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How to Propagate Tri Color Sage

By Deborah Waltenburg ; Updated September 21, 2017

Tri color sage, from the family Lamiaceae (Salvia officinalis), is a hearty perennial herb that sports variegated leaves in rich shades of green, cream and red. Tricolor sage will bring years of aroma, flavor and joy to your garden when grown in well-draining soil under full sun. This versatile herb is hardy in zones 5 through 11, and can withstand a number of conditions including heat, humidity and even extreme cold. Propagation ensures the livelihood of stronger plants and allows you to share this useful herb with family and friends.

Propagating Tricolor Sage by Seed

Start sage seeds, indoors, at least 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost is expected. It can take 10 to 20 days for seeds to germinate and the sage plants should be at least 3 inches tall before transplant.

Place seed-starting potting mix to a container and add enough water to moisten the soil without making it muddy. Fill planting containers or seed flats with the moistened soil, then scatter seeds evenly across the top of the soil. Cover with another 1/8 inch of soil and mist with water to lightly moisten the top layer.

Place the container in a warm, sunny location or use growing lights to maintain a temperature of 70 degrees. Maintain moisture, by misting or gently watering the containers until the seeds germinate and start vigorous growth.

Transplant seedlings to the garden or container. When planting in the garden, allow at least 18 inches between plants. Choose a location that offers full sun and well-draining soil. Apply a slow-release fertilizer once, after transplant, according to manufacturer's specifications.

Propagating Tricolor Sage by Stem Cuttings

Take a 3- to 5-inch stem cutting from the upper part of an established, disease-free tricolor sage plant. Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to remove a stem growing out of the main branch.

Keep cuttings in a cool, moist location if you cannot immediately replant them. Wrap the cuttings in damp paper towels and place them in a plastic storage bag. Store the cuttings in an ice chest or refrigerator until replanting.

Fill a container with a moistened, sterile, well-draining potting mix, or a blend of one part peat, one part perlite and one part sand. Vermiculite is not recommended for use in cuttings as it compacts too much and retains too much moisture.

Remove any leaves or buds from the lower half of the stem cutting. This will allow the plant to focus its energy on making new roots rather than flowering. Dip the end of each cutting in a rooting compound, such as Clonex Rooting Gel Compound. Place several tablespoons of rooting compound in a separate container before dipping and discard any used compound afterward.

Insert 1/2 to 1/3 of the dipped stem cutting into the soil, maintaining a vertical position. Buds and leaves should be pointing upward. Space cuttings at least 2 inches apart so that all plants can receive equal sunlight. Once the cuttings are positioned, water the container with 1/2 to 1 cup of water, depending upon the size of the container.

Insert a bamboo skewer or straw in the center of the pot, and cover with a plastic bag or plastic wrap. Secure the plastic around the container with string or a rubber band, in order to form a miniature greenhouse.

Place stem cuttings in indirect sunlight and keep soil moist, by misting, until roots have formed. It normally takes 1 to 2 weeks for new roots to develop.

Propagating Tricolor Sage with Layering

Clear an area next to the existing tricolor sage plant. Remove any existing plants, weeds or debris. Amend the soil with a blend of compost and sand, working it down to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.

Bend a lower stem down, without snapping it off the parent plant. Wound the center of the stem, either by bending it sharply to split the stem open or by nicking the bottom of the stem with a sharp knife.

Dig a small trench in the location where the center of the branch will be rooted. Lay the branch down into the trench, and pin it in place with a hook stake. Cover the branch with soil, allowing 6 to 10 inches of the end to remain above ground level.

Allow one or two seasons before attempting to move the new plant. This will allow the plant to develop its own unique root structure and ensure its livelihood.


Things You Will Need

  • Tricolor sage, full grown
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Pruning snips or sharp knife
  • Containers or seed flats (for starting seeds)
  • Containers (for transplanting)
  • Paper towels
  • Clear plastic bag or wrap
  • Potting soil
  • Rooting powder
  • Wire hook stakes


  • Sage plants should be renewed every 3 to 4 years when they become woody and less productive.
  • Layer in early spring with dormant branches or in late summer months with matured branches.


  • Seeds collected from existing plants may not produce true replicas due to cross pollination.

About the Author


Based in Ohio, Deborah Waltenburg has been writing online since 2004, focusing on personal finance, personal and commercial insurance, travel and tourism, home improvement and gardening. Her work has appeared on numerous blogs, industry websites and media websites, including "USA Today."