How to Revive My Dying Sage?

Sage is a perennial low-maintenance plant that originated in the Mediterranean region of Europe. They are specially adapted to their environment.

To revive dying sage plants, it is important that you recreate the Mediterranean growing conditions with a focus on full sun, sandy soils, and frequent watering.

If your sage plant looks like it’s dying, there are many ways to revive it. However, it is important that you understand why your sage is looking unwell.

Identifying the reason why the sage plants need to be revived:

The most common reasons that sage plants need to be revived are …

Root Rot is caused by excess moisture around roots due to overwatering or slow draining soils.

  • Sage is a poor-growing plant with few leaves, and lacks aroma or flavor.
  • Sage can die in a pot if it is too small or has no drainage holes.
  • Sage with poor growth and woody appearance due to lack of pruning.
  • Sage plants which do not recover after Winter.

Sage Leaves


Continue reading to find out how to fix these issues so your sage plants can resuscitate and have a strong aroma and flavour …

Sage Plant With Root Rot

  • Symptoms. The appearance of leaves turning yellow, brown, or black. Roots appear dark brown and have a rotten, somewhat slimy texture.
  • Causes. Overwatering, poor drainage or slow drainage can cause persistent moisture around the roots.

Sage is a Mediterranean herb that grows on hillsides and in sandy soil in Southern European countries. Sage is well-suited to soils that drain quickly and receive little rain in bright sunlight.

Sage drought tolerant plant that prefers soil to dry between waterings, but it can adapt to many climates by making some adjustments.

Sage needs to be watered only once every two week if it has been rainy or overcast. If the soil is slightly moist, do not water sage.

If it is in a pot, water sage once per week during hot weather. The sage that is planted in the garden borderers of many temperate climates does not need any extra water.

Sage is a drought-resistant plant that thrives when neglected. However, overwatering and underwatering can lead to more problems (such root rot).

Sage prefers to water with a soak-and-dry method. This encourages roots to establish and is followed by a drought lasting for 1 or 2 days.

Revive Sage Plants With Root Rot

  • The first step is to reduce the amount of watering that you do during hot weather to once per week and to once every two weeks in mild weather. You should only water sage in Spring, Summer, and Fall. It is best to avoid dry soil. Use a garden fork to gently lift the sage plants from the ground. Any roots that are hard, brown, slimy, or infected, should be removed. Also, trim any brown leaves. To prevent fungal disease spreading, sterilize the pruners with an alcohol-disinfectant-soaked cloth after each cut. Also burn infected areas.
  • Replant the sage in a pot (as you can control the soil profile) with new soil (as the old soil will be host to the fungal disease that causes root rot). Add at least 20% horticultural sand or grit with new multipurpose compost for the optimal soil mix so that it is well draining to give the roots a chance to recover.

Re-plant the sage in a new soil with better drainage and less watering. This allows the roots to dry out and gives the plant the best chance for recovery from root rot. The plant should recover over the next few days, depending on how severe the root rot is.

If your soil is clay-rich or boggy, it may not be suitable for growing sage. This is because clay retains water around the roots and promotes root rot.

Sage and other Mediterranean herbs can be grown in containers, pots or raised beds. However, you can amend the soil easily and pots provide better drainage for sage plants.

By amending the soil prior to transferring the sage into a pot, you are effectively replicating the sandy soil conditions in the native environment of the sage. This prevents root rot and keeps it healthy.

Keep sage planted in full sun. Also, keep sage at least 2 feet from any other plants to allow roots to grow in soil and not compete for water, light and space.

The sage will start to revive in 3-4 weeks if it is given the right soil and watering regimen.

Sage Is Not Growing

  • Symptoms. Sage is either growing very slowly or not at all with few leaves, poor fragrance and not much taste.
  • Causes. Low sun or competing for nutrients with other plants. Sage plants are often in the same pot, and have exhausted the soil’s nutrients.

Sage can be a low-maintenance plant that doesn’t require much care.

However, it is essential to maintain the plant’s ability to grow in Mediterranean climates. This will ensure that the plant has fragrant and delicious leaves.

Sage grows in soils that are medium to low in nutrients with a high sand or stone content.

Sage plants do not need to be a heavy feeder in nutrients. In many cases, sage is sufficient without any fertilizer.

However, sage can be grown in pots if it has run out of nutrients and needs additional nitrogen fertilizer.

Sage can also grow in direct sunlight, so it will not thrive in shade.

How to Revive Sage Plants that are not Growing

  • Sage should be placed in full sunlight for best growth and stronger flavour. You can either cut back on hanging plants and trees that may be blocking light to your sage or transfer it to a container and put it in full sunlight. Make sure the sage is planted at least 2 feet away from other plants. The sage can be placed in a larger area so it does not compete with other plants for soil, nutrients and light.
  • Sage may need fertilizer if it has been in the same pot for a while. To stimulate new leaf growth, you can apply a half- strength, all-purpose fertilizer in Spring. A lot of fertilizer can cause the sage not to produce as much foliage, but it will result in a lower level of essential oils. The leaves will also be less fragrant and have a less distinct flavour.

Sage can be grown in Mediterranean climates. It will thrive if you recreate its natural environment.

Sage will thrive in full sunlight and grow faster. Although sage does not require a lot of water, it is a good choice for open areas. It does not like other plants competing for light, nutrients, or space.

Sage prefers soils that aren’t too rich in nutrients. Adding fertilizer can often affect the flavour and aroma of the leaves.

Sage that has been stored in the same pot, container, or raised bed for a prolonged period of time could be deficient in nitrogen or other trace minerals.

A half-strength fertilizer can stimulate healthy growth of leaves. However, too much can cause more damage and make the leaves yellowed and leggy.

(To learn more read my article why has my sage plant turned yellow? )

Also it is best practice to apply fertilizer to sage in the Spring, however you can apply it later in the season during the summer months if necessary but if you apply it after august then you will stimulate new growth which will be much more vulnerable to the cold (sage is not a particularly cold hardy plant generally).

Water the sage according to your climate. With more space, full sunlight, and possibly some fertilizer, your sage plant will begin to grow in just 2-3 weeks.

How to Revive Woody Sage Plants

Woody sage is not easy to revive if neglected for long periods. However, if it has been neglected for a few years it can be revived with careful pruning.

Avoid replanting the sage in the woody growth at its base. This woody area is less than a year old and cannot support new growth. A harsh pruning can cause the sage to die.

Prune just above any new leaves at the beginning of spring. This will encourage more stems to support additional leaves.

Watch this YouTube video to see a visual guide for how to prune woody Sage:


If the sage becomes too thin or produces little new growth, you can either pull it out and replace it or take cuttings of the healthy portion of the plant to propagate them.

Propagating sage by cuttings is easy and requires no hormone root powder.

The best time to cut sage plants is in the spring and summer. You can save more of your original plants and get smaller plants, which is more economical.

This video shows how to propagate Sage for Cuttings:


Sage Dying In Pots Or Containers

  • Symptoms. Poor growth, drooping or wilting appearance with leaves that are turning yellow or brown.
  • Causes. Pots that are too small dry out quickly and roots can become pot bound. To prevent root rot, sage need pots that have drainage holes at the base.

Sage plants thrive in containers and pots due to the favorable drainage conditions. However, it is crucial that you plant sage in the right pot. Otherwise, the plants can be damaged.

If the pot is too small, the soil may dry out in direct sunlight. This can cause poor growth and wilting.

(To learn more specifically about wilting sage plants and what to do, read my article on why sage plants wilt).

A pot that is too small can also have less soil capacity and nutrients, so sage may suffer from a nitrogen shortage.

Sometimes, decorative pots don’t have drainage holes at the base. This causes excess water to collect in the pot and can cause root rot.

Drip trays are common in sage grown indoors. Drip trays can also collect water, which can lead to persistently moist soil. This can increase the risk of root-rot, which can turn sage brownish or yellow.

How To Revivify Dying Sage Plants In Pots

  • Make sure your sage plants are in a container or pot with drainage holes. Also, avoid using drip trays. This will allow excess water to escape and dry the soil. As the plant grows, re-pot it in a larger pot. At maturity sage should be in a pot around 12-16 inches across to accommodate the root system and ensure there is enough nutrients in the soil. Pots that are larger do not dry as quickly, which makes it difficult for the soil to dry out and prevents the roots from absorbing water. A general, all-purpose fertilizer can be used at half strength to encourage growth in potted Sage that has been deficient in nutrients.

If the sage is turning yellow or is becoming wilted, you can transfer it to a container with drainage holes.

This will allow the roots of the sage to dry and give them a chance for recovery. Root rot is a condition in which the roots are unable to withstand moisture. If the sage has a lot of brown leaves, you will need to follow the same steps as root rot.

(Read my article to learn more about how to solve sage plants that are turning brown).

Smaller pots can limit the growth of your Sage because they have less water and nutrients. It is a good idea for your Sage to be re-potted every year (in the Spring). This will prevent the soil from drying out too quickly, and insulate the roots from the cold.

Sage that is planted in a pot of around 12-16 inches across, with drainage holes in the base and soil amended with sand or grit should give the plant a good chance at reviving and growing well.

If growth is very poor, you can try a Spring half- strength all-purpose fertilizer to stimulate growth.

Sage can grow in low- to medium-nutrient soils. If the sage has been planted in an appropriate-sized pot, it will not need fertilizer

How To Revive Sage After Winter

Sage is adapted to the Mediterranean and requires mild Winters therefore it is not the most cold hardy of plants (USDA Zone 5-9) and often die because of frost damage.

Sage left out in winter with freezing temperatures is susceptible to cold. It is best to bring it indoors in containers or pots.

Place the sage in a sunny window sill when the temperatures start to go below 10oC (50oF) in your home or perhaps a garage to protect the plant, or you can treat the perennial sage as if it were an annual and buy a new plant or propagate the sage from cutting if you do not have room to store your sage plant over Winter.

Sage has gone Woody, Leggy

  • Symptoms. Sage that has woody stems that are not producing much new growth and look untidy.
  • Causes. An unpruned sage plant.

All woody sub-bushes of the Mediterreanean, including rosemary, lavender, and sage, require an annual pruning at the beginning of Spring or the end of Fall to stimulate growth. This is to reduce the growth rate from the base, which produces less leaf and stem, and encourage growth.

Sage can become more woody with time, but pruning annually keeps it looking neat and slows down its growth.

This will help to increase the sage’s longevity (note sage often only grows flavourful leaves for 3 years). Neglecting to prune the annual tree can result in a dead plant that needs to be revived.

Key Takeaways

  • Sage may need to be revived due to root rot, woody growth or the wrong kind of container or pot. Or, it might not be growing because it isn’t getting enough nutrients or winter damage. To revive sage that has suffered from root rot, you will need to remove any diseased parts of the roots and foliage, reduce watering, and then plant the sage in a new, well-draining soil mixture in a pot.
  • Sage may not grow properly if it isn’t re-potted to a larger container. In the spring, a weak fertilizer can be used to stimulate growth. Make sure pots have drainage holes at the base.
  • Sage whose woody growth has stopped supporting leaves needs a good pruning to encourage new growth. To keep your plant neat, prune each branch back to the nearest new growth in early spring.
  • Sage can be damaged by frost in winter so keep them in pots and indoors if they get too cold.


Went from a bad gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)