Salvia elegans, or Pineapple Sage, is one of those plants that you can’t just walk past. You won’t be able to stop yourself from brushing the foliage, or crushing a leaf beneath your fingers, to revel in the revitalizing smell of pineapple.
Pineapple sage is very easy to care for, perfect for patios or pots, anywhere that needs an abundance of color and scent to lift your mood, while bringing more pollinators into your garden.
Interested? Here’s everything you should know about pineapple sage, including how to recognize it, where to grow it, varieties to try growing in your own garden, and more.
At a Glance: What You Should Know About Pineapple Sage
Hailing from Mexico and Guatemala, pineapple sage is grown all over the world for its gorgeous fragrance and fabulous flowers, the latter putting on their display in the last few weeks of summer.
It may not come as a surprise that pineapple sage is a part of the Lamiaceae plant family, the mint family, with its bucket-loads of fragrance.
Some people prefer to use them in floral arrangements, where the foliage brings a plethora of pineapple perfume into the mix.
Others value this herb for its medicinal and culinary properties. While it smells strongly of pineapple, it doesn’t have the flavor to match. It’s a more subtle version of sage, with a fruity, sharp note.
In traditional Mexican medicine, pineapple sage has applications for treating anxiety and hypertension, amongst other uses.
Others plant pineapple sage for its flowers, which are an absolute magnet for hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators.
It will also live in most soil types, as long as it drains well. In winter, as long as the frosts aren’t too bad, the herb should die back and reappear in the following spring, once the weather has started to warm a little.
How to Recognize Pineapple Sage
Pineapple sage can grow to a maximum height of 4.9 feet tall, spreading to about 1.5 feet wide. The plant features light green, serrated leaves with prominent veins, and both the stems and the leaves are covered in tiny hairs.
Depending on the variety you get, the tubular flowers typically flower in the first few weeks of autumn, but they may flower in early summer instead.
How to Grow Pineapple Sage in Your Own Garden
Pineapple sage is easy to care for, and its aromatic leaves and bright flowers will add a wealth of interest into your garden during summer and autumn.
They do well in pots and in the ground, as long as the soil drains well. They are perfect for a pop of color, as the flowers are fairly well-spaced apart on the stems, but they are bright enough to hold their own in any planting scheme.
Here’s how to get the best out of pineapple sage.
When to Plant Pineapple Sage
Pineapple sage does best when you plant it out in late spring, into early summer. This will ensure that the temperatures stay high enough that no frost will damage the plant during its flowering season.
It also does well as an annual, for colder areas that don’t experience much warmer temperatures in spring. Some varieties can a whole year to fully mature, and they will need
Preferably, plant out pineapple sage during May and June, and it should treat you to flowers within a few weeks, depending on the variety.
It’s worth noting that pineapple sage is classed as a short-day flowering plant. This means that it will not bloom if there’s artificial light ‘extending’ the day in autumn.
Sunlight & Soil
Pineapple sage thrives in full sunlight, in well-draining soil. For best results, situate it somewhere where it can get the most nutritious soil possible, and mulch around the base of the plant.
If you live somewhere that gets very cold winters, it’s worth placing it somewhere sheltered, to protect it from the worst of any frosts that may come.
This is because while pineapple sage will tolerate some dry spells, it will die back in freezing temperatures.
As most types of Salvia elegans flower in late summer and early autumn, this can prevent the pineapple sage from flowering at all, or it may even kill the plant altogether.
You can grow pineapple sage in a container, too. This will help if you want to overwinter it rather than treating it as an annual plant, but it also helps the moisture to evaporate, making sure that the plant cannot get root rot.
Watering Pineapple Sage
Pineapple sage will tell you when it wants watering. The leaves will start to curl up when the plant is too dry.
Water it immediately when you notice this, otherwise you risk the whole plant wilting, or losing the foliage altogether.
Depending on where you live, the plant should take care of itself once the roots have established in the soil, where you’ll only need to water it during dry spells.
Should You Prune Pineapple Sage?
Pineapple sage benefits from some pruning. Remove some shoots in order to produce a denser growth habit throughout the year, or let it grow leggy and tall, whichever you like the look of most.
If you do let it grow, be aware that you will probably need to stake it at some point!
Get rid of any dead or diseased branches as soon as you notice them, as this will prevent any disease from taking hold of the plant. It will also make the plant look tidier, too.
Once the flowers have finished, you can take the flower spikes back to the ground. If you see winter damage on your pineapple sage, you can trim this off once the weather has turned and spring is in full swing.
In terms of taking off pineapple sage to use in the kitchen, it’s worth knowing that younger shoots and leaves have much more flavor.
The earlier in the day you harvest it, the more oil and goodness will be in the leaves before the sun has a chance to evaporate them.
Should You Feed Pineapple Sage?
It’s not an absolute must, to feed pineapple sage, and it will be fine without it. If you’re growing your pineapple sage in containers, or in poor soil that doesn’t contain many nutrients, it will benefit from regular feeds during the growing season.
How to Propagate Pineapple Sage
Pineapple sage is easy to grow from cuttings. This is provided that you take cuttings of soft growth – not old, woody stems – as it roots much easier.
Only choose shoots which only have leaves on, and take a couple of cuttings that are at least a couple of inches long.
Remove the lower leaves, and dip the ends of the cuttings into hormone rooting powder. Prepare a container full of moist compost and grit, and put the cuttings into the soil, and pop the pot somewhere warm and bright.
Once you see new growth on the cuttings, they are ready to be transplanted into their own separate pots. They also make great gifts.
How to Make Pineapple Sage Tea
If you’d like to try growing pineapple sage as a medicinal herb, always consult your doctor first, just to be on the safe side.
As a herbal remedy, it’s often grown for tea-making, where it can treat high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, to help digestion, as well as uplifting your mood.
To make pineapple sage tea, pop the leaves into a teapot, using half a cup of leaves to one quart of just-boiled water per person.
You’ll need to let it brew for longer than you would for mint tea, as the flavor is a little less potent, so around 15 minutes should be enough.
Some people also add honey or even lemon juice to really bring out the notes in these special leaves.
Problems to Watch Out For When Growing Pineapple Sage
There’s not a huge amount of pests or diseases that can trouble Salvia elegans. As long as you keep it in the right conditions, giving it plenty of sunlight, somewhere well-draining, it should be strong and healthy enough to fight off anything itself.
The position is very important when it comes to keeping pineapple sage as healthy as possible. The soil needs to drain well, otherwise the plant will rot, and there needs to be enough air circulating around the plant to prevent any fungal diseases.
Varieties of Pineapple Sage to Choose From
Salvia elegans ‘Frieda Dixon’
‘Frieda Dixon’ is also known as the pink pineapple sage, for its tubular, strawberry-pink flowers. Both the stigmata and stamens poke out from the ends of the flowers.
‘Frieda Dixon’ is quite an interesting variety, not only for its flower color, but also for its blooming period. It produces these gorgeous flowers during spring, all the way through until summer.
Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’
One of the older forms of Salvia elegans, ‘Golden Delicious’ is very vigorous in its growth habit, so much so that you’ll need to keep it in check by splitting it with a spade every few years.
This particular growth rate makes it perfect for a sea of color, as long as you don’t mind it running wild.
It can reach just under 5 feet tall, featuring lime green or yellow-gold foliage, the former achievable in lower light levels.
During fall, it produces a good display of red flowers, and the contrast between the blooms and the foliage, as well as the name, might make your mouth water.
It looks particularly beautiful against darker foliage, such as the leaves of a Colocasia, where the combination of the Salvia elegans stems and flowers are really brought out against the rich purple leaves.
Salvia elegans ‘Honey Melon’
Perfect for pots, ‘Honey Melon’ is an interesting variety of pineapple sage. While the regular form does smell like pineapple, this has more of a fruity, melon-like aroma.
This type of pineapple sage also provides the perfect glimpse of color in taller flower beds, where the bright crimson blooms appear from June, all the way through until November, if the weather is kind.
It’s a little smaller than other varieties, reaching a maximum of 3 feet tall, but it may require some staking from summer.
Salvia elegans ‘Scarlet Pineapple’
A very robust salvia, ‘Scarlet Pineapple’ produces maybe the most bright red out of all the pineapple sage varieties, attracting a multitude of beneficial insects into your garden, helping to bolster its overall health.
When mature, it’ll reach a height of 3 feet tall if the growing conditions are right. This variety is a prolific bloomer, offering the most blooms possible. It’s also the perfect variety for coastal gardens (see also Sea Grape Tree Care).
Salvia elegans ‘Sonoran Red’
Salvia elegans ‘Sonoran Red’ is a smaller variety, reaching a maximum height of 2 feet tall when mature.
It produces showy flowers from late summer into the early weeks of autumn, in a bright red, attracting a lot of pollinators.
Salvia elegans ‘Tangerine’
If you’re not a huge fan of pineapple, but you like the look of pineapple sage, you’re in luck.
Salvia elegans ‘Tangerine’ is a curious variety of pineapple sage, also noted for its fragrant leaves.
But where the original Salvia elegans smells like pineapple, this particular cultivar has more of a citrus scent, notably like a tangerine.
‘Tangerine’ is a summer blooming form of pineapple sage, and you can expect this plant to put on a real show from July until very early autumn, or the first frosts, whichever comes first.
This plant produces a plethora of rich red flowers, amongst vibrant green foliage, reaching just over 3 feet tall once it has matured.
Like all types of pineapple sage, mulching around the base of the plant will help the plant retain moisture, while keeping weeds down.