The Q&A Archives: Growing Sage

Question: My sage plant was doing well all summer, planted in a large plastic container. Just before winter I brought it indoors, and it has been dying ever since. I believe it has been watered too often and that I should not have added the mulch type soil when I moved the plant indoors. Can I remove the surplus soil around the roots and add a sandy type soil instead?

Answer: There are about 60 species of sage. Some are annual, some perennial, and some are shrubs. Most grow best in full sunshine and dry soil. Sage can be grown in a container, as long as there are holes in the bottom of the container to provide good drainage. If the sage you're growing is the annual kind, you'll have to expect that it has gone through its full lifecycle and will die. If the sage is perennial, the problem might be that you're trying to grow it under less than ideal conditions. Since you can't provide direct sunshine all day, you'll have to supplement the light the plant is getting by putting it under a source of artificial light for 14-16 hours each day. Sage prefers soil on the dry side. Overwatering will cause the foliage to yellow and drop off, and can cause root rot. Finally, adding soil on top of the roots may have adverse effects, but that's probably the least concern at this moment. If you can remove the soil you added without injuring the stem or roots, go ahead and remove it. Try to make the soil level the same as it was when the plant was growing outdoors. Water only when the top inch of soil has dried out. (You can test by plunging you finger into the soil.) Place your plant under gro-lights or fluorescent shop lights, keeping the source of the light about 8 inches above the top of the plant. Following the above suggestions may very well bring your plant back to health.

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