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Calliope Hummingbird Photo by Jeremiah Trimble

Pineapple Sage is Great for Attracting Hummingbirds

One of the last flowering plants to give up the ghost in my garden is always Pineapple Sage or Salvia elegans.  A perennial in Mexico, this northern annual starts blooming quite late in the season (like October) with arches of scarlet flowers.  Hummingbirds are quite attracted to this plant because of the red color and the long shape of the flowers. In fact, during the Nantucket Bird Festival this fall, a very rare Caliope hummingbird was spotted nose deep in a pineapple sage.  I have often seen hummingbirds in my pineapple sage, but none quite so rare as that.  My specimen this year shriveled up a few weeks ago when the first below freezing temeratures hit.

Named for the delightful pineapple scent of its foliage, pineapple sage is worth the wait. Setting out small plants late in spring will practically guarantee a 3-4 foot shrub-sized plant by the time they bloom. The cardinal red blooms appear late and seem to be the perfect nectar source for hummingbirds and butterflies to refuel before they migrate. While I have never had a pineapple sage live over the winter, if you live in an area that does not freeze, blooms allegedly continue through the cold months.

Hardy to only about 20 degrees, pineapple sage is one of those herbs that I have to replant every year.  It requires full sun and rich, well-drained soil.  Be sure to give them plenty of space, as they can reach a width of three feet.  Last spring I planted one next to a small buddleia, and watched the red flowers take over as the blue of the buddleia disappeared, the salvia flowers poking up through the all-done-flowering buddleia.

I pluck off leaves to float in cold drinks, and they are delicious chopped in a fruit salad.  The red flowers look great in a tossed salad, too.  A couple leaves chopped fine make a great addition to fresh fruit salsa, too.  But the scarlet red flowers are a joy to look at through the fall when not much else is blooming.  And the fact that they attract hummingbirds is a big plus.