How to grow sage from cuttings

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a beautiful perennial herb to grow. You can quickly grow sage from cuttings taken from an established plant, or you can opt to sow seeds indoors in pots.

When you hear the name sage, you may think of the beautiful herb with tiny blue flowers used in herbal teas and cooking, fresh and dried.

For others, sage is a popular garden perennial, grown for its beautiful colors and ability to attract bees and butterflies to the garden. One example would be purple sage (Salvia dorrii), also known as Desert Sage, with delicate purple flowers.

There are over 900 different varieties of sage spanning from annuals to perennials and from herbs to small bushes and shrubs.

This article focuses on Salvia Officinalis, also known as Garden Sage, Common Sage, and even Culinary Sage. It is an excellent addition to any garden.

Grow sage from cuttings by propagation

Sage plant grown from cutting
Sage plant from cutting

Sage can be grown from seeds or by propagating sage cuttings. You can, of course, buy plants from your local grocery store or gardener – but where is the fun with that?

Start growing sage as early as February or March in pots indoors. 

When your plants mature later in the summer, you can create multiple plants by propagating sage from sage cuttings from your new healthy plants. A good time to do this is in spring or early summer when the plants are full of energy and new growth.

Sage is a beautiful and fragrant plant; the more you have in the garden, the better!

It is all about getting started in time. When you start growing your sage from seed in spring, you can propagate sage from cuttings from your plants and place them throughout your garden.

How to propagate sage from cuttings

Like many other shrubby herbs (lavender, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, tarragon, and oregano), sage is ideally suited for propagating from cuttings. Two more favorites are basil and lemongrass.

We do not use rooting hormone when we propagate cuttings for our garden. We are yet to find a rooting hormone that is labelled as suitable for edible plants. Most rooting hormone powders write that they are safe to use from the second year of plant growth, but who wants to wait that long?

Taking cuttings from the plant

Use a sharp pair of scissors or knife to cut off a young sage about 6 centimeters (2,5 inches) below the crown of the branch. 

Gently pinch off all the lower leaves, leaving the cutting with 3-5 pairs of leaves. 

Next, plant the cutting in potting soil and water it carefully. It is essential to keep the soil moist but not soaking. 

Root sage in potting soil or water: here sage cutting rooted in water
A sage cutting in water

You can also place sage cuttings in water to submerge the stem, not the leaves. Expect to wait 3-4 weeks for the sage cuttings to develop roots.

Transplanting seedlings

A general rule is to transplant the sage cuttings when the seedlings are large enough to handle.

Sage seedlings in plastic pot ready to be transplanted
Sage seedling ready for transplanting

As soon as the average temperature is above 12 degrees Celsius (53 degrees Fahrenheit) and there is no more risk of frost, you can start hardening your sage plant seedlings.

Start by exposing the plant to the outdoors for a few hours a day, then gradually increase the time spent outdoors over a week.

Plant the seedlings approximately 20 centimeters (8 inches) apart if planting in rows (drills) keep the rows about 30 centimeters (12 inches) apart. 

Sowing sage from seeds will take the plant a couple of years to mature. A mature sage plant reaches a height of approximately 50 centimeters (20 inches).

Transplant shock and what to do

When growing sage from cuttings, there will always be a certain degree of transplant shock when you move the sage cuttings. After all, you disturb the plant by moving it to an entirely new growing environment.

However, you can do things to help new plants cope with the move. The base of a mature plant is woody, but the root system is still delicate. Handle the root system with care and make sure the root system is moist throughout the move.

You should also always water the plant thoroughly when planted in the new location. Sage should be planted in soil with good drainage why. Don’t worry about overwatering. Water more than you are used to, ensuring that the root system gets all the moisture it needs to get established.

Where to plant the sage seedlings

The sage plant will thrive in a warm location with full sun.  Make sure to plant in a bed with good drainage and add a liquid feed twice during the growing season.

Plant care & how to water sage

Sage likes to be watered regularly. Do not stress about the amount of water but try to keep the soil moist. 

Also, I have found that my plants thrive when I let them almost dry out before I water them again.

We recommend using a soil moisture meter to alert you when it is time to water. Insert it into the potting soil and wait a few seconds for the reading. And always measure in at least a couple of different spots and levels as moisture can differ inside a pot or container.

Soil moisture meter helps check soil moisture level

Another method is to insert a finger into the potting soil, and if the ground feels moist, you wait another day. It is time to water when it is difficult to push a finger into the soil. 

And again, make sure to plant the sage in a well-drained place. The roots do not like being soaked for long periods.

Pruning the sage plant (perennials)

Never prune sage in the fall or winter. Instead, do all the pruning in the spring before the new growth starts.

Cut back the stems leaving about 5 centimeters (2 inches). Pruning the plant will help new shoots form and make the plant grow bushier and more beautiful.

How to harvest sage

Like many other herbs, sage often prefers to be harvested a little at a time. You can harvest leaves and flowers and use them in cooking or preserve them for future use. 

A rule of thumb when harvesting sage is to harvest as the plant and leaves develop.

When the sage plant starts to bloom, the leaves will lose some flavors.

If you are harvesting sage to preserve by drying or freezing, harvest the leaves before blooming to maximize flavors.

How to look after sage growing indoors

Sage is a relatively easy herb to care for indoors. 

Make sure you keep the plant in a cool and bright place during winter, and ensure the pot has good drainage. 

Like when growing sage outdoors, the plant does not want its roots to be soaked in water for long periods.

Prepare outdoor perennial sage plants for winter

The sage plant is a perennial and needs to be covered in winter if there is a risk of frost. 

We prune and cut last year’s plants in spring and replaced them after approximately 2-3 years.

Pruning should, however, be avoided during fall and winter. Pruning the plant late in the year risks exposing the plant to rainwater, causing the plant’s root system to rot. 

You should use an insulating ground to help your plants do well over winter.

If you are growing sage in pots, you can move them inside a greenhouse or conservatory.

You can also apply mulch on top of the soil up to the pot’s rim. This will help insulate the soil and protect the roots. Also, using a larger pot with more soil will add a protective layer to the root system.

We also recommend wrapping blankets, bubble wrap, or any other protective material around the pots outside for extra insulation. 

You should also never leave the pots on the ground but elevate them to create a protective cushion of air between the pot and the cold ground. Lifting the pots off the ground also ensures they get good air circulation even during the winter when they prefer to have it dry around them. 

Finally, avoid watering too much during winter.

A great way to use sage during party time is a sage cocktail. A sage cocktail is a fresh, fruity cocktail with vivid, earthy contrast. It makes a delicious, unexpected welcome drink at any party.

Sage is more than sage tea

Adding this herb’s distinctive fragrance and flavor to your cocktails will give you a fantastic taste that pairs well with gin or non-alcoholic berry cocktails. 

Whatever type of party you are throwing, cocktails can be offered as welcome drinks or later in the evening after dessert and coffee. Either way, you may want to provide both alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties for those who do not enjoy gin or martini.

As gin and martini are the preferred pairing partner for this under-estimated herb.

Making cocktails at home has never been easier. After all, who doesn’t like to think they can shake with the best of them and awaken our inner mixology and bar-tending skills?

There are some great cocktail sets to choose from for a small investment. They come with all the items you need to create super cocktails effortlessly at home. 

How to make sage cocktails

Most great herb cocktails start with creating a simple syrup.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole sage leaves, washed and dried in a paper towel

Preparation

  1. Place the water in a saucepan over a gentle heat
  2. Add the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until dissolved
  3. Bring to a simmer
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the leaves.
  5. Place a lid on the saucepan and let the sage infuse for about 2 hours
  6. Strain the mixture and discard the leaves
  7. Keep the syrup in an airtight jar or bottle in the fridge
  8. The syrup will stay fresh for about two weeks

Our Best Sage & Martini Herb Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 30 ml (1 oz) Martini
  • 30 ml (1 oz) sage simple syrup
  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice, strained
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • Sparkling cloudy lemonade
  • Ice

Preparation

  1. Mix the ingredients and pour them into a glass over ice.
  2. Add the leaves as garnish.
  3. Serve immediately.

Our favorite Gin and Sage Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 30 ml (1 oz) gin (we prefer to use Pink Gin for extra sweetness)
  • 30 ml (1 oz) sage simple syrup
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, strained
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 30 ml (1 oz) Cloudy apple juice
  • Sparkling ginger ale
  • Ice

Preparation

  1. Mix the ingredients and pour them into a glass over ice.
  2. Top up with a splash of sparkling ginger ale. Add leaves as garnish.
  3. Serve immediately

Frequently asked questions

Meet the author: Sarah is a freelance copywriter passionate about gardening - particularly creating kitchen gardens with fruits, vegetables, and edible perennials. She has a professional background in the travel industry and now combines her interests with her writing skills to contribute articles on travel and horticultural topics for publication across the internet.