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Pineapple Sage Plants Bloom in the Fall

by Peggy Riccio
October 09, 2021
comment 5 Comments

Currently, my pineapple sage plants (Salvia elegans) are blooming in my garden, their bright scarlet flowers are attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Members of the salvia or sage family, pineapple sage plants are herbaceous, tender perennial herbs. I have two pineapple sage plants, which I bought last year as tiny babies, and I often use their leaves and flowers in the kitchen.

Pineapple Sage

From spring to fall this year, these plants grew very fast, developing many lateral branches. Now they are 4-foot high shrubs, several feet wide. All season long, I harvested the leaves and used them fresh as well as dried them to store them for the winter. The leaves add a fruity flavor to many different types of beverages (makes a great hot tea), jellies, baking (line a pan with leaves before pouring the pound cake batter or cut leaves and add to batter), muffins, cookies, chicken dishes and chicken salads, butter, cream cheese, ice cream, sorbet, smoothies, etc.

From September through October, these large shrubs have bloomed beautiful, edible flowers that can be cut for a vase or used in the kitchen as well. Interestingly, the buds begin upside down. Red petals poke through a nodding green flower stalk, and then as the stalk moves up and becomes upright, more petals poke through until the stalk straightens up to be raceme of bright red tubular flowers. Pineapple sage flowers have the same type of sage or salvia bilabiate (two lips) flowers but larger. The flowers can be used as a garnish, frozen in ice cubes, beverages, fruit salads, butters, cookies, cupcakes, muffins, baked goods, and cream cheese.  

Pineapple Sage

In my garden, nothing seems to bother my pineapple sage plants. They are in moist, well-drained soil but one gets more sunlight than the other, and I noticed that it has grown much bigger. They seem to prefer light dappled sun or morning sun and afternoon shade. They need space so it is best to plant them in the back of the garden as long as there is a path to be able to pick the leaves and flowers. I have read that they are hardy to Zone 7, and I have also read that they are hardy to Zone 8. Surviving the winter is a 50-50 proposition here in my Zone 7 Virginia garden. Last winter, I did nothing to protect them, but the winter was mild so I was lucky that they survived. This year, after the frost kills the leaves, I will cut the plants back and put down several inches of mulch to ensure their survival. If I had a sun room or a greenhouse, I could have taken cuttings a few months ago to pot up and bring inside.

If they don’t make it, I will buy more next year. They are cheap and easy to find. There are cultivars but I don’t see these for sale in our local nurseries. I have seen Golden Delicious, which has golden yellow leaves, at a local public garden. Tangerine has rounded leaves and a citrus scent; Frieda Dixon has salmon pink flowers; and Honeydew Melon has melon-scented, red flowers with lime green leaves. I am sure these are available at online nurseries, but for me the simple pineapple sage with red flowers is enough of a joy in the fall months.

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UCCE Master Gardener

by Pat Clayes on Mon, 10/11/2021 - 12:39

Thanks for the info!

Love pineapple sage!

by UConn Extension MG 2020 on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 09:32

I love these plants too! Yesterday t brought cuttings in - some to dry and some to root. I think I’ll try your pound cake lining idea. Thanks for the ideas!

Garden Club member

by Marlene Huffaker on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 17:53

I was so thrilled with my pineapple sage in summer of 2020, I bought multiples for this season. I was so disappointed that none of them had even one blossom! I'm in zone 6, so don't expect them to return, but don't understand why they didn't perform this year. Any ideas?

Blog Admin

by Peggy on Tue, 11/02/2021 - 12:02

It could be several reasons: did you plant them in a different place from the previous plants? If yes, was the soil was not as rich or too dry? Did the plants receive plenty of water during the summer? Were there insects/pests issues this year? Or if you planted them in the same place, was there enough fertility? Again, any pests/disease? To find out for sure, contact your local extension agent.

Green Thumb VP

by Melanie on Wed, 11/03/2021 - 21:07

I continually under estimate the size my pineapple sage will reach. This year's huge pot is still not big enough, and the whole thing blows over in the wind. It's very funny because my poor husband sits in up every time he walks past. LOL

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