Herb to Know: Pineapple Sage

It's a taste of the tropics for temperate gardeners. Just close your eyes and crush a leaf under your nose: the fragrance is unexpected and exotic.


| June/July 1993


• Salvia elegans
Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
• Tender perennial

It's a taste of the tropics for temperate gardeners. Just close your eyes and crush a leaf under your nose: the fragrance is unexpected and exotic. What better garnish for a frosty piña colada or glass of iced tea than a fresh sprig of fruit-scented pine­apple sage? And beyond its olfactory bouquet, the autumn flowers that burst upon the scene with show-stopping drama deserve a place of prominence in the garden (or in a sunny window, if your growing season is short).

Description

An established plant of pineapple sage makes its appearance in spring as a mass of shoots arising from the crown. The stems are square, a trait common to members of the mint family. The leaves are opposite, 2 to 4 inches long, and slightly downy. The solid green color and neat arrangement of the foliage provide an attractive foil for the showy summer flowers of such herbs as calendula, nasturtium, and tansy, and they blend well with the gray-green leaves of garden sage (Salvia officinalis).

As the season progresses, the stems become somewhat woody at their base. Many lateral branches develop, giving the plant a dense, rounded form. Though the herb is generally listed as hardy to Zone 8 or 9, the roots of pineapple sage overwinter in my Zone 7 garden under 3 to 4 inches of winter mulch, producing a larger clump of shoots each year. By the end of summer, an established plant can reach a height of 5 feet with a nearly equal spread; by size alone, it commands a significant presence in the garden. Where the herb does not overwinter, heights of 3 to 4 feet are more likely.

As in other salvias, the flowers of pineapple sage are tubular with two distinct lips. To say that they are red doesn’t go far enough; they are intensely scarlet. Individual flowers, about an inch long, are borne at the tip of each stem in long clusters called verticillasters. The blossoms begin opening from the bottom of each cluster; the unopened buds at the top droop delicately as they wait their turn to unfold.



The lateness of flowering is a serious drawback for gardeners in cooler climates where early frost usually precludes the flower show, at least in the garden. However, if the entire plant is brought indoors before it is nipped by the cold, it will bloom for quite a while in a sunny room.

Late flowering can be a bonus to southern gardeners. Just as the season’s show seems to be winding down, pineapple sage explodes into brilliant bloom. In Zone 7, flowering begins at the end of September, continuing through October and sometimes even into November. Some years, the flower display is cut short abruptly by cold weather, but more often pineapple sage can be the indisputable centerpiece of the autumn herb garden.

Loonette
5/28/2018 11:46:25 AM

I have seen hummingbirds around a pineapple sage I have in a garden bed periodically. The flowers are tubular which is perfect for a hummingbird. The flowers are truly stunning and vibrant.


Loonette
5/28/2018 11:46:02 AM

I have seen hummingbirds around a pineapple sage I have in a garden bed periodically. The flowers are tubular which is perfect for a hummingbird. The flowers are truly stunning and vibrant.


Loonette
5/28/2018 11:41:09 AM

I have seen a few hummingbirds visiting a pineapple sage I have growing. Vibrant red flowers are tubular, perfect for hummingbird beaks. Good to know I can divide this plant. It does get quite big and I got it as a small 4" plant.








mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!

LEARN MORE









Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265