Crush the leaves of Salvia elegans to enjoy a refreshing, fruity aroma, mixed with hints of traditional sage. This fragrance is where the plant gets its common name, pineapple sage, but the strength of the scent differs depending on your region's climate. This late-blooming, fast-growing shrub is a warm-zone perennial and part of the expansive mint family (Lamiaceae). In cool regions, you can still enjoy this plant, but only as an annual or when grown inside.
Its striking dark, bushy foliage works in beds or borders. It's a winning and easy-to-establish herb garden addition (the leaves and flowers are edible), and hummingbirds love the late-blooming, drooping scarlet flowers. Pineapple sage grows well in large containers on patios. Grown in pots it can be moved indoors to overwinter and enjoyed for a second season the following year.
|Common Name||Pineapple Sage|
|Botanical Name||Salvia elegans|
|Plant Type||Tender Perennial, Subshrub, Herbaceous|
|Mature Size||Up to 5 ft. tall, up to 3 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun, Partial Shade|
|Soil Type||Well-drained, Moist|
|Bloom Time||Summer, Fall|
|Hardiness Zones||8-11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Mexico, Guatemala|
Pineapple Sage Care
Pineapple sage is a frost-tender perennial, so it's all about getting this plant a warm, sheltered, and sunny spot—especially if you want to appreciate the eye-catching flowers. Because it can grow large (up to 5 feet tall), it might need staking if you don't keep on top of pruning and pinching.
Pineapple sage is a plant that needs plenty of sun to thrive. Direct, full morning sun with a little light afternoon shade produces great tasting foliage.
The plant adapts to a variety of soils. Fertile, consistently moist soils high in organic matter produce the best results. Pineapple sage won't do well in soggy conditions, so a free-draining medium is crucial.
Although pineapple sage has some drought tolerance, the foliage starts to wilt and curl up if your plant is too dry. Even moisture throughout the growing season ensures healthy foliage and prevents leaf drop.
After planting, you might need to water several times times a week, moving to weekly once it settles in, depending on your region's weather and moisture levels. Keep an eye on your plant, and if you notice wilting or curling, that's a sign you need to increase irrigation.
Temperature and Humidity
Hard frosts cause pineapple sage to die back to the ground. However, if you live in one of the plant's suggested hardiness zones, cut it back in winter, and mulch around the roots in the fall, it should grow again in the spring. Generally, it tolerates temperatures down to around 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
You won't have lots of commitments in terms of feeding your pineapple sage plant, providing you plant it in fertile soil. Amending poorer soil with organic matter or compost in the spring should be enough to ensure vigorous growth.
Types of Pineapple Sage
There are a few pineapple sage cultivars you can look out for. Check out the ones below for inspiration:
- Salvia elegans 'Honey Melon': If you're looking for a pineapple sage that blooms a little earlier in the summer and has a more compact growing habit, this could be the cultivar to choose (it doesn't grow higher than 3 feet). It's great in small gardens in cooler northern regions, and it gets its name from the melon-like fragrance of the crushed leaves.
- Salvia elegans 'Scarlet pineapple': One of the most widely available cultivars, this plant produces an abundance of large blooms, with a red tinge on the leaf edges.
- Salvia elegans 'Tangerine': As the name suggests, this variety produces a more citrus-like fragrance. The foliage is smaller, and the flowers are darker and earlier to bloom than in the standard species.
If you want to keep your pineapple sage neat and compact with a dense, bushy habit, it's best to pinch young tips. Annual pruning of the older, woody branches in late winter or early spring helps encourage new, healthy growth. Wait until after a hard frost, as leaving the woody stems on the plant can help protect it from any cold spells.
Propagating Pineapple Sage
Propagation is easiest using tip cuttings, or divisions. Cuttings have the best chance of success when you take them from new shoots with foliage rather than woody stems with flower buds. The cuttings usually root easily when placed in water or a moist rooting medium for new plants—there's no need to dip the tip in rooting hormone first.
Don't put your rooted cutting outside until the soil is suitably warm in late spring. Any late frosts will kill off tender new plants.
How to Grow Pineapple Sage From Seed
Because of their sensitivity to cold temperatures, it's always best to grow pineapple sage from seed indoors or in a greenhouse (unless you can guarantee very warm soil temperatures while the seedlings develop).
Seeds germinate within a fortnight. However, don't transplant seedlings outdoors until they are at least 8 inches tall and any danger of frost has passed. In fact, if you are on the colder side of the acceptable hardiness zones, it may be best to keep your pineapple sage in the greenhouse for their first year, and then you can plant them out the following spring when they are mature and hardier.
Pineapple sage is popular for its deer resistance and the fact that it isn't bothered by too many pests. However, aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites are sometimes attracted to this plant (as they are to many members of the mint family), especially in greenhouse environments.
How to Get Pineapple Sage to Bloom
These cold-sensitive, late-season bloomers have beautiful foliage that contrasts well with other colorful perennials, but the flowers (that are similar to honeysuckle) are particularly striking. However, you'll only get to appreciate the tubular, scarlet-red blooms on the pineapple sage in warmer climates when grown outdoors.
The flowers can grow to be 2 inches long and typically bloom in late summer and through fall (usually from August to October). When grown in greenhouses or indoors, they may flower right through to early spring, but cooler outdoor winter temperatures bring the bloom season to a close.
The flowers are attractive to pollinators, particularly hummingbirds and bees, and are a great late source of nutrition when food sources become scarce.
Getting the balance right with irrigation is crucial to seeing an abundant bloom, as are warm temperatures and plenty of sun. However, these are short-day flowering plants which means they won't do well where they get a lot of bright, artificial light in the fall that extends their day.
How fast does pineapple sage grow?
The plant has a moderate to rapid growth rate, depending on the growing conditions. Seeds germinate within two weeks and plants can reach their full height in one growing season.
Can pineapple sage grow indoors?
You can grow this plant indoors, and you'll need to in cooler regions for it to survive. However, it doesn't do well with extended periods of artificial light, so a bright, sunny spot by a window is best. Be aware that these bushy shrubs grow fairly large and need a big container, so they won't be good a good choice in small spaces. Greenhouse growing is more common than growing them as a houseplant.
Is pineapple sage edible?
The leaves and flowers of this plant are edible and are a, sweet, flavorful addition to salads, teas, jellies, and desserts. Some people also use the dry leaves in potpourri. Be aware that the plant looks similar to Texas sage (Salvia coccinea), which are not edible. However, you should be able to tell the difference when you crush the leaves. The distinct fruity fragrance of the pineapple sage is noticeable.