Salvia officinalis, also known as sage, of the Lamiaceae family, is mainly used as a spice and medicinal plant in kitchens and as an ornamental plant in gardens. You need to cut back the stems in the early springtime. The tender new growths resulting from pruning are very sensitive to cold, which can affect the later development of the sage. It is therefore not recommended to prune sage plants in winter or autumn.
If you want large sage bushes in your garden, then pruning is definitely the way to go. Trimming them is also the best way to make sure you get the most and best-quality sage leaves when it’s time to harvest them.
To prune sage, follow the steps below.
- Cut that stem about 1 inch above the leaves.
- Repeat these steps until all stems are done.
First, get a sharp pair of pruning shears and disinfect them. Properly disinfected scissors will prevent the spread of bacteria on leaves and stems.
2. Cut that stem about 1 inch above the leaves
Cut off one third of the plant from the top of the stem. Remember that the stem should be cut where new stem has already grown on two sides. Cut 1 inch (2.5 cm) above this position. The most important thing is not to cut more than a third of the plant. The plant – at least the cut stem – can also lead to death if too much is cut off. Also, don’t forget to cut the stems at a 45-degree angle to prevent water from remaining on the surface of the stem, which can lead to bacterial infection that can cause the stem to die.
You can finish pruning the sage if you want it to bloom. By not pruning, we stop the continuous growth and the plant stops wanting to grow stems and leaves, so a flowering phase starts.
Remember that dense bush growth can block sunlight from reaching covered leaves when pruning. To ensure adequate light, be sure to lift these leaves.
3. Repeat these steps until all stems are done.
Once you have learned the correct trimming, you can start to shape the sage into a beautiful decorative bush. Trimming sage bushes requires the same steps as pruning, only repeated over a longer period of time. For kitchen use, we prepare the leaves for later use as a condiment.
When should you prune sage?
You should trim sage in springtime when the temperature is pleasantly warm. To be precise, it should be above 60 F° or 15 C°, meaning you can trim sage in fall, winter and summer as well. The cut parts are very vulnerable, so doing it in sub-optimal conditions can affect its growth and even lead to the death of your plant.
Why do you need to prune sage?
Pruning your sage will encourage new growth, that enables the plant to expand more efficiently. If done correctly, two new shoots will grow where the stem was cut off. The growth of these shoots will make the bushy, more decorative, and will also increase the number of sage leaves you can harvest.
What tools do you need for pruning sage?
To prune sage, you need a sterile pair of pruning shears or scissors. You want to disinfect or wash them before starting, to not contaminate the plant causing some nasty diseases. As mentioned before, you can also use your hands as the light, soft stems allow you to use the pinching technique.
Can I harvest sage while pruning?
Yes, you can harvest sage while pruning. Do not throw away the cut leaves, but put them aside. When the pruning is finished, collect all the clippings. Sage is used in the kitchen because of its leaves, so trimming is also harvesting. The leaves can be consumed for culinary use after drying.
Also, it is not recommended to prune the sage in winter, as the parts of the plant become more sensitive to new growth.
How to care for sage?
Sage is a herb that does not require much attention. For leggy plants, the stems should be cut back to the size you want and then you need to repot the sage. It can withstand overwintering well and is well protected against pests. To make sure the sage overwinters, place the plant where it will not be exposed to cold winds. For pests, remove any dead leaves and apply insecticidal soap.
How to avoid leggy sage plants? Just place the sage in a place where each part (both stem and leaf) receives adequate and even light. The cause of leggy sage is usually uneven light exposure, which is why one must be careful when pruning to cut the leaves off the plant so that they do not cover each other.
How to overwinter sage?
Sage easily overwinters in the cold because it can tolerate temperatures down to USDA zone 4, so -30°F (-34.4°C) to -25°F (-31.7°C). Beyond these, keep an eye on the plant at all times, because sometimes they can surprise you. To protect the herb from cold winds, a greenhouse is a perfect shelter. The key to protection is to keep the leaves out of cold winds, which can damage them. Leaving sage in the full sun for the winter can also help reduce the risks of cold damage.
How to deal with sage pests?
The best way to control sage pests is to keep an eye on the plant to see where pests are appearing. If pests are visible, simply remove them from the leaves or stems of the plant. Pests may appear in places where they are not first visible, for example under the leaves. Pests under the leaves may be black, while pests between the leaves may have a white tip. Cut off leaves if they are old and rotting. To control pests, use insecticidal soaps, which, because of their potassium chloride content, help remove the waxy substances left behind by pests. The common pests are aphids and white flies, thrips, spider mites, slugs, caterpillars and red and black flat mites.