Why Does Sage Wilt?

Sage plants with drooping or wilting could be due to over-watering or fungal diseases excessive fertilizer use or insufficient watering. Sage is a drought-resistant plant that is sensitive to excessive moisture around the roots, so excessive watering is the main reason for a sage plant dying.

To ensure that a sage plant is healthy and doesn’t lose its shape or shrink in response to stress, it is essential to replicate the conditions that are present in the native habitat.

Read on to find out the reason your sage plant is dying and the best way to fix the issue…

Too Much Moisture Around the Roots

As sage is a species that originated in Southern Europe and grows on the hillsides of the Mediterranean climate. It can be grown in drought-like conditions with a lack of rainfall and well-drained sandy soils.

With the preference for soils that dye, the sage plant is sensitive to water and doesn’t like the soil to remain wet around its roots for long periods of period of time.

The drooping or wilting leaves on a sage plant are usually a sign that the soil is wet, something that a lot people mistake as an indication of inadequate the watering.

The excessive water around the roots could result from a variety of reasons:

  • Over-watering (potted sage ) only requires regular watering every week during hot weather, and every two weeks during colder conditions).
  • Slow drainage soils (sage prefers soil that drains well and is not a good fit in clayy or boggy soils that are low lying).
  • A high rainfall (sage is adaptable to climates with little rainfall, but they are able to easily adapt to growing in climates with rain by preparing the soil properly).

sage and mint variety growing together


If you water your sage more than every week, you are overwatering the plant. Reduce the amount of frequency to once a week during hot, dry temperatures in summer, if it is placed in the pot.

Most of the time for sage plants in gardens boarders, watering it once each two weeks will be the ideal amount of water, especially in the event of rainy days or overcast days.

Make sure to water sage thoroughly every time you water to help the roots grow as a gentle application of water on the surface can encourage the roots to grow.

Slowly draining soil…

Take into consideration that sage plants belong to the countries along the Mediterranean coast, where they thrive on sandy soils or in stony ones, typically on hillsides.

So sage can be adapted to soils that don’t retain excessive moisture and allow for adequate drainage, which is the reason sage thrives in containers and pots.

The clay soil or the rich compost that retains water for long periods can cause the sage to shrink in response to stress.

It is essential that you amend your soil prior to planting sage by adding some garden sand or grit in order to improve the porosity of the soil, so that water will flow more easily instead of remaining wet on the root.

If you’re planting sage in a pot , or on a boarder for your garden, you should add approximately 20 percent sand or grit in the compost or potting soil. This will mimic the soil conditions in sage’s natural Mediterranean environment, and will enhance drainage.

If you’ve planted sage in slow draining soil, then I suggest transferring the plant into containers or pots.

It is much simpler to manage the soil’s profile in a pot , to meet the preferred conditions of sage than the task of amending the soil in your garden.

High-response to rain…

Sage is a native of the hot, dry regions, but it is also cultivated in cooler climates that have more rain (such as the Pacific north west, or in the UK) with a few adjustments.

In areas with high rainfall, by far the most important thing is making sure the ground has been prepared properly prior to the time of planting.

Sage isn’t a fussy plant when it comes to soil type, but it is crucial to ensure that your soil well draining in order to combat the high amounts of rain.

This is the process of adding a greater amount of sand or grit into your soil mixture. Sand that is too much is better than but it is not enough in the process of preparing soil suitable for sage in wet climates. You can add as much as one third of sand or grit into 2/3 multi-purpose compost or pot soil to make sure that the soil is drainage qualities required by sage to remain healthy.

In climates with rain, I also recommend spacing sage plants at a reasonable distance from each other. This will ensure that not just the sage plants are in full sunlight, but also that the soil around it isn’t too shaded, which could slow down its rate of transpiration, and lead to damp soils.

Make sure you water the sage plant in a proper manner and preparing the soil to increase drainage, and making sure the plant is getting full sun , so that it’s soil surrounding the sage’s roots plant is able to dry out more quickly and the sage plant can be able to recover from its wilting or dropping appearance because of water stress in just several weeks.

Too Much Fertilizer can Cause Wilt

Another reason for sage plants appearing to be losing their shape or are drooping is application of a lot of fertilizer.

The Sage is thriving in its natural habitat in the sandy soils or in stony ones, often in hillside areas. Sand is not a major source of nutrients to soils and it does not store as many nutrients in the same as soil of loam does.

When the conditions of soil are created to high in nutrients due to fertilizers, then the sage plant could appear wilting because excess nitrogen can trigger:

  • A lot of growth in the foliage that is softand fragile and more susceptible to diseases, with the appearance of drooping or wilting.
  • A more subtle aroma and taste of the leaves.
  • Another indication of high nitrogen is when the leaves begin to change color.

In the majority of cases, fertilizers are not required for the growth of sage in soil that is used for gardening However, if the plant is in pots or shows indications of slow growth, half strength all-purpose general fertilizer for plants used in the spring could be beneficial to encourage growth.

If you’ve applied a lot of fertilizer, then don’t apply more fertilizer to allow the plant to recuperate and after the next season, the growth will return to its normal, not an appearance of wilted.

Fungal Disease Causes Wilt

If there is a persistent amount of water in the soil around the root of the sage, then damp soil can create conditions that cause fungal pathogens that cause disease are prevalent.

The pathogen for fungal diseases Verticilliumwilt is a problem for many woody perennials , including rosemary, lavender as well as sage. For sage plants, verticilliumwilt symptoms include wilting, leaves falling off, and changing color to yellow.

The disease is often fatal to the sage plant, and the pathogens may remain within the soil a lengthy period of time, so other plants that are planted in the region could be affected.

If you’re committed to saving the sage, then the best option is to cut a piece from a healthy, disease-free portion of the plant and grow the plant (watch this video to learn the best way to propagate the sage).

If this isn’t feasible, then burn the affected plant or remove its soil and then treat it with an chemical fungicide.

The best method to protect the sage plant from getting fungal infections is to ensure that the soil drains well and the proper amount of watering to ensure that the soil is able to dry out slightly between watering sessions.


While sage is drought-resistant, because it’s native to the dry and hot conditions in the Mediterranean it is possible it is wilting because of inadequate irrigation.

This could be the case If…

  • The pot that the sage has been placed in is not big enough.
  • The sage is in the house and was neglected

Small pots get heated up in the sun, and they can dry too fast so that the sage’s roots can absorb effectively.

In small pots, watering sage just once every week might not be sufficient, but the best solution isn’t increasing the amount of time it takes to water, but to plant the sage again in a larger pot that has more soil in it and doesn’t heat up to the same degree in full sunlight.

Since sage plants are very small in the garden centre I suggest repotting the sage in spring each year or as it develops. You can also put it into a pot of approximately 12-16 inches in size. This size pot allows the roots of the sage to grow properly, so that it has access to the water and nutrients it needs, as well as protecting the roots during winter.

Make sure that the pot has drainage holes in its base, allowing excess water to drain away so that the soil is able to dry and prevent the sage from dying or falling.

The sage in the indoor area could be dying because it isn’t sufficiently watered (around twice a week is the ideal amount).

A wilted-looking salvia (due to watering too little) is surprisingly resilient and recovers after an extensive soak and also a regular time frame for watering.

Key Takeaways

  • Sage plants are drought-resistant plants that like that the soil dry out between watering sessions. The most frequent cause of sage to wilt is due to stress caused by excessive moisture around the roots. Fungal diseases, inadequate irrigation and the use of over-nutrition can cause the sage plant to die.
  • Make sure the soil is drainingand that you the soil in the right amount (water every two weeks or every week during hot temperatures).
  • Avoid using a heavy nitrogen fertilizer because the sage plant is not a heavy feeder and prefers moderate amounts in soil nutrition. A high nitrogen content can cause the foliage to become yellow and cause the plant to die.
  • The sage can be affected by watering too much. It is possible for it to die if the pot isn’t big enough and can’t hold a lot of soil or water. Sage is well-adjusted to irrigation after an extended dry spell.


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