All You Need to Know About Growing Sage Indoors
Common sage, Salvia officinalis, also known as garden sage, is such an easy plant to grow indoors, and given the many uses of sage, it’s easy to understand why it’s so popular.
Although best known for its duo act with onion in the popular sage and onion stuffing, sage has been highly regarded for thousands of years, for all sorts of uses.
Originating from the Mediterranean region, the Greeks and Romans used sage to preserve meat. Its name Salvia comes from the Latin word ‘salvus’ which means both healthy and saved.
Native Americans traditionally used sage in ceremonies and is it’s still used by many people for ceremonial purposes today.
White sage (Salvia apiana) is known as a purifying herb, and is used as an incense, especially with sweetgrass as a smudge stick for cleansing spaces (see smudge stick recipe later in this guide).
So, whether you wish to conduct your own ceremonies with sage or use it for culinary or even ornamental purposes, you won’t regret growing sage indoors.
How to Grow Sage Indoors
Like all plants originating from the Mediterranean, sage loves plenty of sunshine.
Place your potted sage by a south facing window, allowing both full and partial sunlight for at least 6 – 8 hours a day.
If you’re just starting out as an indoor herb gardener, you might like to check out indoor herb starter kits that come complete with grow lights.
When growing sage indoors, temperature shouldn’t really be an issue.
In winter however, particularly in severe winters, don’t place your plant too close to the window and try to avoid drafts.
Watering Sage Indoors
When growing sage indoors in pots, regular watering is a must, especially in the warmer months.
You can reduce watering during winter, but don’t let the soil dry out due to heating and air conditioning.
Placing your potted rosemary on a tray of moist pebbles can help the plant in conditions of low humidity.
Be careful not to over water sage, as it’s a plant that does not like damp roots.
It’s a good idea to place your potted sage on legs during winter, to allow any excess moisture to drain away.
When watering sage, try to water only the soil and avoid wetting the leaves, to reduce the risk of mold.
Sage enjoys a well- draining, loam- based soil mix that’s kept evenly moist.
Use a 12 inch pot as a shrubby sage can grow up to 1- 1 1/2 feet ( 30 – 45cm) when grown indoors.
Fertilize your sage plant with a balanced liquid feed once flowering has finished.
It’s a good idea to always prune sage after flowering to encourage growth.
Prune sage with a pair of sharp, clean shears.
With your cuttings, you can hang them to dry in bundles tied together upside down in a cool, dry place or on a drying board.
Sage leaves are best dried whole, then crushed before use for maximum flavor.
The flowers can also be eaten and have a much more delicate flavor than the leaves.
Growing Sage from Seeds
Even though you can propagate sage from both seeds and cuttings, I would recommend buying an established plant for faster results.
However, if you are really keen on propagating your own sage, I would recommend growing sage from seed as follows;
Sow seeds during spring in a 12-inch pot (with a hole in the base for drainage) using a well-draining, high quality soil mix for edible plants.
Water so that the soil mix is moist after draining.
Place the pot where it will get plenty of warmth during the day and make sure that the soil doesn’t dry out.
Seeds should begin to germinate after 2-3 weeks.
Harvesting indoor evergreen sage can be done anytime.
Use sharp, clean snips to harvest fresh sage as required, for immediate use or for drying whole leaves.
Like most herbs, the best time for harvesting sage is usually during the warmer months between May and September.
Types of Sage
Common or garden sage is the most popular variety of sage for use in the kitchen, but here are some other interesting types of sage, suitable for culinary purposes.
The leaves of white sage are white to light green when young and as the plant matures, turn very white.
The leaves have a lovely sweet aroma and can be tried into bundles and partially dried for use during winter.
White sage is a particular favorite variety of sage with Native Americans, who burn the plant during ceremonies to cleanse an environment or person.
Tricolor sage is used very much like common or garden sage and can grow up to 18 inches in height.
This type of sage has very attractive leaves that are purple and green with a white outline.
Very popular in kitchens, tricolor also makes a very attractive ornamental plant.
Pineapple sage can grow taller than the common sage, especially outdoors, where it can reach a height of 4 feet.
This variety features bright scarlet flowers and leaves that display a pineapple scent.
Pineapple sage is well worth growing for use in the kitchen with its unique flavor. It makes a great ingredient for iced tea.
Purple sage is another great tasting culinary variety that also makes a lovely ornament with its purple and silver / green leaves.
Sage Health Benefits
Being high in antioxidants, sage has a long list of health benefits as it helps to neutralize harmful free radicals that are linked to chronic illnesses.
Sage contains over 160 different polyphenols, all of which have antioxidant effects on the body.
Of these, caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid, rutin, ellagic acid and chlorogenic acid are all associated with reducing the risk of cancer and improving memory and brain function.
According to research, one cup of sage tea drunk twice a day can significantly increase your body’s antioxidant defences.
Researchers also noted that this also helped to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increased good cholesterol (HDL).
Science is also beginning to substantiate traditional claims that consumption of sage can;
- Neutralize the microbes that cause dental plaque, therefore helping to reduce tooth decay
- Reduce symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes and excessive sweating
- Reduce blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity, helping to treat diabetes
- Reduce or slow the effects of aging such as memory loss
Sage Benefits for Beauty
As well as culinary and health related uses, sage has many beauty uses as well.
Most of the research on the beauty related benefits of sage have focused on sage oil rather than the sage leaf itself.
Being rich in vitamin A and calcium, sage leaf oil improves circulation and stimulates the renewal of cells.
This in turn means that sage can help to;
- Fight unwanted signs of ageing such as the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Removing cellulite
To take advantage of these beauty related sage benefits you can;
- Mix sage oil with a face cream or make a face mask from sage leaves
- Rub sage oil into cellulite affected areas on your body or use a sage leaf poultice
Sage oil is very good for your scalp as well.
Massaging sage oil into your scalp helps to promote blood flow which in turn can reduce hair loss and improve the formation of hair follicles.
Make a tea from sage leaves and rinse your hair with it to give your hair added shine.
Finally, sage possesses anti-fungal, antiseptic and antibacterial properties that are very beneficial to your skin.
Use sage tea as a skin toner after washing your face to reduce inflammation and help combat acne.
Trouble Shooting- Common Sage Plant Care Issues
When growing sage indoors, you are less likely to be impacted by pests, disease or extreme weather conditions.
The most common disease affecting sage is powdery mildew, a mass of tiny white spores that effect many indoor plants.
Most other sage plant care issues are usually a result of a lack of sunlight and a lack of water in summer.
On the other hand, too much water is a very common issue with sage, as its roots are easily damaged by excessive watering.
Here are some of the most common issues you may face when growing sage indoors;
Problem: white powdery appearance on leaves
Cause: Powdery mildew
Solution: Wipe off mildew powder with a damp cloth and then spray with neem oil
Problem: looking dry and colorless
Cause: Not enough water
Solution: Keep up your watering, especially in summer
Problem: Stunted growth, lacking color
Cause: Lack of bright light
Solution: Move your plant to a sunnier spot or use a small grow light.
Smudge Stick Recipe
Smudge sticks originate from the Native American tribes who created them to cleanse and purify a space or person.
You light the tip of the smudge stick and, once the flame is steady, blow it out so the stick is smouldering and producing smoke.
Hold the stick above a fireproof bowl, and fan the smoke over yourself, another person or around the space you wish to purify.
- Large handful of 7-10 inch lengths of common sage or white sage
- A length of cord, 4 times the length of the cut branches
- Leave the freshly cut branches to wilt overnight
- Form a 2 -inch thick bundle of sage branches
- Pint the tip of the bundle down and wrap the cord tightly around the base of the bundle
- Holding the sage tightly together, wrap the cord around the bundle until you get to the tip
- Then work back towards the base, continuing to wrap the cord around the tightly held sage bundle
- Tie the two ends of the cord together
- Trim the cord and or sage if you want a neater look
- Leave to dry for around 7 to 14 days before use, depending on conditions
Sage Hair Rinse
Use this hair rinse twice a week to keep your hair looking shiny and full.
- 2 full teaspoons of fresh sage leaves
- 2 cups of water
- Bring the water to the boil
- Add the sage
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pan
- Switch the heat off after 5 minutes and leave to cool
- Strain the liquid into a squeezy bottle
- Rinse your hair after shampooing and leave 2-3 minutes before washing out the rinse
Sage and Onion Stuffing
This is a traditional British recipe for sage and onion stuffing that take about 55 minutes to make.
You can make this stuffing in advance and freeze it, or prepare it on the day as it tastes best when served immediately. ( Serves 6 people)
- 3 ½oz / 100g breadcrumbs
- 13/4oz /50g butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 large onion (chopped)
- Heat the butter and oil in a pan, then cook the onion until soft
- Add the breadcrumbs and sage, then season to taste
- Transfer to a baking dish and pat down so the surface is even
- Preheat your oven to 350F / 180C
- Bake the stuffing for 40 minutes
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately with gravy
How to Grow Herbs Indoors – The Series
Mint: how-to grow-mint-indoors
Rosemary: how-to grow-rosemary-indoors