How to Prune Salvia

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Things You'll Need

  • Sharp, bypass pruning shears

  • Garden scissors

  • Household disinfectant

  • Gardening gloves

Salvia (Salvia spp.), commonly known as sage, is a plant group that ranges from annuals to woody perennials hardy from U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 11. Many varieties are used for cooking and present fragrant ornamental foliage. Aromatic blooms range from white to shades of pink, red or purple-blue. Sages may flower from spring through fall, or deliver seasonal flushes of color. Perennial sages often develop old, woody stems and require pruning to stay attractive. This cleans up the plant and elicits a second burst of blooms and growth. If your sage looks a little listless, a haircut may be all it needs.

Step 1

Sterilize your pruning implements with household disinfectant before and after your prune your sage to prevent the spread of disease. Use sharp, bypass pruning shears for clean, healthy cuts on woody stems. Garden scissors shape up soft annual and perennials stems. Wear gloves to protect your hands.

Step 2

Prune off dead and damaged sage stems any time of year, but leave most stems until spring when the plant begins to grow again and danger of frost has passed. The old stems, though unsightly, protect new growth. When new shoots emerge at the plant's the base and on stems, cut old woody stems back to new growth. Cut dead, soft stems to the ground.

Step 3

Trim soft-stemmed perennial sages in the summer to encourage re-blooming. Wait until after the first burst of blooms, then remove at least half of the plant. If you have a mass planting of sage, cut plants at different levels to keep a natural look. The plants will reward you by bouncing back quickly with renewed vigor and lots of blossoms.

Step 4

Deadhead sage to remove old flower spikes throughout the growing season. This helps encourage more blooms, shape the plant and neaten its appearance. Hold the end of a spent flower spike and move down with your other hand until just below the bloom. This method prevents you from chopping off a stalk you don't want to cut.

Step 5

Pick up all fallen leaves, spent flower heads and pruned stems around your sage. If there is any sign of disease, dispose of the debris instead of composting it. This reduces the chances of fungal infections spreading. Always check for signs of pests, but sages have few problems with insects.


Plant sage close to your house or in a windowbox to enjoy the plant's fragrance, as well as the butterflies and hummingbirds it attracts.


Sage responds well to heavy pruning, but never cut back beyond the lowest sets of leaves during the growing season. Keep your cuts above bare wood or the plant may not rebound.


Carol Sarao

Carol Sarao is an entertainment and lifestyle writer whose articles have appeared in Atlantic City Weekly, The Women's Newspaper of Princeton, and New Millennium Writings. She has interviewed and reviewed many national recording acts, among them Everclear, Live, and Alice Cooper, and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Warren Wilson College.