White Sage Plant: Growing Guide, Smudging, and Seeds

Ed Wike
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White Sage Overview

White sage is the plant that is carefully harvested by indigenous people in the southwest United States for smudging. It has a strong, intoxicating scent that clears out negative energy and thought forms from a space.

It is commonly used for spiritual and cleansing purposes by those who follow New Age beliefs and is often used as a natural insect repellant.

Most commonly, the white sage plant is used in ceremonies to clear the participant's aura and the area they are in of negative energy.

Although the harvesting of the plant and the sale of it is illegal in the United States, it is nevertheless still readily available on the web.

So if you find that you want to grow your own sage or decide to plant the sage that you acquired in order to cultivate it, here is everything you need to know, including how to grow white sage.

What Is White Sage?

White sage is a shrub native to California and the Southwestern US. In some parts of Mexico, it’s used as an ingredient in alcoholic drinks. In the US, sage is a popular ceremonial herb, and it’s often used to clear negative energy.

One of the practices related to the use of sage is called smudging. Smudging involves burning sage in order to remove negative energies and soothe the soul.

Sages are typically used during shamanic, sacred, and spiritual rituals and ceremonies. White sage grows abundantly in California. Because of its widespread use, it’s widely available across the West and the Southwest.

But many places in the US, and even abroad, people are less likely to have access to this herb. Starting a white sage plant provides the opportunity to grow or purchase your own supply.

A Short History of Tribal Sage Use

Smudging, as the use of the herb sage plant is called, has a long history. The practice dates back before the written word and may have roots in prehistoric rituals to promote healing.

On a more recent note, smudging has been used by Native Americans for centuries. It is still widely used for spiritual ceremonies, including wicca, and for cleansing spaces. Many Native American groups believe that sage is powerful because it’s properties reflect the earth. These groups also believe that sage can be used in the practice of healing.

Today, there are many ways people can incorporate the use of sage into their spiritual practices. Smudge sticks are easy to find at most stores and people who use them find them to be convenient. They are often used by people who hold ceremonies in sacred spaces, such as temples. When used correctly, they can create a divine and peaceful experience for anyone who is present. The easiest way to burn a smudge stick is to light the end and blow out the flame. This allows you to use the smudge stick like you would a scented candle. When you are finished, you can simply discard the smudge stick like a candle.

A Diversity Of Sages

The White Sage plant, also known as the sacred sage, is a perennial plant from the family of mint, and it is native to California. Before the native Americans used sage for religious purposes, its uses extended beyond aromatherapy. For example, you could use the essential oil of sage to scent your clothes, to exterminate rodents, or to cook your meat.

Flowering plants have been used by humans for more than 11,000 years, and sage is one of them. It grows in several areas with dry climates, including Asia, North America, and Mediterranean Europe.

There are three significant varieties of sage, and they are used for different purposes. To start with, you could try the famous sage leaves for cooking, or you could use the flowers of the charming blue sage for your potpourri. The leaves of the white sage are used properly by Buddhist monks as a part of their religious ceremonies. Read the whole sage plant growing guide right below.

Smudging or Smoke Cleansing

Smudge sticks or smudging bundles are a form of cleansing that has been used for thousands of years, possibly beginning in prehistoric times. The smoke from burning herbs was believed to drive evil spirits and diseases from the air and people's living spaces. By simply blowing on the burning herbs, smudging was created.

Nowadays, smudging is done by the burning of sacred herbs to rid a home or office of negative influences and bring positivity and balance into their lives.

Smudge bundles are generally burned using a shell or a stone as an ashtray. Purchased smudge sticks are available in white sage or juniper sage. Another popular sage for smoke cleansing is palo santo. Palo santo is a tree native to South America or Mexico. The Spanish name “holy wood” is a translation of its native name “tree of life.”

Sage leaves are light green, greyish in color when dry and smooth in appearance. White sage leaves are famously for smell and for good reason. Sage has antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic properties. Smoke from burning palo santo is definitely invigorating and encouraging.

When it comes to burning sage, make sure you do it outside in an area with plenty of air movement, especially if you are burning palo santo.

White Sage Care

White sage is a perennial that grows to be more than a foot tall. It likes plenty of sunlight and soil with a steady supply of moisture. But it also enjoys a bit of wind to help the white flowers grow.

When white sage starts to flower, it looks like a giant white flower, or a small dandelion. It only grows flowers for a few weeks of the year. The other months of the year it sprouts green leaves. The white sage seeds that are harvested to make these fresh sage bundles are harvested from the flowers that grow during this blooming time.

If you enjoy the benefits of white sage or would like to grow your own white sage plant, white sage seeds are a great option.

Whether you choose one of these ornamental plants or the actual smudge stick version, the following care instructions will keep your sage healthy.

Light

Protect your White Sage from blasting sun by providing shade. Your plant can do splendidly in partial shade or thriving in full shade. White Sage plants grow in direct sun where rainfall is low, keeping them thirsty. When moving your White Sage, be careful of the brittle stems. If you end up with a stem knot, you can easily remove this by slicing the stem and replanting the piece.

Water

The whole point in having a white sage plant is for smudging. However, you do need to give it water, and you should know how much when watering your sage plant.

White sage grows in dry, hot regions, such as the Southwestern United States. It can tolerate 90 degrees without problems, but this doesn’t mean that water isn’t necessary. Water is actually recommended when growing sage. New sage plants should be watered even more often than mature sage plants. Do this during the first season to ensure that the plant will grow and flower.

Watering can sometimes seem complicated when growing sage. After a long hot day, you might feel inclined to water its leaves and not allow any water to reach the roots. An overwatered sage plant in the first year is unlikely to kill the plant, but it will stunt its growth. You should water the sage plant just enough to moisten the soil.

Water is vital when growing sage, but making it too wet will stunt the plant. The best method is to water one location of the potting soil. Use a light misting spray, or a watering can with a fine nozzle. If you are on the phone or not paying attention, don’t worry about watering the sage plant too much. Sage will survive a few accidental watering.

Soil

Sage prefers well-drained soil but doesn’t like to have it too sandy. So a mixture of more sand and less clay is ideal. Clay holds moisture so you want your pot to drain well. Clay also retains too much moisture, causing fungus to develop and take over. Always use sterilized soil.

However, sage takes a long time to recover from transplanting. So consider buying a potted one at the nursery rather than taking a risk on a seedling with a high chance of dying.

Fertilizer

If your sage is grown in hanging pots, you can put gravel on the bottom and insert one of those clay pellets made for hanging baskets.

When the plants need feeding, you can trim the silver leaves and put them in the hole at the bottom of the hanging basket.

If you want to give your plant a spritz, use a tiny bit of fish emulsion to do this and be careful not to let any pour down the leaves.

This is only for small plants, balconies, or if your sage is grown in a hanging basket.

Otherwise, if you have a large sage’s plant (8 feet tall or more), you can try to fertilize the plant using a compost tea.

To do this, use a large bucket to blend together 2 gallons of water with 1/3 cup of nursery grade manure, add a small handful of compost and mix the whole thing well.

Stir the tea every two weeks, and use it to water your sage plant.

Make sure not to make the tea so strong it drowns the roots in the ground.

Also, if you have a big sage plant already, give it a 2 inch mulch around its base to retain water and to stop it from stretching towards light that is farther out.

If you’re growing sage as a companion plant, apply this advice also to your companion plant.

Spacing

What is Nicotiana? The perfect start to a fragrant and easy garden-grew from seed or starts indoors during the winter for easy transplanting. Nicotiana plants, Nicotiana rustica, and Nicotiana alata, are perhaps better known as the invaluable white sage plants. White sage has been used to aid in cleansing and clearing spiritually for centuries throughout the world. Generally, they are grown in full sunlight and can be used as hedges, borders, sticks or ground cover, as well as a flowering annual.

As a member of the solanaceae family, they are closely related to Eggplant, Tomatoes, Hot Peppers, Potato, Peppers, and Capers. They are best harvested before they blossom. By the way, the blossom of white sage is considered poisonous. You will get showy little flowers. The beauty of this plant is like much more, but the best part about it is the fact that it smells heavenly when you burn it.

Let’s explore together how this plant can improve your life.

Nicotiana Plant Growing Requirements

Sun: Full sun to partial sun all day long. You will get a better color if you plant it in a sunny location.

Propagation

Propagation from potted plant is a great way to grow your white sage plant. White sage plants are hardy and easy to propagate with minimal effort.

To start growing a white sage plant, you need an existing white sage plant. The best way to get a white sage plant is to buy a potted plant from anywhere that sells herbs. White sage plants are sold as potted plants in many stores because of their hardy growth. If it is available in your area, the farmer’s market is a great place to buy white sage plants.

When choosing your white sage plant, make sure that your plant has a several year old root system and all the leaves are green. If the plant looks unhealthy, you will need to take extra care of it when you transplant it. You want to keep the white sage plant strong and you want to make sure that you do not cause any stress to the plant.

After you have chosen a white sage plant, you need to select a pot for the plant. Make sure the pot has holes. Most white sage plants thrive in a well draining soil, but they will do better if their soil drains well.

Growing White Sage From Seed

White sage is a cleansing herb that has been used by native cultures in the Southwest for centuries. Here's how you can grow some of your very own for use in smudging ceremonies. After you know the steps, you can grow some of your own white sage plants to use in smudge sticks and offerings.

Ensure that the soil you use has excellent drainage. This will allow excess water to drain properly. When growing white sage plants from seed, the drainage is crucial; the seeds sprout within days of sowing and make little roots that will rot and die if the soil is too wet.

Select a sage brush that you want to use as the source for your seeds. Brush your hand across the branches of the sage and allow the seeds to gather in your hand. Note: the white sage seeds are smaller than the seeds of white sage plants you may buy at the store.

Place your seeds in a glass of warm water and leave them to soak overnight. The seeds will absorb water faster in warm temperatures. If you have planted your seeds in the evening, make sure that you warm the water before the seeds soak.

The next day, plant your seeds in a container of garden soil.

Place your seeds in a sunny spot in your garden.

White sage is a perennial plant. That means it comes back year after year. Perennial plants are especially beneficial to grow if you want to make your own smudge sticks.

Growing White Sage From Cuttings

White sage is a plant that is native to the southwestern part of the United States. The leaves of whit sage are also known as “smudge sticks.” These leaves have many uses, including being used by religious ceremonies.

Growing white sage from cuttings can be a simple process. With a few specific instructions, a lot of patience, and some hard work, you can grow this plant indoors as a house plant.

To start growing white sage from cuttings, you need to figure out the best times to take cuttings. To determine when to take cuttings, you need to look at the leaves, stems, and flowers of the plant.

You want to take cuttings from a plant that has small leaves. Large and older leaves have less flexibility than smaller leaves.

It’s best to use a plant that has a flowering stem because this means that the plant is mature and can grow more leaves. Look for a stem with a lot of soft leaves on it and make sure that the stem is at least six inches long.

At least a week before you want to take the cuttings, you want to acclimate the leaves and stems to new temperatures or to the environment that you want the plant to grow in.

Transplanting and Repotting

The recommended time to transplant White Sage plants is in the late fall. This is the time of year most plants in the area that White Sage naturally grows are harvested for winter. The plants have grown for the season, and while they use the cold to prepare for the coming spring, they are not actively growing. The root system has established itself, and the plant has plenty of time and energy to put into building new shoots. At this time you can transplant seedlings and young plants. This will also give you a chance to prune the plants if possible.

When transplanting your White Sage plants, make sure you work with plenty of water on hand. Fill a bucket with about 20% water and, using a trowel, loosen the soil around the roots of your White Sage. It is best to do this by hand so you don’t cut any of the roots. Place your hands under the plant and lift it slightly. Begin to dig a hole on the other side of your White Sage that will accommodate the roots you have just exposed. You want to try to keep the roots intact as much as possible. If you can do this, it will make repotting much easier.

Traditional Growing Methods

In this section we will learn how to grow White Sage for many uses this versatile plant has to offer.

White Sage is native to Southern California. It thrives in its wilderness habitat but once you've taken a clipping from a thriving plant you can begin to grow your own.

Select a sunny spot to place your White Sage plant in that receives at least five hours of direct sunlight a day. Too much early morning sun can cause humidity problems, therefore look for a shady spot for this practice.

Locate your White Sage where it will have minimal stress, heavy wind can cause it to bend to the ground, careful placement will prevent this from occurring.

The need for regular watering of your White Sage is required when first dealing with new plants. They need approximately one inch of water a week.

Most gardeners water using a drip method, being sure not to let the soil become too soggy. This will prevent your White Sage from suffering root rot.

The use of aged compost will also aid in establishing successful growth. Begin fertilizing your plants about four to five weeks before their goal harvest time.

Almost all elements of White Sage will be bitter tasting, this is to prevent animals from feasting on young tender leaves and stems.

Companion Planting

In our last post on White Sage: Harvesting, Smudging, and Planting, we mentioned that Sage is a companion plant and has excellent insect and pollinator attracting abilities. This post will go into more detail on those features.

The queen of White Sage is the bee, and it is well known because of the honey its bees produce. White Sage draws in bees, wasps, flies, moths, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. In a garden with carnivorous plants, depending on the variety, you will get different insects.

The wonderful thing about this is that it will save you from using harmful sprays! It may mostly be noticed by the honey of the garden, but it also keeps the pests in a healthy balance.

Those who want butterflies or bees to their garden, it might be a good choice to plant some White Sage.

Harvesting and Storing White Sage

If the sun is out, you can go ahead and harvest your White Sage quickly. To do so, simply pick the flowers off of the stems. Do this only when the sun is out and never when there is a chance of rain. If you do not do this, the seeds have a chance to begin germination, which would ruin them for use and would make them no longer viable.

After you pick the flowers, you should let them sit around for a bit. Get yourself a brown paper bag, something that is breathable, but isn’t completely airtight. Use several paper bags if you need to. Place only a few flowers at a time in the bags and then seal them shut. After you do this, you can put the bags somewhere dark and cool, preferably your pantry.

You should do this for about a week. This allows your White Sage plant to dry a bit more and it collects moisture from the flowers to ensure that it gets enough while it is waiting.

After this, put the bag of flowers away and you can use them any time you need to.

You should not have to do much work to maintain your White Sage plant. During the summer, you will need to fertilize it a bit. Since it is drought resistant, you will need to give it some water and fertilizer throughout the summer.

When To Harvest White Sage

You normally don’t want to harvest your sage in the winter because it’s going to be hidden underneath the snow and will not be exposed to the sunlight it needs. Instead, you want to wait around until April or May when the leaves have spread out and you will be able to directly take it from the plant.

You may also notice that the leaves on your sage plant start to go from a bright green to a more yellowish-green color. This is when you will be able to harvest your sage for the first time. Be sure that you cut off only the bottom 50% of the stem. Cutting the plant off completely will kill it.

How To Harvest White Sage

In the wild, white sage grows from 1 to 5” tall. Its leaves are greygreen, lance-shaped, and slightly fuzzy. Its flowers are white and appear in April through August. Each flower contains four petals and about fifty seeds.

Storing

While most herbs are dry, white sage is unique in that it is best dried in the air instead of a pile of dry herbs. There is something calming about the aromatic scent of white sage. Whether it is for a spell or simply for your own peace of mind, the following is a guide to planting and growing white sage.

Unlike other herbs, sage should be dried naturally. The best way to dry white sage is outdoors. Hang them in the air, braided or loose, like Christmas garland. You should dry the sage completely prior to use.

If you live in an area where the weather is humid, you can dry your herbs with a hair dryer. Just remember to do so gently and carefully.

A Note About Wild Harvesting White Sage

Proceed with Caution

White sage is a perennial found in the wild quite often in the southwestern United States. Of course, with proximity to humans, this fast spreading plant has also become more tolerant to pollution and has no problem growing anywhere a plant should be able to grow.

In the wild, white sage is a short plant with whitish flowers that grows to around a foot long. When sage is found in the wild, it is often in small groves with multiple plants in an area. Because they are in fact a wild plant, there is a great chance that you should not harvest sage that has not been dead at least for a year. This is because immature plants contain a great deal of sap that, when burned in smudge sticks or released in the air via fire, has the tendency to cause great irritation to the eyes, nose and lungs.

Now, that isn’t to say that it’s wrong or bad to harvest sage, it’s just that you have to be very careful when handling it. Also, make sure that you are buying your sage from someone who has certificates and can show you that the sage is fully mature before making your purchase.

Problems

Transplanting: It can cause shock, and the plant might not recover well.

Handling: Plants react with pain to handling.

Not enough sunlight: They prefer lots of sunlight.

Improper soil: Pale colored leaves are due to poor lighting and poor soil.

Plant too close to other plants: If you do, the humidity decrease may trigger white root rot. This makes the leaves fade and die.

Overwatering: Leaves will wilt and die if water is kept on the roots too long.

Growing Problems

White sage is not very fussy about environment, compared to other plants. So many problems afflicting other plants don't come into play with white sage. It's an undemanding plant that does well in not-too-hot, not-too-cold conditions. It will even adjust to light or shady spots.

The most common problem with white sage is overcrowding. A mature white sage plant has a huge spread. It will easily fill a 5-gallon pot and crowd out all other plants. Like any sage, it's pleasant to have several plants, so you have some to put on the altar and some to cut. So, you'll eventually want to move the plant to a larger pot.

Underwatering is another common problem. White sage is about as hardy as they get. But that doesn't mean it doesn't need watering. White sage does best with good soil and frequent, thorough watering. Good soil is soil that holds water but drains well. See the potting soil discussion above. The water needs can be hard to guess. Plants in warm, sunny locations often need more water than plants in cool, shady spots. The best gauge is to water the plant until the excess water runs freely out the drainage hole.

Pests

White sage is a drought-tolerate plant that thrives in almost any environment.

Its fragrant flower lasts only one day but it’s a great conversation starter and water conserving plant.

The flowers hand on the plants from March to September, the small leaves remain all year.

It’s a great plant to grow in pots in places around your house or in a garden.

How to grow White Sage ?

It’s impossible to over water the white sage.

Water your pot plant daily, or keep it in hot weather since the plant stays fairly dry.

Some people propagate the white sage by taking cuttings of the plant or by clipping off the ends of the branches.

White Sage Smudge and Its Health Benefits

It’s a relaxing plant known to improve mental clarity and positivity. Its scent soothes the mind and body, improving the quality of air in your house.

Fresh white sage can be put on hot coals to be used for smudging. It can also be used for drying fruit in hot summer months and for other general medicinal uses.

The white sage plant is harvested each year for it’s medicinal purposes.

White Sage Seeds and Planting

White sage plants are propagated from seeds.

Diseases

Diseases and pests are the easiest enemies of the conservationalist, because the damage they do is undeniable. Poisoning herbicides, genetically modified seeds, habitat destruction, and uncontrolled growth are all unnatural and out of balance, but these problems are easily overlooked when compared to the visible, high profile battles waging against government, invading insects, or developers who cut corners at the cost of an ecosystem

Fences around private land are removed to create a sense of openness and harmony. Habitats are designed or manipulated for and by the animal inhabitants. Controlled burns, selective pruning, and careful water usage all help to establish a healthy ecosystem. All of these are geared to create a natural balance where the natural inhabitants can survive comfortably. In the natural world, an animal’s niche is typically extremely specific. Each population is unique and discrete. They’re adapted to a specific environment, and their genetic diversity is essential to the health of their species. It’s this genetic diversity that gives plants and animals the ability to survive in a varied, changing world.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I grow white sage?

You will need to give the white sage plant a lot of space for it to grow and thrive. Growing the plant may make it difficult to keep for the weed control of your property, you will have to keep a check on it to make sure it does not grow wild and take over your yard.

Plant the white sage in full sun to ensure that the leaves are healthy and strong. Add mulch around the plant to ensure that there is proper drainage and the soil is moist even when there is no rain.

Use a well-drained soil which will allow the moisture to reach the roots. Water the white sage plant regularly to keep the soil moist, and do not add too much fertilizer as it will require less of it. Let the soil dry out between watering. Keep the soil acidic so that the plant does not get nutrients or infections.

These plants are vulnerable to diseases and pests, and you will need to keep a watch out for them and make sure that they do not settle on the leaves. Also, make sure that you do not overfertilization the plant to prevent making the plant weak.

Q: Why are my white sage leaves turning red?

Q: How much sage can I get off one plant?

A: Each plant will have a different amount of sage, however each will be around the same size. You will get approximately 0.2 to 0.30 grams of dried sage per plant, per year. If you are using the leaves to make oils, and other products, then you want to dry a smaller amount total. If you are making a smudge, then you want a larger amount.

Q: Where can I get white sage seeds?

White sage is an annual herb and is found in the deserts of the southwestern United States. It stays green year round and can reach up to 6 feet in height. The sage grows in bushy clumps and has oval, light green leaves. The stems are also coated in long, soft hairs.

White sage has clusters of lavender colored flowers that can grow as large as a compact disc, if given the right growing conditions. The flowers are found at the ends of branches and bloom from June to July. There are also tiny, brown seeds within the center of each flower. The seeds can be easily collected by hand and left to dry on the plant. It can be difficult to harvest the seeds by hand because of the downy coat of the plant.

Because of these differences you will only find larger sage growing in botanical gardens.