Why is My Sage Plant Turning Brown?

Last Updated on November 5, 2022 by Stephanie

The reason sage plants are becoming brown is due to the fungal disease known as root rot. It is caused by excessive water around the roots as a result of excessive watering or slow draining soils. The constant dampness of the soil around the roots of sage causes brown leaves stems and roots that have a look of wilted.

Sage that has turned to brown (or yellow) can be an indication of stress caused by excessively wet soils, not because the sage needs more frequent watering , which is a common error when it comes to growing Mediterranean plants.

The reason sage turns brown is usually because of:

  • Overwatering
  • Slow draining soil
  • High-frequency rainfall
  • Humidity

If you are planting your sage in a container or pot make sure there are drainage holes at the base to allow excess water to be able to drain.

Continue reading to find out more about the reason why sage becomes brown and the best way to fix the issue…

Slow Draining Soil (Add Sand or Grit to Improve Drainage)

Sage is an Mediterranean plant that is native to sandy soils that are found on slopes in Southern France where the soil tends to drain quickly and the moisture evaporates quickly in the scorching sun.

Sage is a very low maintenance plant, but it is vital to ensure that they are planted in well-draining soil that is not able to retain water to mimic the conditions in their native habitat.

If the sage plant is in rich dirt, compost, or compacted soil, then the water is not able to be able to drain away from the roots effectively.

Sage needs soil that drains well to ensure it is possible that soil surrounding the root dry out a bit between periods of watering.

Slow draining soils, which hold moisture around the roots of the sage, create conditions that can cause fungal diseases like root rot, which makes the sage plant yellow or brown and may cause death if it is not treated and is often accompanied by a look of wilting (read my post on the reasons why sage plants die and the best way to fix the issue).

The answer is:

  • Add sand or grit in order to improve drainage to the point that its about 20percent sand, and 80 percent pot soil.
  • Transplant or plant sage in pots that have better drainage characteristics compared to garden boards.

Pots are a great method to cultivate sage since it is easy to manage the soil profile, and it can also be relocated inside to shield sage from cold temperatures (sage isnt very cold-hardy).

Pick a pot that measures approximately 16 inches wide to ensure that the roots are given enough room to grow.

In order to prepare the ground to plant sage that is beginning to turn brown, you must:

  • Create a planting space that is around 18 inches by 18 inches (or select a pot that is approximately 16 inches in diameter). If the soil around is clay that drains slowly The more soil you are able to dig, the better for drainage.
  • Put the sage in the area of planting and then to fill in the space with at minimum 20% of grit or horticultural sand and 80percent compost or pot soil.
  • Replant the sage and allow it to dry out for a couple of days if the leaves have turned brown prior to giving it a good watering around one week.

Sage is not always able to get over root rot, and it is contingent on how much the plant is brown, but replanting the sage in a well-draining soil mix is crucial to aid in its recovery..

sage cutting next to textile

High Rainfall

Sage is a plant that thrives in dry conditions with a low frequency of rainfall, but it is a plant that adapts that is able to thrive in a variety of environments, with a few modifications to the environment.

Sage is a great plant to grow in areas that are rainy, such as the Pacific North West in the USA as well as the UK.

In climates that have high rainfall, the soils conditions become crucial to prevent root rot as well as the leaves turning brown. This is done by making sure that the excess water drains away from the root of the sage effectively.

Sage that is grown outdoors usually doesnt require extra water in climates with rain, therefore, avoid over-watering to ensure the plant is well-nourished and ensure that the leaves are of good flavor.

If your sage is browning because of heavy rainfall, there are two things to do.

  • Add the highest amount of grit or sand (up up to 50 percent sand and 50 percent compost).
  • In a pot, plant sage and protect it from constant rain whenever it is.

A well-drained soil is essential to grow sage, but is it essential for sage that is grown in wet conditions to prevent root rot.

Up to 50% sand in a soil mix might seem like a lot, however, sage thrives in extremely sandy soils in hillside areas as well as thrives within its natural habitat with quick drainage soils.

A lot of sand or grit is better than not enough when it is about cultivating Mediterranean plants.

Pots and containers for planting is the best option in a areas of rain as they are more drainage-friendly than garden soil, so that the roots do not get covered by soil that is damp.

If the leaves of sage are beginning to brown, protect the sage from further rain which is predicted because this could exacerbate the root rot issue.

If left for long enough, that the ground around roots will dry out and the sage will start to recover.

Over Watering Causes Sage to Turn Brown

Sage is a plant which thrives in the dry and hot area in Southern Europe with infrequent rainfall and intense sunshine.

So sage has been well-adapted to a dry and harsh environment. Once established, its an drought-resistant plant and thrives under these conditions, especially because of the scent of its leaves as well as the strong flavor it imparts to cooking.

If you are watering your sage plant in excess then you will see persistent watering around the roots that could cause roots rot and leaves becoming brown.

  • The sage plants are watered every week, when they are planted in pots and given a good soak in the spring and Summer months if the weather is hot.
  • It is contingent upon the particular conditions in your area, however sage that is planted in soil of the garden typically requires watering every two weeks when it is extremely hot and without significant rain.
  • In cooler climates and have more rainfall than the Mediterranean the sage plant might not require any water at all, (perhaps only during periods of drought) getting all the moisture it needs from the surrounding environment.
  • Sage is not in need of water during the Winter because it is already in a state dormancy, except inside, in which case it should be watered every couple of weeks to prevent the plant from drying out completely.

Sage prefers the dry and soak style of watering because it encourages roots to develop and develop, so make sure to be sure to water well but not excessively to prevent root rot and the leaves becoming brown.

Sage prefers soil that is dry, so more issues arise due to excessive watering than under watering.

Reduce the amount of watering and improving drainage are essential for the sage the sage to regain its brown appearance.

Climates that have higher levels of Humidity

Sage is often found along the coastline, so it can tolerate some sea mist, but the Mediterranean sun is known to dry all humid conditions all day long.

The excessive humidity could be an issue for sage plants because the slower rate of evaporation implies that the soil around roots will be wet for longer.

The best way to grow sage plants in a humid environment is to place them in pots and spread them about 3 feet apart. This allows airflow around the plants , and helps keep them from the microclimate that may develop when a lot of potted plants are crowded together.

How to Save Brown Sage Plants

If your plant of sage is becoming significant brown, the best option is to:

  • Cut back any damaged leaves and stems using the help of a sterilized pruners.
  • Make use of a disinfectant-based cloth to clean the pruners after each snip to stop the spread of fungal infections.
  • Then burn or dispose of the brown foliage that is affected, rather than putting the leaves in an organic compost pile.
  • If its easy to remove the plant from the dirt, examine the roots and cut away those that are slimy and brown as they are affected. Make sure to clean the pruners clean after each snip.
  • Reduce the amount of irrigation and amend the soil using sand or grit for better drainage. the drainage. Also, protect the plant from heavy rain and put pots 2 feet from one another. The sage will recuperate.

Alternately, you can cut a portion of the healthy growth to propagate to help save the plant from being destroyed by. Growing sage and other Mediterranean herbs is simple and cost-effective, check out this YouTube video for a helpful tutorial:

Key Takeaways:

  • Sage plants become brown due to root rot. The signs of root rot include brown leaves, stems that are brown and an appearance of drooping. The root rot cause is due to excessive water around the roots as a result of over irrigation or slow drainage of soils.
  • The high humidity and rainfall can be a significant contributor to the conditions that encourage root rot, which can cause the leaves of sage to turn brown.
  • Make sure that sage is planted in a well-draining soil that has been that has been amended with sand or grit and watering is reduced and plant the sage in containers or pots in gardens that drain slowly soil , or with high levels of humidity. place the pots 2 to 3 feet from each other to allow airflow.
  • Cut off the infected brown leaves using a pair of pruning tools and let the soil dry out around the roots, allowing the sage to heal.


Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)