Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Salvia elegans is delightful in a pollinator garden

 I believe that adding pollen and nectar rich non-natives enhances a pollinator habitat...especially the ones that bloom in mid fall. Our middle south growing season is long; bees that are provisioning their nests for the winter and migrating butterflies and hummingbirds need all the help that they can get in blooming plants. Pineapple sage is especially valuable at this time of year. This fabulous native of South America blooms in early fall just when the garden needs a jolt of delicious red and the hummers moving south need nectar to fuel their flight.

Salvia elegans was planted in 2009 and survived a mild winter with only leaves for mulch, but, a normal and wet winter killed it and now it lives in containers from spring until the first killing frosts. I say killing frosts because I protect all my blooming plants, annuals and perennials, with old bed sheets if we are continuing to have warm days and only an occasional fall frost.

Salvia elegans is culinary plant that I don't even think about eating. Even if they are said to be tasty in a salad, I won't be picking the flowers, not after waiting all season for them to bloom.
The Cloudless Sulphur, Phoebis sennae nectaring on Salvia elegans
 Once they bloom the Cloudless Sulphurs are all over them. That's one reason they're in my garden. The other one is that they are attractive to hummingbirds and are blooming when they migrate through middle Tennessee.
I think of Pineapple sage as a hummingbird and butterfly plant and was surprised to see this bee nectaring.
Pineapple sage is fast growing, but slow to bloom. I tuck them into containers and patiently wait for the fall show. The 3 inch plants I planted in spring are 3 foot tall and 2 foot wide with bright green leaves that are a foil for the scarlet red flowers. In a sunnier garden with moist soil they can reach sub-shrub size.  Already this season there have been butterfly, hummers and bees nectaring on the scarlet blooms.
Critters beware! A Crab spider is lurking.
 It goes without saying that its best in fall when it sends up those vivid red flowers. If you want gorgeous summer color plant S elegans ‘Golden Delicious', the fire-engine red blooms and chartreuse leaves are incredible and look smashing with the purple blues of the ex-asters.

 The Particulars in case you wanted more info!

Family: Lamiaceae with typical characteristics of opposite leaves and square stems.
Genus/species: Salvia elegans
Common Name: pineapple sage
Type: Herbaceous/shrubby perennial
Zone zones 8 to 10:
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Leaves: ovate, soft-hairy, light green (to 3” long).
Flower: Two-lipped bright scarlet red flowers (to 1” long), in loose whorls, bloom on terminal spikes to 8” long from late summer into fall.
Bloom Time: August to October
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium, well draining
Comments: An easy peasy plant for middle south and southern gardens. Folks gardening further north might have to move it inside to appreciate the bloom. They may bloom too late for hummers, but, you can enjoy the beauty and add the flowers to your salads. I have been known to cover them when a frost is forecast and warm weather is expected to return.  
Attracts: Hummingbirds, Butterflies and bees


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I used to grow pineapple sage when the nurseries around here had it available. I had sort of forgotten about it. Elegans looks nice too.

  2. Great post about a fabulous plant. I love the golden one. The contrast between the leaves and blooms almost leaves me breathless. ~~Dee

  3. I couldn't agree with you more, Gail. I've grown this plant in pots a couple of times. I also like to plant Tithonias, Zinnias, and other non-natives that bloom in the fall for the same reasons.

  4. A beautiful plant. We can grow it for an annual.

  5. Great pollinator plant. I have it growing in my herb garden and enjoy watching the cloudless Sulphur butterflies standout against the red blooms.

  6. I must plant that again. Our sunbirds like it. And I used the leaves not the flowers in salad.

  7. I love this post! As a <a href="https://www.yardandgardenserviceshamilton.ca"</a/< I just love this time of year. Can't wait for next spring! Thanks for the share!

  8. It survived here over a few mild winters in northern Viginia, but got zapped once. I love the chartreuse leaf variety.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson