pickleduck
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Sage serial killer seeks help!

Hi!

I live in Southern California & have a small south-facing potted garden in my driveway. I have luck with lots of flowers and herbs but for some reason my SAGE KEEPS DYING!

I'm not sure what to do. I've had plants in the past that I may have over-watered. I know sage is hardy through droughts so I try not to water it often. My last plant turned black, starting at the roots, and the black moved upward until all the leaves were grey and shriveled.

I bought two new sage plants about two weeks ago with pretty, healthy-looking leaves. The soil was damp when I bought the plants and I haven't watered them since then (since I thought that was the problem). Now all the leaves have turned over and are shriveling.

Can anyone help?

pickleduck
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For reference, I have pics:

[url=https://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/338/008qvt.jpg/][img]https://imageshack.us/a/img338/4867/008qvt.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/838/009sk.jpg/][img]https://imageshack.us/a/img838/1924/009sk.jpg[/img][/url]

lily51
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A sage plant in the ground could go longer between watering than one in a container. These look dry. Two weeks is too long for container plants to go without water. We had a very hot, dry summer here in Ohio, temps in the 100+. I watered my container plants every day, some of which were sage, lavender, basil and annuals.
You need to find the happy medium on watering.

pickleduck
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I guess this is why I'm having issues. I also have lavender, basil and rosemary - all of which are thriving. I water them 2-3 times a week in their containers. However, when I tried watering my sage as often, it died. So I'm not sure what the "happy medium" is where sage is concerned. Watering once a week, maybe?

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applestar
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For the size of the plant, that pot looks small to me, so that might be the problem. Also, the soil medium looks very peat-y which would stay too wet when moist, then dry out and shed water (i.e. not absorb but let the water run through)

I like "hefting" to judge when to water, especially with plastic pots. Pick up the container when thoroughly watered and remember how the weight of it feels. As it dries, it will feel lighter and lighter. When it feels "light" that's when I water. (but it shuldn't feel so light that it feels top heavy)

lily51
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I second Applestar's method of telling if a plant is dry or not.
Also, some say if soil feels dry past your first knuckle.
Of course, depends on the plant. Chicks and hens are very forgiving.

pickleduck
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I thoroughly watered both plants last night and still no change. ugh!

Tonio
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the 2nd pic plant looks like a gonner.. stems are all brown.

Might want to look at the roots are still white (alive) or not (dead).

definately needs a bigger pot for the 1st one
San Diego / Z10
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pickleduck
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I've just moved the small sage to a larger pot. I did buy it in that pot and it looked healthy just a week or two ago so I don't know if that's the problem. But hopefully it helps.

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PunkRotten
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I had/have this problem with Lavender. Basically I found out I was not watering enough. If it is in a pot I needs to be watered pretty regularly. When putting them into the ground you'd water them several times till they settle in then you can start to water infrequently.

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PunkRotten
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I 2nd Tonio about the 2nd plant looking dead. If the roots are still alive then clip off all the dried leaves and stems and hope it sends new growth out.

pickleduck
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Is sage really that delicate? I had it for two weeks and it rained once during that time. None of my other plants, even the ones that are not supposed to be drought resistant, wilted and died during that time, without watering. When I bought it at the farmer's market, the guy who grew it told to be very careful of overwatering, and that dampness could kill it. These aren't my first sage plants. The other ones I had before, I was watering at the same times and levels as my other plants, and they turned black. So confused!

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PunkRotten
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Your experiences sound like mine with Lavender. You kind of have to be able to tell when a plant needs water. They are supposed to be hardy but at the same time can be delicate. I have attempted Lavender 3 times and all 3 plants died. I attempted a 4th time but this time I water regularly cause it is in a pot. The plant is doing ok now, but sometimes I can tell I may overwater, and then I back off for a little while. And then I pay attention to the leaves and I feel them to make sure they are not getting dried out. It may even be beneficial to have it in shade part of the day. I've noticed when giving potted plants some shade during the day they grow better.

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applestar
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Most drought tolerant shrubby plants like sage, lavender, and rosemary are drought tolerant in the ground because they send out LOOONG roots in search of water. What this translates to in small containers is that they get root bound very fast, filling the container and wrapping around itself which cuts off the circulation.

In a sunny location which these plants crave, the small containers dry out very quickly.

Also, now there is limited amound of soil to hold moisture, the plastic containers create pockets of wet and dry, and if they are planted in peat based potting mix, the peat dries out and becomes hydrophobic, shedding water and not retaining any moisture. So now, the roots are either dried up or waterlogged, can't breath. Roots start to die off, can't transport water up to the leaves, and they start to look wilty, so most people will water more, but dead/dying roots just get infected with root rot.

All of these plants do best in larger terra cotta or cement containers of potting mix that has been made better draining with sand, sharp gravel (like aquarium gravel, and/or chicken grit). When you repot, make sure to untangle the roots, comb them out as best you can, and cut off any rotting or dried up roots.

Tonio
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pickleduck wrote:I thoroughly watered both plants last night and still no change. ugh!
How did you water it? Above w/ a watering can? If so, it probably just ran right through with hardly any getting into the soil and roots. 1st pic plant (still salvagable)- see the gap from the soil and side of the pot? Thats a sign that its hydrohobic. Listen to what Apple is saying, they are good points for watering techniques when its healthy.

I would ruffle up the soil a tad, don't interupt the roots too much, and dunk it into a bucket of water so it goes into the top- not too fast , you have to tease it in. Don't get too deep, just about the crown depth. Then let it soak for about 30 minutes, and drain. If it feels really heavy, it got saturated enough, if not soak it some more, then put it in the shade for a day, and repot with good soil-10to 20% peat some potting mix ( without fertilizer)or 50/50 potting mix/ cactus mix in a pot twice as big. Pot should be about as big as the foliage size.
If it reacts positively with full foliage, add in some fertilizer a week or 2 later ( I prefer a dash -1tsp of Dr earth 5 and some diluted Neptunes Harvest fish/kelp).

Good luck!!
San Diego / Z10
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pickleduck
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Thanks for all the good advice, everybody. I'll try these things & keep you posted on how Sage 1 and Sage 2 are doing.

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ReptileAddiction
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Tonio wrote: If it reacts positively with full foliage, add in some fertilizer a week or 2 later ( I prefer a dash -1tsp of Dr earth 5 and some diluted Neptunes Harvest fish/kelp).

Good luck!!
I love Neptune's harvest. Best liquid fertilizer ever!

pickleduck
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Hi guys! Just wanted to check in & say that with thorough watering and a re-potting of the smaller plant, BOTH sage plants are sprouting new green leaves. Even the one we thought was dead! Thanks for your advice!

imafan26
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I really feel your pain. I have killed many a sage plant too. What I did find out that too little water in a pot kills them just as fast as too much. It is true their roots needs a lot of space. My mom has beautiful plump broadleaf sage in a 55 gallon half barrow and she uses red dirt. But, the pot is never really soaked. It just gets sprinkled every day. Sage did better in alkaline (cactus type mix) than peat, it did the best in the ground in full sun. The soil held a lot of water (clay mollisol) and pH 7.8 where they did well. I did plant them in the driest part of the bed. I don't add fertilizer and I use a drip system. The lower leaves turn black when they don't get enough light or they stay wet with watering.
I have better luck with lavender. They do fine in 1-5 gallon pots with peatlite and fertilizing only with nutricote once a year and daily watering. They do not like fast release fertilizer. They get even bigger in the ground. I plant them on a slight slope because heavy rains and wet soils will kill them. The lower leaves turn black with a lot of rain and when the light cannot reach them. Lavender should have most of last season growth trimmed back sometime in January or the plants will get leggy and woody. I usually trim some of it off initially, but wait till I see the new growth before taking most of the growth off. Be careful if too much old growth is cut off the lavender will take too long to come back or can die if it does not have suckers growing on the older wood.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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