, the plant is first carefully removed from the ground. The earth is shaken off the root ball. This gives the opportunity to check the nature of the plant and to remove any diseased or dead root parts.

Sage plants are easy to share with your hands. So the hobby gardener quickly receives two equivalent plants, which can now be transplanted separately and cultivated as before. It is important to ensure that both plants have sufficient root network.

Propagation by cuttings

Propagation by cuttings quickly guarantees well-developed plants. A prerequisite for this is a strong mother plant.

Propagation by cuttings step by step:

  1. Cut off the cutting
  2. Remove leaves
  3. Bring cuttings into the earth
  4. Wait for rooting

A strong shoot of an older mother plant is suitable as a cutting. This should be cut in spring or early summer. Then the plant copes best with the procedure and can quickly close its wound.

So that the cuttings put their strength into the formation of the roots, only one pair of leaves is left on the stem. The shoot is planted in the soil and lightly cast on. If new shoots appear, successful propagation can be assumed.

Recognize and fight diseases of the real sage

The real sage is robust and hardly affected by diseases. However, maintenance errors make it difficult and lead to infestation with spider mites or mildew. This happens if you meant too well with watering or if the plants were over-fertilized.

The pests can be removed with simple home remedies. A solution of nine parts water and one part milk helps against mildew. The mixture is placed in a spray bottle and the plants are regularly treated with it.
Spider mites can of course be controlled with diatomaceous earth. This insecticide does not harm the environment, but reliably kills the pests, while spider mites are often resistant to chemical pesticides.

In the case of persistent infestation, the plants should be cut back generously. The cut waste should not land on the compost, but should be burned or disposed of as organic waste.

Winter sage overwinter

The real sage is perennial and usually survives the winter unscathed even in our latitudes. However, it should be borne in mind that it is a plant from the Mediterranean region. Bald frosts in particular can be dangerous to the real sage. A cover made of leaves or brushwood protects the plant from frost damage.

If the real sage is cultivated in a pot, wintering outdoors is not advisable. Comparatively little substrate is available in the pot. The soil can freeze completely quickly and the sage can no longer absorb moisture and nutrients. Potted plants should be brought in before the first frosts and overwinter bright and frost-free.

Harvest real sage

The leaves of the sage plant can be harvested all year round. Aromatic leaves in particular can be picked before flowering. The sage leaves can be used fresh and dried. The intense taste takes some getting used to, so economical use is recommended.

Tip: Sage butter can be used instead of the usual pasta sauce.