Sage - Salvia officinalis

Sage - Salvia officinalis

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Offiinal sage

It comes from the Mediterranean coasts. Aromatic plant with very fragrant leaves, very used in the kitchen. During the winter period some varieties completely lose their leaves while others are semi-persistent. It is a shrub that in nature can reach 60 centimeters in height. Blue-purple flowers that bloom in summer.
The genus sage is part of the family of labiatae and includes no less than 500 species widespread in all temperate areas of the globe
There salvia officinalis It is a bushy evergreen aromatic plant with stems up to 70 cm tall, very branched and woody at the base. The lateral stems generally have a more prostrate posture.
The leaves are petiolate, oblong-ovate, thick, wrinkled and finely serrated, covered with a thick hair. The color is very particular and characteristic: a beautiful green-gray (in the species).
The flowers appear at the apex of the stem in spring-summer and are generally quite intense blue-violet. It is native to southern Europe; in Italy it is found in stony and arid places, in various areas, in the central part of the peninsula up to Basilicata, in Sardinia and in the Tuscan archipelago.
Being a much loved plant and known since ancient times, many cultivars have been developed, mostly characterized by different leaf colors. Thanks to these researches today it is possible to insert this plant either in vegetable gardens or aromatic corners, or inside the real garden. In fact, it can be precious in the flowerbeds and mixed borders given the persistence and beauty of the foliage.
Rustic plant, which is also suitable for areas with harsh climate.

Cultivation of Salvia

The cultivation of the salvia officinalis It is very simple and a constant maintenance is not essential ... It can be inserted both in full ground and in a pot (possibly quite large) and it provides us with its precious leaves continuously throughout the year.

Family and gender
Labiatae, gen. sage, sp. officinalis
Type of plant Evergreen shrub
Exposure Full sun, half shade
Rustic Very rustic
Ground Well drained, also poor, slightly calcareous
colors Leaves green, yellow, purple, blue flower, purple or white
Irrigation regular
Flowering End of spring
Composting Not necessary


It does not need particularly rich soils, growing well even in poor and calcareous soils. It adapts to any type of terrain, as long as it is not too compact and asphyxiated.
The ideal is to supply it with a fertile, well-drained and rather light soil, perhaps calcareous. However, even a poor, stony or slightly sandy substratum is not an obstacle to its growth.
If our soil is heavy and clayey, it will be good to intervene previously working it in depth and incorporating a good quantity of sand and a bit of gravel. We can also lighten it by incorporating organic matter such as manure or some peat blond.
Find different uses: as a decoration at the base of other bushes, in mixed borders, to give color both in spring (with flowers) and throughout the course of the year (with beautiful leaves). Excellent inserted even in rock gardens, especially if kept rather low. You can create beautiful combinations with other Mediterranean essences and medicinal plants (with thyme, rosemary, lavender, helichrysum, santolina). The ideal is the combination with plants with yellow flowers, so that, at the beginning of summer, a striking chromatic contrast is created, even more enhanced by the spread of intense aromas in the warm air.


It is planted in October or March. The planting can be done in autumn or spring. Generally plants inserted in November have a better growth since the first vintage.
In that case, however, it is advisable to protect the foot with good mulching, especially if we live in the northern regions or in mountainous areas.
It is advisable to trim the young plants to favor the branching of the plant.

History and common uses of sage

It has been used since ancient times for its medicinal and aromatic virtues. The Greeks and Romans used it in the case of snake bites. The Egyptians, instead, used it to perfume the oils used for the embalming of the dead.
Its name comes from the Latin and means "to save, to heal"
In the kitchen the leaves are used to flavor birds, fish, sauces and meats in general. They also go very well with vegetables and cold cuts. They can be infused to obtain excellent and relaxing herbal teas.


The ideal exposure for salvia officinalis is always full sun. In these conditions the growth is fast and it is also possible to obtain a beautiful and abundant flowering.
However, it also tolerates the partial shade (especially in the southern regions and on the coasts). In these conditions, however, let's always make sure that the soil is well drained, to avoid risking radical rot and the advent of powdery mildew.


In the open ground, human intervention is rarely required, especially for completely stamped plants, which have therefore been included for some years.
We can irrigate if we experience long periods of drought (especially in the Center-South) and if we see very weak leaves.
Newly inserted individuals should instead be followed with a certain assiduity for at least the entire first vintage.

Sage fertilization

Fertilization is not strictly necessary.
If we want we can, at the end of autumn, distribute a good amount of organic soil conditioner. In spring we can then add a handful of slow-release granular fertilizer for flowering plants.
If we want to stimulate flowering we can distribute a liquid fertilizer with a good amount of potassium from March to June, every 15 days.

Sage rusticity

Salvia officinalis is very rustic and hardly damaged by frost throughout our country.
It bears very well temperatures up to -15 ° C. Below this temperature it can happen that the foliage becomes transient, but rarely the stump and roots are compromised: when spring arrives, we will opt for a slightly stricter pruning, eliminating any compromised stems. This will stimulate the production of new basal jets.
If we live above 800 meters of altitude we can repair the plant by covering the foot with mulching material and possibly the aerial part with special tissue.


To always keep the young and compact plants, in addition to stimulating the emission of new shoots, it is good to intervene at the end of the winter by cutting the plants at about 20 cm from the ground.
Of course the bush will also be cleaned from dry or damaged vegetation.

Pests and diseases

The plant is subject to damage from mites and leaf-mining lepidoptera. We intervene with natural pyrethrins or with organic insecticides, respecting the times of shortage.
It is also a frequent victim of powdery mildew. We can fight it avoiding to wet the leaves and placing it in a less humid and more airy area. Remove the affected leaves and try to spray with water and baking soda.

Sage in a jar

It is also possible to cultivate in containers, on balconies, terraces or even only on window sills.
The important thing is to supply a rather large vase (at least 20 cm in diameter, but the ideal is 30 cm) to avoid having to repot too often.
The ideal substrate should be composed with 1/3 of soil for flowering plants, 1/3 of garden soil and 1/3 of sand. If desired we can also add some fine gravel, agriperlite or pumice. On the bottom it is good practice to prepare a thick draining layer based on gravel or expanded clay.
In this case the irrigations must be rather frequent (especially if the exposure is very sunny). Let us ensure that the soil never dries completely, but let us avoid the use of saucers, the main cause of the advent of root rot.

Sage propagation

Propagation is simple. New seedlings can be obtained from seed, from cuttings or from division of the head.
The gamica multiplication is to be considered only as a botanical curiosity. In fact, the plant is readily available (and also in several cultivars) in nurseries. Sowing always succeeds, but before having a good sized specimen it is necessary to wait at least four years.

Sow sowing

The right period runs from the end of April to September. Five seeds are placed for each 15 cm diameter jar, covering them with a thin layer of vermiculite. The substrate is always kept moist, in a sheltered and shaded area.
Once the seedlings are checked, we keep only the most vigorous ones and proceed with different topping.

Division of the head

Proceed to the end of winter, before the plant begins to vegetate. Let us free the roots from the earth and divide them into parts, making sure that each one has a jet.
If desired, if the plant is in the ground, we can also directly divide it with a spade and then separately extracting the parts obtained.
The portions can be buried immediately but, to facilitate a faster recovery, it is desirable to keep them until the following spring in pot.


In spring, apical jets are taken without flowers about 8 cm long, they are inserted into jars, leaving only a few leaves. The substrate must be very light and always kept slightly moist. They generally root in about a month and are ready to be transferred to individual containers as early as the autumn.

Sage - Salvia officinalis: Collection of leaves

The harvest of salvia officinalis is possible throughout the year. It is sufficient to collect the fresh leaves that are necessary for our daily uses.
If we want to preserve it we can proceed with drying, in the shade in a well-ventilated area. It must then be kept in airtight jars. It is also possible to freeze the leaves (and retain their aroma even better).
Watch the video
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