White sage is an evergreen perennial herb in Southwestern desert climates. Native Americans treasure it for use in tribal rituals. Bundles of white sage (Salvia apiana) are burnt for smudging ceremonies to bless a new home. With proper soil preparation and careful positioning in the garden, white sage can grow in northern climates. Start with a potted nursery plant, and then follow these steps to grow white sage for your own gardening pleasure.
Select a location in the garden that receives full sun throughout most of the day. Choose a spot next to the house or a rock wall, if possible, where the soil stays warmer and the plant will receive reflected warmth from the solid surfaces. White sage thrives in warmth, so plant after the last frost in the spring.
Dig a hole 1 foot square and at least 6 inches deep. Remove all organic material and roots from the dirt and the hole.
Place a 1-inch layer of compost in the bottom of the hole. Layer 1 inch of small pebbles over the compost topped by 1 inch of sand. Add 1 inch of the soil that was removed while digging the hole. Pour 1 quart water into the hole and allow to settle for an hour. Fill and mound up the hole with additional 1-inch layers of compost, small pebbles, sand and soil.
Pull aside the soil mix in the centre of the planting spot to make a hole 2 inches deep and 3 inches square. Remove the white sage plant from its pot. Spread out the roots gently with your fingers as you set the plant in the hole. Push the soil mix back into the hole, covering the roots and up to 1 inch of the stem.
Water every other day for the first week. Let the soil mix dry out before watering throughout the rest of the gardening season.
Encourage new growth by pinching off the top of half the stems after the plant has been in the ground for four weeks. Use the pinched off tips as incense to smudge a room inside the house.
White sage may be grown as an annual in cooler northern climates. You can also put it in a pot in the fall and overwinter it in an enclosed patio or greenhouse. Use white sage as an incense or as an ingredient in natural shampoos and salves.
Do not eat white sage (Salvia apiana).