Light requirements: Full sun.
Planting: Space 18 to 24 inches apart.
Soil requirements: Plants grow best in well-drained soil. For clay soil, add sand and organic matter to provide better drainage, or grow plants in raised beds or containers. Soil pH should be 6.5 to 7.0.
Water requirements: Keep soil moist after planting until plants are well-rooted. Once established, plants in beds survive on rainfall. In containers, irrigate whenever soil is dry. Consider a pebble mulch to promote warmth and dryness beneath leaves, especially in humid areas.
Frost-fighting plan: Sage is perennial in zones 5 to 8. Established plants can survive a few hard frosts (under 28º F). Use a frost blanket to protect newly planted seedlings from late spring frosts or prolong the growing season in fall.
Common issues: In coldest zones, sage can take a while to leaf out; be patient before pulling plants. Prune plants back in early spring, cutting out oldest growth to promote new growth. Sage tends to get woody and stop producing lots of branches after 3 to 5 years. At this point, consider replacing your plant. Mildew can be a problem, especially in humid areas. Thin plants regularly to promote air circulation.
Harvesting: Pick leaves at any point in the growing season. In zones in which sage is perennial, harvest plants lightly the first year. With established plants, stop harvesting 2 months prior to frost to give new leaves time to mature. To harvest, cut an entire stem if desired, or just pinch a leaf at a time.
Storage: Wrap fresh sage leaves in a barely damp paper towel and tuck into a loosely closed plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator. Use within 4 to 5 days. For longer storage, dry leaves.
Common sage takes the form of a low shrub that can be wider than it is tall. The soft gray-green foliage is great in pots or the garden. Consider planting and growing sage in a container with rosemary, basil, and other Mediterranean herbs for a fragrant mix. While cooks appreciate the distinctive taste and scent of sage, gardeners also enjoy its velvety, evergreen foliage, and delicate blooms.