What is White Sage Harvesting

Moon Planting

Moon by Sign

The Zodiac
The Experiment

Taking Cuttings by the Moon

There are a number of schools of thoughts about using astrology in planting; this year I thought I’d do a little study, to see if any of them had any observable effect. I’ve been growing White Sage, Salvia Apiana, for the last couple of years, and last spring I managed to get the technique for taking cuttings about right, by taking 3 cuttings at 2 weekly intervals through April to June. Results were pretty good, and I ended up with about a dozen plants, many of which I gave away. This year I’m noting the times a bit more carefully, and I’ll record the results here

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White Sage

What is White Sage

As an incense, White Sage, Salvia Apiana, is burned to purify people and places, and its use is sometimes accompanied by prayer. Loose leaves often are burned, and a traditional ritual method for smudging the body calls for spreading the smoke by “brushing” it with a feather or bird wing. An alternative is to bind several stems together into a smudge stick. Either way, the leaves smolder, rather than burn.

The plant is native to just a small strip of coastal Southern California, where development is intense. The sustainability of wild populations of white sage may be adversely affected by development, over harvesting and unfavorable weather, although the plant is a tough contender in dry-lands and in rough, unsettled country.

A perennial that grows 2 to 5 feet high, white sage has gray-green young leaves that turn a dramatic white as they mature. The flowers, which bloom during the summer, are silvery white with a lavender tinge

The seed has a natural low germination rate, and I’ve not had one flower yet, but taking cuttings is effective.

White sage is cold-hardy only as far north as Zone 8b (-9 degrees C); outside of Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico, it can be cultivated as an annual or brought indoors for the winter. Good drainage is essential; most sages do not like wet feet and white sage won’t tolerate it at all, which means it doesn’t like England’s damp cold winters.

Big cutting


Harvest in the summer or autumn, when the white-leaved rosettes are at their prime. Do not pick all the leaves, or you will divest the white sage plant of its resources to make it through the winter. Allow the leafy stalks to wilt by setting them out on a table or on drying screens for a day or two. Once the leaves are leathery, supple and limp, then it is safe to place several stalks together and tie them up with cotton string in the traditional form of a smudge stick. Tie the base of the stalks with a knot, and wrap the string fairly tightly around the bundle. Then, hang indoors to dry the rest of the way. Alternatively, dry the leaves and burn them on a fireproof dish or shell.

If you fail to wilt the leaves before bundling, you risk blackening the bundle by locking too much moisture inside from the start. The bundle will last for a year or two.




I cut off the growing tip, and trim to 4 leaves at the tip, take off the next lower pair, and the pair below that, cutting just below the node. Wet the cut end and dip in rooting hormone, and put into 50/50 vermiculite and potting compost. Water, but don’t soak, and put in a propagator at 20 deg C. Make sure it doesn’t dry out, and remove from the propagator when the new growth starts. Any time from April onwards when they are growing vigorously seems ok.

Moon Planting

Traditionally, the phase of the moon has an effect on how plants will grow, so this is one of the effects I’m looking at. If you plant by the Moon, you need to identify the phase of the moon you plant at. The Moon circles the Earth, and the Earth circles the sun, with the result that the relative position causes the Moon’s illumination to move from New (0% illuminated)to Full (100% illuminated) over a lunar month.





moon phases

In the Northern hemisphere, remember the word D-O-C.

FIRST QUARTER. The Moon moves from NEW to the first quarter, a small crescent with the bulge facing right as does the letter D. Plants that produce their seeds on the outside, such as lettuce, broccoli, annual flowers and herbs have an affinity with this quarter of the Moon. Sow and transplant them during this phase. This is the WAXING moon phase, growing from new to full, That's when the moisture level in the soil is at it's highest and when you should do your planting

SECOND QUARTER. The moon gets bigger, resembling the letter D. Plants that set seeds inside a pod or skin do best when planted in this quarter. These are primarily vegetables such as beans, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. This is the WAXING moon phase, growing from new to full, That's when the moisture level in the soil is at it's highest and when you should do your planting

THIRD QUARTER. Past the full Moon, the shape resembles a C, with the bulge in the left side All vegetable root crops such as potatoes, onions, radishes and beets do best planted in this phase. Perennial flowers, flower bulbs, shrubs and trees also prefer the third quarter. the waning moon which is from full to last quarter. That's when the moisture content is at its lowest and there's less sap rising in your trees and shrubs so it's when you should do your pruning

FOURTH QUARTER The last stage before the Moon disappears to new, becoming a thin C shape. : This phase is reserved for garden clean up. There’s a gardening rumour that if you pull weeds during the fourth quarter, they won’t grow. the waning moon which is from full to last quarter. That's when the moisture content is at its lowest and there's less sap rising in your trees and shrubs so it's when you should do your pruning From that, the first half of the Moons Cycle from new to half should be the best.

Moon by Sign

Each heavenly body has more affinity with certain signs of the zodiac than with others. The Moon is associated with moisture, so she is most comfortable in signs of the water element. The Moon acts on behalf of all growing things most effectively when in a compatible sign of the zodiac. The water signs (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces) and earth signs (Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn) are considered female and fertile. Planting when the Moon is moving through one of these six signs will result in hardier plants, greater yields and larger produce or flowers. If possible, choose to plant on a day when the Moon is in a water sign.

Since water nourishes the earth, the earth signs are also very hospitable to lunar energies. They are the best second choice for planting, after the water signs. Virgo can be the last choice of the six signs because it’s the least fertile, even though the virgin is best for corn. Fire and air signs are infertile and should be avoided when planting vegetables. Flowers do well when planted when the Moon is in Taurus or Libra, an air sign, because these are linked to Venus, the planet of beauty and fragrance.

Based on that, the favoured times for cuttings would be:


Cancer - A water sign. Very fruitful and moist. The best sign for all planting and transplanting. Also good for grafting, and irrigation

Pisces- A water sign. Very productive and moist. Second best sign for planting and transplanting. Especially good for root growth and irrigation.

Scorpio- A water sign. Very fruitful and moist. Best planting sign for sturdy plants and vines. Tomatoes like to be transplanted in Scorpio, and it is a good sign for corn and squash. Graft or prune in the third and fourth quarter to retard growth and promote better fruit. A good sign for irrigation and transplanting.

Taurus- An earth sign. Productive and moist. Second best for planting and transplanting. Good for root crops and potatoes, especially when hardiness is important. Also a good sign for leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage and spinach.

Libra- An air signs. Semi-fruitful and moist. Best sign for planting beautiful and fragrant flowers, vines and herbs. Good for planting pulpy stems like kohlrabi, and root crops. Not so good, would be the following: Virgo- An earth sign. Barren and moist. Some flowers and vines are favored by it. Cultivate and destroy weeds and pests.

Capricorn- An earth sign. Productive and dry. Good for planting potatoes and other root crops, and for encouraging strong hardy growth. Good for grafting, and pruning to promote healing, and applying organic fertilizer.

Not so Favorable


Gemini - An air sign. Barren and dry. Harvest root and fruit for storage. Cultivate, destroy weeds and pests. Melon seeds respond well in this sign

Aquarius- An air sign. Barren and dry. Harvest root and fruit for storage. Cultivate, destroy weeds and pests. Good for planting onion sets.

Aries- A fire sign. Barren and dry. Harvest root and fruit for storage. Cultivate, destroy weeds and pests.

Leo- A fire sign. Very barren and dry. Cultivate, harvest root and fruit for storage. An excellent time to destroy weeds and pests in the fourth quarter.

Sagittarius- A fire sign. Barren and dry. Harvest roots and onions for storage, and plant onion sets and fruit trees. A good sign in which to cultivate the soil.

Planetary Associations

Culpepper associates Sage with Jupiter. It wasn’t the Californian variety, but I’m happy to stick with that as a working hypothesis, so lets assume that beneficial aspects of Jupiter, especially to the Moon will be positive.

The Zodiac

The most fundamental, and for the most difficult, is the way the planet’s position are measured, against the Tropical or Sidereal Zodiacs. Astronomical measurements are made against a fixed point in the sky, the first point of Aries, that is, 0 degrees Aries, and measured round in 30 degree segments till you come back to where you started again. When Astronomy and Astrology first started, the constellation of Aries was in the sky at that point; the figures matched. However, over the last 4000 years, there’s a been a slow drift in the position of the earth’s orbit relative to the stars, and now the constellation Aries has drifted about 26 degrees from where it ‘should’ be. Defining the planets positions by this notional point, the Tropical Zodiac is how Western Astrologers define the planets position and its characteristic. Using the Zodiac positions as seen in the heavens, the Sidereal Zodiac, is how Eastern Astrologers describe the planets positions. Now much work has been done using both systems, and I cant see a rational reason for selecting one over the other. So for now, I’m using the Tropical Zodiac.

The Experiment

Starting on the weekend of April 2nd, I’m taking 3 cuttings as described above, and noting the time. I’ll do this every two weeks, and I’ll try and maintain the same conditions, though the background temperature and humidity will change, the environment in the propagator should be pretty constant. Lighting levels will change as the season drifts. I’ll note how they proceed, with photo’s as appropriate.

Results are here