Grow Pineapple Sage for Cool-Season Pollinators

Butterflies and hummingbirds love to gather nectar from pineapple sage in fall and winter. And you'll love that the leaves smell just like fresh pineapple.

It’s no secret that most salvia species are great nectar plants for butterflies and hummingbirds. One of my favorites is pineapple sage (Salvia elegans). It is perfect for cool-season butterfly gardens in zones 8 to 11 because it only blooms as days grow short and nights grow long. In its native Mexico, pineapple sage begins blooming in August. But further north it may not bloom until September or later. Once it gets going, though, it blooms straight through until spring, unless killed to the ground by a hard freeze.

Butterflies and hummingbirds are drawn to the colorful nectar-rich flowers. In Mexico, it’s been noted as one of the three most popular hummingbird plants! People also love this sage for the sweetly-scented foliage. The crushed leaf really does smell and even taste like pineapple, and it’s great in salads or teas.

Editor’s note: If you want to eat pineapple sage leaves, do not use pesticides or other chemicals in the garden.

Learn more about edible flowers: What flowers can you eat?

Salvia Elegans FlowersBy Eve Livesey/Getty Images

How to Grow Pineapple Sage

  • Salvia elegens
  • Zones 8-11 or annual
  • Full sun

Pineapple sage is rarely grown from seed, so either buy it as a plant or start it from tip cuttings from a friend in the spring. One plant will spread, and can be divided over the years as well. Grow it in full sun to part shade and water it well during dry periods. Treat it as a perennial in zones 8 to 11 (it will come back from the roots after a freeze), or grow it as an annual in lower zones.

Try Rockin’ Golden Delicious pineapple sage for a golden garden glow. Place pineapple sage in full sun to achieve the maximum gold coloration; leaves stay more chartreuse in part shade. Bright red blooms appear in late summer, just in time to feed your butterflies and migrating hummingbirds.

The hummingbird traffic at this late bloomer is incredible, and so is the size it reaches in a single season—up to 3 feet tall and wide! But growing it is a bit of a gamble. If frost comes before it reaches full fiery bloom, it could kill the plant. To extend its life be sure to throw a bed sheet over pineapple sage when frost is forecast.

Jill Staake
Jill Staake's lifelong love of nature turned into a career during the years she spent working with native Florida butterflies, caterpillars, and other wildlife at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa, Florida. During this time, she helped to maintain 30+ acres of gardens and backwoods, all carefully cultivated to support the more than 20 species of butterflies displayed indoors and out. She now writes for a variety of publications and sites on topics like gardening and birding, among others.