The pineapple sage not only impresses with its bright red flowers in autumn, but also beguiles with a tropical scent that is reminiscent of pineapple. As if that weren’t enough, the edible flowers and leaves enrich Asian dishes and make a fruity tea. In view of these exciting attributes, it hardly matters that pineapple sage is not hardy. The up to 100 cm high plant makes up for this with its undemanding care and its excellent suitability for decorative dried flowers.


Since the plant from the mint family, which is native to Mexico and Guatemala, does not show its inflorescences until October, it makes perfect sense to cultivate it as a container plant in the local latitudes. Their care is designed accordingly:

  • Choose buckets with a capacity of 10 liters or more.
  • The substrate consists of 1 part each of clay, coarse sand and compost.
  • A warm location in partial shade is ideal.
  • The pineapple sage tolerates morning and evening sun well.
  • Full midday sun requires light shade.
  • Pour enough and do not allow to dry out.
  • Salvia rutilans does not tolerate waterlogging.
  • A drainage made of gravel or pottery shards is indispensable in the bucket.
  • Fertilize organically every 4 weeks during the growth phase.
  • Repot regularly as soon as the planter has roots.
  • Do not repot during winter, but in spring.
  • In the bed, the subshrub thrives in humus, nutritious, permeable soil.

Incidentally, the pineapple sage only fully unfolds its aromatic scent when it is lightly touched. Experienced gardening enthusiasts therefore place the plant in such a way that they slide their hand through the leaves as they pass, because, surprisingly, it is they – and not the flowers – that develop the fragrant bouquet.


The origin already reveals it; Salvia rutilans is not hardy. As a result, it moves as a container plant into a bright, cool winter quarters during its flowering period, which lasts from October to the end of November. Ideally, temperatures between 5 ° and 15 ° Celsius prevail there. A winter garden or a light-flooded staircase are ideal for the pineapple sage as a location during the cold season. The subshrub is only lightly watered and not fertilized. Then the chances are good that its eye-catching, red flowers will attract everyone’s attention while it is already storming and snowing outside.
If there is no suitable space available for wintering, it should be quite difficult to get the Salvia rutilans through. Depending on the resistance of the plant, the following measures could still lead to success:

  • Cut back the subshrub radically.
  • Cover the surface of the root ball thickly with straw or leaves.
  • Place the bucket on a block of wood or styrofoam.
  • Wrap the container with bubble wrap or garden fleece.
  • Place the pineapple sage on a protected south wall of the house.
  • Preferably leave to winter in a frost-free garage.
  • In addition, cover the straw or leaves in the bed with fir fronds.
  • Pour something from time to time if it is not freezing.

If the winter was not too severe, the pineapple sage sprouts again in spring. This is the signal for gardening enthusiasts to remove the winter protection step by step until it disappears completely after the ice saints.

To cut

Like most mint family, the fast-growing Salvia rutilans is pleasantly pruning. Experienced gardeners therefore cut the pineapple sage with a sharp knife to a hand’s breadth above the ground in the spring, shortly before the new shoots. In this way, they also encourage the vigorous flowering bush to bloom. If the plant spreads too much in the course of growth, it does not mind cutting back by about a third of the shoot length in this phase, as long as the old wood is not cut. On the contrary, the pineapple sage will then sprout again and assume a more compact habit. If there is no winter quarters available for the Salvia rutilans, the hobby gardener grabs the cutting tool with a heavy heart as early as November or December,

Dry the pineapple sage

The flowering shrub is an enrichment for the garden, the house and the kitchen not only when fresh. Experienced gardening enthusiasts advocate drying the various parts of the plant.

Dry flowering branches

If you want to have the autumn blossoms of the pineapple sage permanently in mind, you can keep it for a long time by simply drying it. The easiest and cheapest method is air drying. For this purpose, branches in full bloom are preferably cut. Ideally, the blooming branches are only cut in the afternoon, when there is no more morning hoarfrost. The salvo bouquet is tied with raffia and hung upside down in a warm, airy, dry room. The bast ribbon is by no means not pulled too tight so that there are no unwanted pressure points. It is more advantageous to repeatedly tighten it slightly during the drying process when the moisture has evaporated from the stems. Finally, the bouquet is sprayed all around with hairspray, which significantly extends the shelf life. Experience has shown that the flower branches of the pineapple sage are dry after two weeks, which can be recognized by a faint rustling of the flowers. If you want to dry individual stems of Salvia rutilan, simply place them on a grid and let them dry in a dark, well-ventilated room so that the flower color does not fade. The crackling of the air-dried flower branches already indicates that their stability is not well placed. A somewhat more expensive technology eliminates this disadvantage. The twigs are placed in a vase that is filled with a mix of one part glycerine and two parts water. After two to four weeks, the water has evaporated and the glycerine has been distributed in the Salvia rutilans. The superiority of this method of drying lies in
Dry leaves and flowers for use in the kitchen.

If the hobby gardener focuses more on the use of sage leaves and flowers in the kitchen, nothing speaks against drying them without branches:

  • Just before flowering, harvest the leaves with a sharp knife.
  • Only harvest the flowers when they are fully developed.
  • The best time is late in the morning when the dew has gone.
  • Spread the leaves out on a plate, kitchen paper or, better, a kiln.
  • Let dry in a warm, airy place like the attic.
  • Finely chopped leaves accelerate the drying process.
  • Store the dried leaves and flowers in a dark, sealable container.

A kiln, like the one used by the forefathers to dry plants, consists of a close-knit wire mesh. The leaves and flowers spread out on it are ventilated from all sides so that no mold can form. A flat sieve or a sweater drying rack will do the job just as well. The warmer the air that flows through a kiln, the faster the moisture in the plants evaporates.

Super fast drying with silica gel

The small spheres of silicon dioxide have come across everyone as a package insert for moisture-sensitive devices, where they absorb condensation during transport. Resourceful gardeners use this function to dry their pineapple sage within a few days. The bottom is covered with silica gel, also called silica gel, in a sealable vessel. The branches, leaves or flowers of the Salvia rutilans are spread out on it and then completely covered with the water-absorbent balls. The vessel is then closed with the lid. After a week at the latest, the herbal content will be completely dry. By the way, silica gel is harmless to health, so that the dried plant parts of the pineapple sage are suitable for consumption.


Once the enthusiastic hobby gardener has got to know the numerous advantages of the flowering shrub, he will understandably consider propagating it himself. The most straightforward method is done with the help of cuttings:

  • In late summer, cut off 8 cm to 10 cm long unwooded shoots.
  • Make the cut at an angle about 1.5 cm below a knot.
  • Remove all leaves in the lower third.
  • Halve the remaining leaves so that the cuttings save energy.
  • Each shoot comes in a glass that is 5 cm high with water.
  • Willow water promotes rooting better than tap water.
  • Place a translucent lid or cover with foil.
  • Place in a warm, bright, but not full sun place.
  • Change the water daily.
  • The first roots form within 14 days.
  • From a root length of 1.5 cm to 2.5 cm, pot the cuttings.
  • Treat the still tender roots with great care.
  • Use nutrient-poor substrate or special potting soil.

Throughout the winter, the young Salvia rutilans now have plenty of time to develop a strong root system. Meanwhile, the substrate is always kept slightly moist without soaking it completely. If willow water is used for watering, the natural phytohormones it contains support rapid root formation. Depending on how fast the young plants are growing, it may be necessary to repot them in a larger container. From mid-May, when the risk of ground frost no longer exists, it is time to allocate the new pineapple sage to a suitable place in beautiful pots on the balcony or terrace.

Diseases and pests

The troubled gardener will be happy to hear that the dreaded nudibranchs avoid the pineapple sage. However, there are reports of infestation by cephalopods, also known as thrips or thunderstorms. The tiny pests suck the leaf cells empty, which noticeably weakens the plant. If the Salvia rutilans is intended for consumption, biological control agents are preferably used:

  • Check the underside of the leaves regularly.
  • Immediately pluck discolored leaves.
  • Isolate infested plants to prevent spread.
  • Spray with a mixture of 15 ml soft soap and 1 l water.
  • Repeat this process several times.
  • Blue glue traps help against flying thrips.
  • If Amblyseius cucumeris is heavily infested, apply predatory mites.
  • Alternatively, spread lacewing larvae on the Salvia rutilans.

The experts also advise against the use of chemical insecticides if Salvia rutilans is used exclusively as an ornamental plant. It has been found that these agents contain oil, which in the long term clogs the pores of the leaves and ultimately causes even greater damage than the pests. For this reason, the environmentally friendly neem oil is also not suitable for combating thrips on pineapple sage.

The pineapple sage is another bravura piece among the fascinating creations that mother nature has to offer the enthusiastic hobby gardener. The bright red flowers are a decorative eye-catcher on every balcony in late autumn and bring color to the dark season in the appropriate winter quarters. If you taste it, you will experience a fruity, sweet treat. In the kitchen, the leaves give some Asian dishes the finishing touch and invite you to enjoy aromatic tea. The sympathetic plant profile of Salvia rutilans is rounded off by its undemanding care, its problem-free cut tolerance and its robust resistance to the ubiquitous nudibranchs. If the gardener lets his hand slide through the dense foliage in a friendly bond,

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