Early spring is a good time to cut sage. Sage, with the Latin name Salvia, is an undemanding and sun-loving plant from the labiates family. Salvia species are distributed worldwide and include more than 800 different varieties. True sage with its aromatic fragrance and essential oils is used as a culinary herb and as a medicinal plant .
If sage is planted in the right place in the garden, it can spread over several square meters. However, if the leaves are cut off before winter, the plant may have difficulty surviving the cold season. Early spring is the right time to cut back the shoots so that the sage can spread in better weather. However, when cutting sage, some mistakes are often made. What they are and how to correct them is the subject of this article.
Table of Contents
- Common mistake: evenly cutting sage in all species.
- Common mistake: not pruning sage at all
- Common mistake: prune sage too low
Common mistake: Prune sage evenly for all species
There is a wide variety of sage species: annuals, biennials, herbaceous or evergreen perennials and shrubs. However, they all have in common paired, often fragrant leaves and double-flowered flowers arranged in panicles or clusters.
Annuals don’t require pruning – just dig them up and toss them in the compost garbage can in late fall.
Perennial plants, however, need to be pruned annually to keep them under control and promote healthy growth for many years to come. And when it comes to how to prune sage, it’s important to consider the variety you’re growing, because the procedure is a little different.
Pruning Sage Properly: Deciduous herbaceous salvias.
This variety of sage tends to die back in the winter, especially when it’s cold. Varieties include Salvia elegans ‘Scarlet Pineapple’ with pineapple-scented leaves and red flowers, and Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’.
How to prune properly: Get one of the best garden shears and make sure it is clean and sharp. Cut the old stems to the lowest arrowhead. If the stems have completely dried up over the winter, cut them back to the base where new shoots should form. In summer, the flowers need to be broken off. Cut them off by making the cut just above the leaves. This will improve the appearance of the plants and encourage new blooms.
Pruning Sage: Shrub salvias with woody stems
When is the right time to prune hardy salvias? To keep them compact, pruning should be done every spring. Otherwise, this variety can grow very large and its stems can become too woody and spindly over time. Varieties include the popular Salvia microphylla “Hot Lips” and the bright red Salvia greggii “Flame”.
How to prune properly: cut back about a third of the plant, just above a pair of leaves. This will maintain structure and provide a solid foundation for new growth. Prune the stems in the summer to improve the appearance. You can also cut back the cross stems and thin out the center of the plant to allow more light in to stimulate new growth.
How to prune sage properly: rosette salvias.
This type of salvia has tall flower spikes that grow from rosettes of often evergreen leaves in warmer climates. Varieties include “Caradona” and “May Night.”
Here’s how to prune properly: leave the second part of the shoots over the winter to prevent new shoots from freezing. Then cut back the old shoots in the spring, leaving the new green growth intact. In warmer climates, you can cut the plant back in the fall for a neater look.
Common mistake: don’t prune sage at all
Many types of sage grow as shrubs or half-shrubs. What they have in common is that the shoots become woody on the underside over time. Pruning of sage should be done annually. Some gardeners choose to do the main pruning of salvias in late fall – this is a good thing if you grow hardy varieties and live in a warmer region.
However, if in doubt, put it on your spring gardening list when the danger of frost has passed and you can see fresh greenery. If you don’t prune sage regularly, the plant will become spindly and wither. It will sprout few of its fragrant leaves, and the flowers will also suffer from lack of pruning. The plant ages rapidly and is no longer useful. So if you don’t prune the sage at all, you will harm the plant in the long run.
In the summer, you can pluck off the heads and lightly prune the plant to bring it into shape.
Common mistake: pruning sage too low.
If you set your shears too low, you can destroy the entire plant. Cuts too deep into the wood will not recover and the sage will likely not sprout properly.
How long do salvia plants last?
Learning how to prune salvias will extend their life, which can be more than 10 years under the right growing conditions. However, the hardiness of different varieties varies.