675 Salvia elegansCommon Names: pineapple sage, pineapple scented sage Family: Lamiaceae (mint Family)
The bruised foliage of pineapple sage really does smell like fresh pineapple! This is a semiwoody, mostly herbaceous, subshrub, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) in height with an open-branched, airy habit, and a spread of 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m). Like most mints, pineapple sage has square stems and opposite leaves. The branches originate on opposite sides of the main stem, too. The leaves are softly fuzzy, light green and 2-4 in (5-10 cm) long with serrated margins. The flowers are ruby red, 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) long, and like other salvias, tubular with two lips: the upper lip hoodlike and the lower lip spreading. The flowers are arranged in four-flowered whorls on 8 in (20 cm) terminal spikes. Flowering occurs through late summer and autumn. 'Scarlet Pineapple', with more numerous and larger flowers than the wild species, is commonly available. 'Frieda Dixon' is a cultivar with pink flowers.
Pineapple sage, Salvia elegans, grows naturally in oak and pine scrub forests at elevations from 8,000-10,000 ft (2,438-3,048 m) in Mexico and Guatemala.
CultureLight: Grow pineapple sage in full sun. Moisture: Regular watering for best growth and flowering. Pineapple sage will wilt and eventually lose leaves during droughts, but when watering resumes it usually comes back. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. Pineapple sage is a semiwoody subshrub in USDA zones 9-11, and an herbaceous perennial, dying to the ground in winter but resprouting in spring, in zones 8-9. Gardeners in colder areas grow pineapple sage as an annual, or bring it indoors in the winter. Propagation: Pineapple sage is rarely grown from seed. Tip cuttings taken in spring are easy to start.
Use pineapple sage in the center of beds and borders, where its open, airy structure will not hide other plantings. It will grow to shrub size, about 4 ft (1.2 m) tall and 3 ft (0.9 m) wide, in a single season. Pineapple sage is often grown as an annual and often grown in containers. Northern gardeners can cut pineapple sage back and dig it up in autumn to overwinter indoors. Returned outside in spring, overwintered pineapple sage will start blooming much earlier than plants started from new cuttings. Another trick is to root tip cuttings in autumn and maintain them indoors until spring.
There are more than 700 species of Salvia, and many gardeners have become Salvia collectors. The "salvias" are also referred to as "sages", most are tough and easy to grow and many attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
The fresh leaves of pineapple sage are used in fruit salads and drinks. Crush a few fragrant leaves into hot or iced tea for a flavorful treat. The delicious flowers add color and flavor to salads and deserts.
Steve Christman 6/27/00; updated 12/30/02, 5/3/03, 9/5/03