Companion Plants for Sage | Good and The Bad

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a low maintenance hardy aromatic perennial herb which is adored by gardeners and pollinators alike. 

This sun-loving herb is easy to grow and will thrive in full sun and poor soil conditions making it a perfect herb to grow in hotter climate zones. Sage is a wonderful culinary herb which is a firm favourite in the kitchen adding a perfumed hit of flavour to an array of culinary dishes. 

Practising companion planting will ensure sage plants are happy and healthy, but choosing the right companion plant can be tricky because some plant pairings can be good and some can be bad.  

This is why we’ve done all the hard work for you and provided all the useful information you need to know to help you make the right companion plant choice for those sage plants.

What is Companion Planting?

Companion planting is a simple but effective method of growing crops in close proximity to benefit one or both plant varieties. This traditional and proven growing technique dates back hundreds of years and has a number of different benefits which is why it is so popular and is still used today.

Companion planting is defined as polyculture and is the perfect method for gardeners who are looking for an organic alternative to pesticides. 

This approach can be extremely cost-effective and will utilise growing space much more efficiently which makes it the perfect technique for those who are short on space but still want to get the maximum harvest.

There are many different benefits which can be achieved using the companion planting gardening technique. These benefits will vary depending on the plants that are used in each planting scenario.

One of the most well-known and historic companion planting techniques is called ‘The Three Sisters’ method which perfectly illustrates and explains the process.

The plants used in this companion planting scenario are – beans, sweetcorn and squash plants.

The tall sweetcorn plants provide a structure for climbing beans to cling to as they grow. The beans in return fix nitrogen in the soil which the sweetcorn and squash plants utilise. 

The squash plants provide ground-level shade using their large leaves to lower the temperature of the soil and roots of the beans and sweetcorn plants and will also keep other weeds at bay in the process. 

What Are the Benefits of Companion Planting?

Planting different types of fruits and vegetables close to each other can be beneficial in a number of different ways which is not only advantageous to gardeners but can also have a positive impact on surrounding nature and biodiversity too.

Here’s a look at how companion planting can enhance gardening and growing for you:

Saves Space: Companion planting is ideal for all gardeners regardless of how big or how small their growing space is. 

However, it can be especially beneficial for those who are short or limited in space because it provides the perfect opportunity to grow lots of different fruits and vegetables in the same area, at the same time, thus utilising the garden much more efficiently.

Provide Support: When taller plants such as sweetcorn are grown nearby climbing crops such as bush beans or pole beans, the tall sturdy corn plants can provide support for the climbing beans. 

This very popular growing technique is a great organic and natural alternative for climbing plants which gives the beans a strong and secure structure to climb. 

Using this particular method is mutually beneficial as it allows the sweetcorn to utilise the nitrogen the beans release in the soil. 

Attracts Beneficial Insects: Using flowers and herbs as companion plants is a great way to add fragrance and color to a garden. It is also the perfect way to entice pollinators and other beneficial insects too. 

Bees and other pollinators will eventually navigate their way to a gardener’s growing space. However, a good way to encourage this process along is to position bright and fragrant plants amongst fruits and vegetables

companion plants for sage
Sage growing in a mixed bed

Selecting Companion Plants

Each of us has a growing space of a different shape and size which means that one companion plant combination may work for one person but not quite as effectively and efficiently for someone else.

For example – planting bushy perennials which come back each year (often larger) such as lavender can take up an increasing amount of space. This can impact the planting options available and limit what can be planted or grown close by. 

Something else to consider is the behaviour and growth rate of the plants which are used. The herb mint is a wonderful companion partner for many plants but has very fast-growing roots which makes it extremely invasive. 

Mint can still be used as a companion, but growers should consider growing it in pots rather than planting directly in garden beds. This will stop mint roots from taking over and becoming intrusive.

Good Companion Plants for Sage

Sage is revered by gardeners when it comes to companion planting due to its extremely aromatic fragrance. This herb is championed and used by most to attract pollinators but also acts as a defence against pests using its scent to mask main crops. 

However, there are certain companion plants that if grown alongside sage can improve their taste and vigour.

Here are some of the best companion plants for sage:

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Chickpeas: Like sage, chickpeas prefer to grow in loose soil with good drainage and will not perform well in waterlogged conditions. 

When grown together chickpea plants will reward the sage by releasing much-needed nitrogen into the soil which will give the sage plant a boost, and encourage healthy growth.

  • Pole Beans: Much like chickpeas – Pole beans prefer drier growing conditions in loose free-draining soil which makes them a great companion for sage. 

Unlike some other beans, pole beans have a preference for arid climate zones which means it is possible to keep both pole beans and sage happy and healthy whilst giving them the same care and attention. 

Pole beans release nitrogen in the soil which will ensure sage plants thrive. A sage plant which is strong and full of vigour is more equipped to cope if troubled by pests or disease.

Pole beans
Pole beans
  • Strawberries: Growing strawberries and sage as companions provide a mutual benefit to both plants by promoting and encouraging healthy growth. 

Strawberries and their sweet juicy fruits are thought to improve the flavour of the sage plant and in return, the sage uses its strong fragrance to mask the smell of the strawberries thus warding off passing pests such as white flies. 

Herbs and Flowers

  • Thyme: Thyme is a low-growing herb which makes it ideal for those short on space. It is a drought-tolerant herb and shares much the same growing preferences as sage. 

Growing thyme and sage together as companions mean gardeners use their time more efficiently when watering, maintaining and caring due to their shared needs. 

  • Nasturtiums: These brightly coloured and fragrant flowers make great companions for many different plants due to their ability not only to attract pollinators but also unwanted pests. 

Nasturtium plants in this instance can be used as sacrificial plants diverting aphids and white flies away from the sage plant and onto the flowers and foliage of the nasturtium companion. 

  • Rosemary: Rosemary and sage make a perfect pairing because they are two very low-maintenance plants which do not require much attention and are ideal for gardeners who live in a hot climate and have very poor soil. Indeed, they will flourish in poor, stony and dry soil conditions.

When planted together each plant will grow with vigour and with its stunning purple blooms, will act as a magnet to lots of much-needed pollinators


Bad Companion Plants for Sage

There are some plants which can actually be bad news for sage so it is always best to understand the growing conditions, soil type, and nutrient, light and water requirements of plants before pairing any together. 

Here are the most common examples of plant companions which are best avoided when growing sage:

  • Garlic, Onions and other Alliums: Allium plants thrive in a moist environment whereas sage has a preference for dry, free-draining soil. Because of this, it is very difficult to grow both sets of plants successfully together as neither would be able to tolerate the other preferred growing conditions.   
  • Fennel: Fennel is not a good friend for many plants in the garden and does not make a very good companion plant for sage.#

Fennel releases toxins into the soil which can hinder growth and be detrimental to the health of a sage plant. In addition, these toxins can leave the sage more susceptible and less able to recover from disease and pest attacks.

  • Basil: The thought of growing all herbs together in a kitchen garden is very appealing. However, it is important to remember that herbs originate from very different climates which means they have individual growing requirements. 

Growing basil close to sage does not have a negative impact as a result of the plants themselves. The drawback of having these fragrant herbs together is down to the conditions in which they are grown. 

Sage plants are very drought tolerant and prefer dry conditions and basil by contrast favours a moist environment. This makes them a poor partnership to grow together. 

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.