Why Your Sage Plant Is Turning Yellow

The reason that sage leaves change color is usually an indication of stress as a result of soil that is damp. Sage is drought-resistant and likes the soil to dry between watering sessions. Sage leaves may also become yellow due to excessive nitrogen from fertilizer or a deficiency in nitrogen due to the fact that the roots are pot tied.

Sage thrives in well-drained soils that are sandy and that are watered each two weeks. Sage leaves are the most fragrant and flavor when they are in medium to low nutrients, not fertile soils with high levels of nitrogen.

Continue reading to find out the reason why your sage has turned yellow, and how, by making just a few minor adjustments to the changing conditions, you can fix the issue of leaves that are yellow…

Under Watering or Over Watering Causes Yellow Leaves

The most frequent reason why sage leaves turn yellow is due to excessive watering.

Sage is an Mediterranean herb that prefers well-drained soil and full sun, and is tolerant of drought.

If the soil is always humid, sage leaves can change color as a indication of stress because the roots would prefer that the soil dry out slightly between watering sessions instead of enduring watering.

Sage tends to die and be afflicted with fungal diseases when it is in moist soils. (Read my blog post on the reasons why sage plants die and the best way to fix the issue).

There are four primary causes of persistent water around the sage’s roots which cause leaves of the plant to become yellow:

  • Overwatering
  • Soils that drain slowly (such like clay)
  • High-frequency rainfall
  • Pots with no drain holes on the bottom


In the majority of climates, sage needs to be watered at least twice a week if the weather has consisted of cloudy days, some sunshine and maybe some rain.

In the summer, water sage is recommended every week. If there’s been rain and the soil feels damp you should not water till the ground is dry..

If you water sage more often than every week, it is likely that you are overwatering the plant. The leaves may turn yellow.

The answer to over-watering…

Reduce the amount of watering to ensure that the soil is able to dry between rain or another watering since the sage plant is adapted to dry Mediterranean conditions, and is vulnerable to excessive watering by gardeners.

Water sage is best treated with a good soak every time you water to help the roots to grow.

Reduce the amount of watering and let the soil dry and the leaves of sage should start to recover within two weeks. The sage plants properly watered are more flavorful.

Slow Draining Soil…

Another issue that needs to be addressed is drainage of soil.

Sage thrives in stony or sandy soils that are found on slopes in Southern Europe, therefore they’re adapted to soils that do not hold the moisture they need.

Slow draining soils like clay or the rich compost found within boggy garden areas are in opposition to the preferred conditions of sage’s soil and hold too much moisture around the sage’s roots which could cause stress and make leaves turn yellow.

sage bush

The answer to the slow drainage of soils…

Sage thrives in pots because of their favorable drainage, and is simple to manage the soil shape. If your garden is poor drainage, then the pot plant is an excellent alternative to ensure that the plant stays healthy and its leaves green.

You can also alter the area of your garden (if you are planting on the garden boards) or mix the mixing of the potting mix using the sand and grit from the horticultural industry.

Sand or grit can aid in replicating the conditions of sandy soil that sage can adapt to and will improve drainage, which assists in keeping the roots dry and prevents the leaves from turning yellow.

Mix at minimum 20% sand or grit in a multipurpose compost before placing your sage plant in the soil of your garden or in pots to ensure the best drainage, to ensure that the roots can dry out after irrigation.


The issue of sage being under water isn’t an issue that is commonplace since it is drought-resistant due to its Mediterranean source. But if the pot of sage is in the indoor space and it has been neglected for a long time, the leaves may become yellow due to this.

The sage plants in the indoor garden should be watered every two weeks throughout the summer, spring and fall. The sage will recover if the leaves begin to appear like they are turning yellow.

Another issue could arise one of the most common problems is if the container to plant the sage is small and is made of metal or plastic. Small pots are more prone to heat in the sun, which causes that the soil’s moisture to run out too fast for the roots to absorb.

A bigger pot will have more soil, which gives the roots time to grow and draw in the water it needs. Select clay, terracotta, or ceramic pot since they don’t heat in the same way as metal or plastic pots that could result in the soil drying out too fast.

High Rainfall…

The excessive rainfall can be a problem for sage as well as Mediterranean plants in general However, the sage plant is resilient and is able to adapt to wet conditions as long as it’s in full sunlight and the soil has been amended prior to planting to improve drainage.

The answer to high rain…

In the case of persistently wet climates, I suggest to amend the soil by adding at minimum 30% sand or gritty (by volume) and the remainder compost. Sage thrives in its native region on hillsides in soil that is extremely sandy, so don’t be afraid to add a lot of sand or grit , as excessive sand is better than too little.

With better drainage of the soil, Sage can thrive in areas with heavy rainfall. The leaves develop a healthy green, instead of yellow.

Another mistake that is common is planting sage in attractive pots that do not have drainage holes in the base. Alternatively, you can make use of a drip tray to drain excess water from in the base of the pot.

If the water isn’t able to drain, then the soil will quickly become damp and the sage can begin to show signs of stress due to excessive water, with leaves becoming yellow and losing their appearance.

Select a pot that measures 12-16 inches in diameter with drainage holes at the base which will allow water to drain and stop the leaves of sage becoming yellow.

If the sage you have is dying and the leaves are turning brown, It is most likely that the sage plants are suffering from root rot. Check out my article on the reason why sage plants turn brown and the best way to fix the issue.

Insufficient Fertilizer Insufficient nutrition or pot Bound Roots

Sage is an Mediterranean herb that thrives in sandy soils that are found on hillsides in the southern part of Europe.

So many kinds of sage can be adapted to soils that are medium to low with regards to nutrition with a high proportion of sand or grit that are well-draining.

If the sage plant is in soils with an excessive amount of nitrogen (such as soil that has been amended by manure) or is the result of using over-the-top fertilizers, this could be contrary to nature of sage’s soil, which could cause stress, such as:

  • Leaves turning yellow
  • The appearance of the stems and foliage
  • The leaves have less aroma and less flavor

The nitrogen fertilizer is useful to stimulate growth of the sage plant under certain conditions.

But sage isn’t an unruly plant and usually does not require extra fertilizer. If you grow sage for cooking, using excessive fertilizer can be detrimental to the flavor of the herb and can cause the appearance of yellow.

If you’ve applied fertilizer to your sage plant and noticed an excessive amount of growth, with yellowing leaves, then you should not apply any fertilizer for a few days and the sage will be able to recover.

Sage plants require little maintenance They are easy to maintain and, the better you are able to reproduce their natural growth conditions, the more they will develop and the better the flavor of the leaves.

In order to recreate low – to moderate fertility conditions that let sage thrives mix at minimum 20% horticultural sand or grit mixed with multi-purpose compost in the planting space or pot.

This makes sure that sage is in the proper amount of nutrients and has adequate drainage, so that the plant is healthy , and the leaves turn a healthier green, rather than yellow.

Not Enough Nitrogen

While sage is a fan of soils with low or moderate nutrient levels however, it requires potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorous (as as well as a few trace minerals) to thrive.

A deficiency in nitrogen can cause leaves to turn yellow. This can be confusing since too much nitrogen can will causes leaves to change color to yellow.

But sage is not afflicted by an imbalance in nitrogen and the reason for sage turning yellow are usually the result of excessive watering or excessive fertilizer, instead of lacking nutrients, however there are certain situations where this could be a problem.

Sage leaves that turn yellow because of deficiency in nutrients is more likely to happen in the following situations:

  • The Sage is in a pot has not been repotted in many years
  • The pot is too small, and the plant is now root restricted

In both cases, the sage plant could take up the nutrients in the pot due to roots’ limited access to the soil and nutrients.

The most important thing to do to keep sage in good health is to put the sage in pots that measures approximately 12 to 16 inches in diameter. This will prevent roots of sage from becoming pot bound to ensure that there is enough soil, and consequently more nutrients, not to mention the insulation of the roots, which are susceptible to the cold.

Repot the sage plant when it appears yellow, and then place it in an even bigger pot and new compost to supply the roots of the sage that are more nutritious.

In this instance, an all use fertilizer (applied in the spring) is a good idea to stimulate new growth and making sure that the sage is able to access many nutrients in the event that it is experiencing a deficiency in nutrients like nitrogen or some trace mineral.

Applying fertilizer later in the growing season can encourage growth that is more susceptible to damage from frost therefore it is best to applying fertilizer to sage in spring, at half strength since excessive amounts can cause more harm than good.

This will boost growth and help address the issue of nitrogen deficiency, which can turn the leaves from green to yellow within a couple of weeks.

Key Takeaways

  • The most frequent reason for the sage leaves to turn yellow. Sage is an Mediterranean plant that likes dry soil. It does not take well to damp soil, which can cause the leaves to change color.
  • Reduce the frequency of frequency of watering to every two weeks. Then, amend the soil using sand or grit , and then grow sage plants in pots so that it replicates those conditions that are dry in their original Mediterranean habitat.
  • A lot of fertilizer could cause sage to become too stressed, and the excessive nitrogen causes the leaves to change color to yellow. Sage with roots that are bound to pots can be suffering from a deficiency in nutrients and become yellow. Apply a half strength of all-purpose fertilizer in spring and then re-pot the sage in case it is in a smaller pot that has roots bound to pots.


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