Sage, Thyme and Mint Question

mrmoiseyevMay 19, 2008

I've got a collection of herbs in pots, and they all sit in full sun.

The oregano (3 kinds) is thriving.

The mint used to be thriving but suddenly lost all its leaves and looks terrible.

The sage - I'm on my third plant, having killed two previous sage plants. They just get totally dessicated and die. I think I maybe overwatered the first one, so I deliberately did not to that to the second, and still it dried out completely and withered away.

And I'm on my second thyme plant too - it's dying, totally drying out and turning dark brown.

The only thing I can think of is that they might need to be in much bigger pots - but they are in pretty big terracotta ones already.

Any suggestions at all?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Is it possible for you to plant the thyme & sage in the ground? They are well behaved plants (i.e. don't spread wildly like some others) and I found that they seem to like the ground so much better than pots for me.

If you can't, perhaps the soil in your pots is too moisture retaining and rich. For thyme and sage in a container, I'd probably do something like mix 3 parts bonsai soil mix and 1 part regular potting soil. I haven't tried this but I think something like this would create a well draining and lean potting mix for them.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 3:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

I planted thyme grown from seeds last year spring. Its been purplish all winter and now is nice and bushy again. I snipped off a few branches just the other day. Sage dies in Z5/6. Mine never survived a single frost. If the plants are drying out too fast, its time to consider using bigger pots with a little more good quality soil that can retain a little water without soaking in it too much.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 4:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
teryaki(z5B NE OHIO)

ksrogers- Nonsense on sage dying! Dalmatian sage positively thrives in Z5/6. I'm looking at a long-lived 3' tall, 4' wide example right now that's just about to pop with flowers.

I've got to ask: are you giving them the whole spring to recover before filling out the death certificate? Sages can look very ragged as late as mid-March.

mrmoiseyev- +1 on getting the thyme and sage into the ground. ALL of these plants do better when put in the ground (or for the vigorous spreaders, mint and oregano, in wide deep pot/planter) and left to their own devices.

How big are the pots you're using?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 6:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

I grew sage from seeds and left it outside and it was just dried twigs the following spring. Where in this thread, except for your post, is the word 'Dalmation' used? Mine never showed any flowers of any kind. The sage and rosemary were just small bare branches, and sat there all through that whole summmer, with nothing coming up except some weeds nearby. The weeds were definattely weeds! Same with rosemary. It may be that you have an area where the temps don't drop down to 10 degrees or lower, or YOUR sage is a super hardy variety that is resistant to very cold climates, the Dalmation type?. My sage was dead dead dead, and nothing showed up in its place that even looked similar the following year. On the other hand Thyme, started from seeds has survived my winter and I am happy for that. It has never flowered, but its leaves had remained on the branches all winter, turning purple when it ws very cld and now back to green again.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 8:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
teryaki(z5B NE OHIO)

You're growing these in the ground, right? I'm just making sure we're not arguing apples and oranges.

Dalmatian is common garden sage. Hardy to zone 5. I have a second plant, now in its third year, that grew from seed from the first. It's ready to bloom too.

There are sages that AREN'T as hardy, but common garden sage (Dalmatian) should always be. There are a boatload of hardy Z5 hardy cultivars out there, take your pick:

Rosemary, on the other hand, will NOT survive a New England or Great Lakes winter.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 8:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think this discussion is one example of the value of these Forums. The major publishers of gardening books have, it seems to me, almost consistently, in the past, tried to make their gardening books cover as wide a geographical area as possible in order to maximize book sales. When it comes to the down-and-dirty aspects of gardening, such as plant loss, those books are practically worthless.

Although there may be books out there that go into great and specific detail about what type of conditions each plant needs across the climate zones, water conditions, and soil types, I have yet to see one. Usually there is just a lovely photo and a few pithy words of praise, with a sketchy description of plant needs.

A thread like this gives us all an opportunity to collectively discover just what conditions a specific plant will grow in.

In this case, the origional poster is, it appears, from California, which is a large state--so we don't even appear to know what climate zone he or she is in, and what his soil type is. It is helpful, in posting a need, to specify these things.

I am in zone 6a in Pennsylvania, and the temperature here usually does not go below 0 degrees F. Although at times it has gone down to minus ten in the past, that has not happened lately. I have always tried to grow ordinary garden sage in a Southern exposure, but my sunlight is limited because of tree shade, and my soil is heavy with clay, which easily becomes water logged. To make that worse, my property is on an almost imperceptible hill, and slightly lower than the surrounding three properties, which tend to drain into mine. The plantings and fencing on the properties served to make this fact almost invisible when I first moved here, but the drainage and soil characteristics have been a definite factor determining what and where I could successfully grow which plants, despite the additional sunlight factor.

I can state unequivocably that in zone 6a, with my soil and its drainage conditions, neither garden sage nor thyme will persist through the winter unless in a raised pot (or, probably, raised bed, or on a slope, although I have not tried those two possibliities). It is not the cold that kills them; it is the moisture in the heavy clay soil. I did, however, succeed in having Bergarten sage persist in the very same spot that the garden sage had failed, over one winter.

I have never been successful in overwintering the attractive, decorative variegated purple or green sage, however, under my specific conditions, and even in a raised pot.

I pulled a thyme out of a pot just a few days ago, thinking it was dead, and found live roots, so some patience in the spring is justified for the hardier thymes. The more decorative and specialized thymes, such as silver thyme, refuse to return for me even in pots and good sun (which I now finally have in a few spots where trees were cut down).

I can usually tell if garden sage is alive by looking at it, but if it overwinters outside, even in a pot, it usually needs severe pruning in the spring. In any case, it is supposed to be divided and transplanted every few years to prevent it from fading away, since it tends to die off in the middle.

Oregano has wintered over for me both in the ground and in pots, although the ground was on a very slight slope for that.

I hate potting soil and sterile new plastic containers, but of course the advantage of using them is that plant diseases are not transferred from garden soil or old pots. I guess where this is a possible problem smaller pots could be baked at a low temperature for awhile in the oven (after they are dry, to avoid exploding them), and larger ones cleansed, possibly with chlorine. There is a wilt that has been affecting basil plants; I don't know if it affects other herbs or not. Mints also are susceptible to various diseases.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 11:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
CA Kate

mrmoiseyev: I know that the usual rant about these herbs is: full sun, little water, and good drainage.

If you haven't already discovered this I'll let you in on a little secret: No rules apply in California! ... except the good drainage part.

I grow herbs in the ground and in BIG pots. In CA Summers they ALL need plenty of water, afternoon shade, and good drainage.... but especially the ones in pots. It would seem that, perhaps, the pots themselves get too hot sitting in the full sun and fry the roots. I've discovered thru' accidental observation that no roots will be growing on the sun-side of a pot. Hmmmmm. What could that mean. AH HA! It's too hot! Now I try to make sure the pot-part is afternoon shade.

I don't know where you live in CA, but unless it's on the coast -- west of the last mountain range, no rules for the rest of the US apply.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 1:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm in the Bay Area, and zones aren't really applicable to our crazy microclimates, but we have a very Mediterranean climate - warm and dry in the summer, with very mild winters.

I give these guys scant water and they're in full sun, just as I have been told I should do. Its very mysterious. I might need to give them leaner soil (ie not potting soil) - I will try that.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 1:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

With regards to winter hardiness....I live in Western NY State. We get plenty of snow, ice, and cold every winter. There are times every winter where we go below 0 degrees. I've grown sage, your regular garden variety Salvia officinalis, for 15 years, 2 different houses, and in nearly every garden at one point or another - it is my #1 favorite herb to grow. My grandmother grew it too and she lived a few miles from my current residence. I find it quite winter hardy. Now we have heavy clay soil here so I never locate the sage where it has a tendency to have water pooling. That would croak it for sure. My last plantings of sage were in a vegetable bed which I had yet to amend the very spent soil in so it became an herb garden. This bed is in a very open location with no sheltering from buildings. They are very happy sage this spring.

I would think that there is another issue, other than cold, if sage is dying in zone 6.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 3:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

I grow a variety of sage from seeds, and have a few planted in 2 inch pots right now. Soon they go outside and will grow about a foot tall with woody stems by late summer. Its probably not the same strain as Dalmation, and I have never planted that type, nor have I ever seen seeds for it. Here, ALL my very old rose bushes died one very cold winter. Nothing could bring any of them back, so the dead roots were dug up and tossed. In my whole life I had never seen all the rose bushes die due to extreme cold.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 4:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
CA Kate

mrmoiseyev : more water, less sun!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 2:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sage LIVES for me....just regular ol' Salvia the ground and alive for going on 6 years!!! The garden soil is pretty sandy/gravelly and drains freely; it can take a lot of water (as can my Lavender, Sage, and Thyme) because it drains so well. Here our winter temperatures are hardly below 0...maybe 6 days in a row in January.
I'm betting your terra cotta pots were never soaked to seal the pores and got TOO dry. I lost Rosemary the same way even in my zone 6 heat; unsealed Terra Cotta dries out MUCH faster than the ground. In the ground Thyme does great on the dry side but they've got to get established first. Mine would wilt periodically the first season, but now they need very little extra watering other than what ma nature provides. The annual precip. in my part of the country is 17". 1 out of 6 German Winter Thymes is just about on it's last leg though, but it took 6 years to see any decline.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 10:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

As mentioned, sage is a not all the same, as there are several types that have similar flavor, as well as cold hardiness. Just like French tarragon is the best tasting compared to Mexican or Russian, even though they look nearly alike. My sage was started from seeds, and planted in a small plot next to my wild onions. Both got drainage very well as the area is a raised bed at the edge of a property line. The wild onions come up every year, as well as a few garlic chives nearby, but things like sage and a few other herbs simply will not survive or show any life the following year. I also started some thyme from seeds last spring, and they survived a winter here and are now quite bushy. Rosemary, I also grow from seeds, simply will not survive either. Its got to do with the variety and its ability to withstand the cold. Sometimes, plants can get mislabled. I bought some brussels sprout plants only to find they were just regular cabbages. It was disappointing, so I don't like buying many plants, because I know what is growing when I start things from seeds.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 10:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Those are trailing herbs that needs a lot of room to grow. I have Thyme in the ground that is about 3.5 feet wide and Sage that is about 5 feet or more, Rosemary that is nearly as tall as the house, those are plants that needs to be in the ground and not in pots as they get rootbound and cant do anythign else.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 5:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have grown Mint in Michigan, Colorado and Texas. Loves water. We had a sage bush that was about 20 years old on the farm in Michigan. Sage is an annual, biannual and perennial, depending on the variety. Even when you buy the seeds they are wrong at times. I have lost one Rosemary tree. It just turned brown and died in a very short time. So tried again and it is doing well, hope to see it live a long time and provide a lot of seasoning for cooking and grilling. My Thyme is doing fair after being transplanted. Will have to start my Chives again, garlic chives do well even in the grass. The only oregano I like is the Greek variety. Thanks for all your comments.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 2:19PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Herb Seedlings Yellowing - Basil, Oregano, Chives
I just started some herb seeds and was wondering if...
What is attacking my precious basil?
I have a 4 foot grow light (2 tubes 6500K) in my living...
In search of the wild fennel
Hello, I'm looking for seeds from foeniculum vulgare...
plants in cat litter bags?
I've seen pics of plants growing in reusable shopping...
Urgent Rosemary Help!
A family member bought me a beautiful rosemary plant...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™