There are a lot of differences and similarities between sage and lavender. Not just in the garden but also in our kitchens and how we use these two herbs. When looking at sage vs lavender it is key to look a little more closely at different cultivars and species in a bit more detail. There is also a lot of difference when it comes to nutritional content and health benefits from each of them.
Sage Vs Lavender In The Garden
We visit a lot of national Trust houses and garden’s and I love to see how the history of the kitchen garden has been carried forward. One of the reoccurring themes is the use of lavender and sage together as a hedge that deters rabbits and the like from eating the veg patch. I talk more about this idea here, and it is one we use widely in our own garden.
Sage and lavender do enjoy the same sort of soil and climate as one another. Although from different genus they belong to the Lamiaceae family, and are pretty much drought tolerant. Plenty of sun and free draining soil are a must. Winter requires a little bit of care if you are expecting heavy frosts.
There is more to them depending on each species or cultivar as well!
Sage Vs Lavender – Family, Genus & Species
We can see that the term lavender is used to cover a total of 47 cultivars of this subshrub. There is variation within around the climate they can tolerate and this is shown by where you would tend to find them. English lavender will tend to tolerate colder winters than French lavender. You will need to grow French lavender in pots or containers if you are in zones 7 or colder and bring indoors or into a conservatory.
With sage there is variation in the height and spread within the different species. We will see that salvia apiana will grow well with lavandula angustifolia as they will grow to a similar height and will need little in terms of protection from all but the harshest frosts.
Do not be fooled though, plants that are part of the same family do not always share the same characteristics and if we compared Russian sage to Spanish Lavender we would be in trouble and looking for totally different climates to grow them in.
Russian Sage –
Perovskia Blue Spire, check availability here.
Siting Of Lavender Vs Sage
Sunny, well drained spots are best for all types of lavandula cultivars and most salvia.
Perovskia or Russian sage does very well in free draining soil with plenty of sunlight. Choose a perennial border or any low maintenance area with other herbs that will thrive with sunlight and drainage. English lavender likes the same or similar conditions. So they are great companion plants.
If you are using English lavender with Russian sage then you can space the plants between 12-18 inches apart. Be aware that they are both woody subshrubs and will need a well dug patch for a long tap root. This is how they manage to be so drought tolerant.
Double dig the space to be planted and dig through a perlite or gravel mix. This will help to avoid water pooling and freezing around soggy roots – a sure fire way to kill a salvia or lavandula. No added fertilizer is required.
Both lavender and salvia will do very little in the first year in terms of flowering or growth. Let them get established and the second and third year will start to see more foliage and blooms. They both attract an abundance of bees and beneficial pollinators while being such a strong aroma as to deter pests.
Rosemary is another shrub that will do well when interplanted with sage and lavender, just be aware that at some point these herbs will start to compete and sage will put out some runners under ground and try to cultivate the entire area.
French Lavender, also known as Butterfly Lavender,
check availability here.
Care & Pruning Of Lavender Vs Sage
Neither lavender or sage require feeding. A poor quality soil is also not too much of a problem.
Sage can be harvested for leaves through the growing season, however if you want flowers then you will need to cut back. Sage flowers on ‘new wood’ and will benefit from a hard prune in Spring. Lavender does well if you cut the flowers back before they go over and you can then process at this time.
Overwintering of all but the Russian sage is useful in colder Winters. In the UK we have had a few years of total disarray in terms of seasons so I am getting more and more nervous about overnight temperatures and rainfall in general. French and Spanish lavender will not tolerate anything below 5 degrees and flourish, so we grow these in pots and bring indoors.
When we see the harsh winter weather we can cut the sage back to around 6inches to the base. Then put a mulch around the base to avoid too much water clogging it up and rotting the stems. For English lavender a fleece can be useful during winter, as can a cloche to try and limit the effects of rainfall.
With lavender it can be useful to factor this in when choosing your site, but growing in pots is also a life saver. The deeper the pot the better and some watering is required during drought periods.
Harvesting of Sage & Lavender
We like a plant that we can harvest through the year. With lavender we tend to only eat the flowering parts and therefore need to do this once the flowers have bloom but not gone over. With sage we can take a few leaves as we go and then do a large hack back at early Winter if we are growing salvia officinalis or apiana, In late Spring if we are growing Russian sage.
If we are using lavender for homemade spa treatments then I am happy to use our own that we have harvested from the garden. However if we are using lavender in cooking then it is important to buy culinary grade,
check the availability of Cotswold Lavender here, as it has been sifted and deemed fit for human consumption. For more on this subject have a look at a very informative article here.
Sage can be bought in two different forms when dried, either coarse flakes or as a powder. When you dry sage it is important to do it quickly and without any chance of mold developing. Due to when we harvest large quantities of sage it is therefore easiest to use a dehydrator. Air drying is not a good idea in winter or late spring, better in colder climate to do this in the height of summer only.
Sage Vs Lavender In The Kitchen
Sage and lavender are both known for their strength of aroma in the garden and in cooking, but the flavors are where the real differences become apparent.
Sage is pungent, earthy and often compared to rosemary or thyme in strength. Lavender on the other hand is sweet and floral with delicate notes of citrus. Sage is used in robust and often fatty dishes, think about sage and onion stuffing. Lavender is paired with lighter dishes.
But don’t be shy, both lavender and sage have a well earned space in your cooking. Lavender is often included in the US version of Herbes De Provence and can give a light note to better highlight the more pungent flavors in this mix.
Sage can be a bully in the kitchen and will benefit from pairing with other robust flavors and alliums in particular. That said it will go very well with lavender and the two work well as companion plants as well as aromas and flavors.
Sage Vs Lavender Nutritional Values
Nutritional content for sage compared to lavender this is based on 100g serving size. That sort of size portion is unrealistic, but it does give us an idea of the concentration of certain vitamins and minerals.
|Sage – Calcium 1652.00mg|
|Lavender – Calcium 150mg 15%|
|Vitamin B6 2.690 mg|
|Iron 28.12 mg|
|Magnesium 428.00 mg|
It is so important to remember that we really won’t be eating 100g of either of these herbs a day. That said the quantities in sage of Vitamin K, Vitamin B6 and Calcium are not to be ignored. The reason why lavender is so low down in certain areas may be because we are consuming the dried flowers more than the pine like leaves.
When we include lavender leaves in our diet there is a much more intense flavor, pungent like rosemary in many ways. However it sort of looses the sweet floral notes if you use too much.
Sage Vs Lavender Essential Oils
One of the best ways to get a concentration of the health benefits is often via essential oils. It is important to go for quality essential oils to ensure they are what they say as opposed to aroma oils.
Sage and lavender are often used together to make a calming diffuser. I use with marjoram to get a great nights sleep. Sage and lavender can be burned together in a smudge stick to cleanse and purify a space.
As both lavender and sage are used due to their calming affect it is possible to use them together or as a replacement for each other. So if I run out of lavender I can use sage for much the same effect – to ease anxiety and reduce stress levels.
Where To Buy Lavender Or Sage In The UK
- The best place to buy Hidcote lavender will always be from a specialist and
Lavender Worldbased in North Yorkshire are a second generation lavender farm. You can buy plugs for single plants all the way to entire hedges of lavender and it is ideal for a fast turnaround if you don’t want to wait for seeds – 2 years for flowers.
- For culinary sage I have used online specialist nurseries. Growing from seed is a cheaper option for both lavender and sage, but a very long wait if you want to harvest leaves and flowers in the few years of planting.
- When purchasing essential oils it is really important to ensure the quality of the product. Usually I am the sort of person who goes for the second cheapest of most things, however the health benefits may be lost by going for a lesser quality product. I use and sell Neal’s Yard Remedies as I have a lot of faith in their products, so if you are looking for lavender or sage essential oils have a look at their site here. You can also buy from Amazon if you live outside of the UK.
What Next & Further Reading
Whilst we have seen a lot of differences between sage and lavender in the garden and kitchen we can see that work well as a companion plant for one another. I personally love the use of sage and lavender as a hedge to help prevent rabbits or pests from attacking our kitchen garden.
I do hope you are inspired to both grow and cook with sage and lavender more in the future.