Diviner’s Sage Dying
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Michael
Posted on: January 16, 2011

I am unfortunately responding with bad news about the two Diviner’s Sage plants I received. Both of the plants began to wither up and turn brown at the breakage point over the first week but otherwise appeared to be relatively healthy. As time progressed the highest node began to shrivel up and turn brown and the leaves then proceeded to drop off. This continued down the stem until both plants had only one ring of leaves. It was then, almost overnight, that their leaves drooped and the entire plant turned brown, stem included, and died.

I would like to order more plants but would first like your advice, based on your experience, regarding a future purchase and a critique of my current methods. On the day I received the plants, I immediately transplanted them into an 8.5 inch diameter by 7.5 inch height plastic pot containing Miracle-Gro potting mix. I watered them every few days when the soil dried out to a finger tip depth (approximately 1/2 inch) and did my best to keep the leaves and stem moist with a spray bottle. I kept the pots where I believed they were getting approximately 2-3 hours of direct sunlight and a inside temperature between 45-60 degrees Fahrenheit. I never saw signs of insects but did notice very early on, that one of the plants had a scaly unidentifiable white substance around the base of the stem which I could gently scrape off with my fingernail.

I would like to know if there are techniques or references you could direct me to that were helpful in your own growing process. I would also like suggestions on the best time of year to order more plants and the estimated spring shipping dates to the United States so I can plan accordingly.

P.S. The vervain and Thai basil I received are doing wonderfully.

The one clue you gave us may be the significant one. You said the plants had a crusty white ring around the base of the stem. This would indicate too much salt in the medium. Using rain water or distilled water to irrigate your plants may do the trick next time. We found that Diviner’s Sage did very poorly the year we inadvertently over-fertilized our plants. Commercial potting mixes usually contain enough fertilizer for at least one month of vigorous growing.

The other problem may have been the re-potting as soon as you got the plants. Diviners sage has fussy roots. The double shock of new conditions and root damage may have been too much. Next time wait for a month - unless the plant is root-bound and roots are coming out the bottom. At that point potting on, that is putting the undisturbed root ball into a larger pot and filling in new soil gently around the rim, would be best. If you have trouble keeping the plant moist in its small pot, set it pot and all into a larger pot and fill in soil around it and keep both pots moist. It will take longer to dry out. However your pot size seemed a bit on the large size for repotting a small plant -in the fall too when growth is slowing down considerably.

The best time to order is the early spring. Our first shipments to the southern USA are usually in April. We cannot ship earlier at our risk, because plants would freeze on our end of the trip far too easily. However Diviner’s Sage often is a bit late in being ready to ship, because it does not root well in our cold early spring conditions.

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