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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pineapple Sage: A Plead for Blooms

Jessica Walliser
Hobby Farms Contributor

Because pineapple sage is a perennial in the South, I'm going to overwinter my Pennsylvania-grown plants inside under grow lights to encourage earlier blooms next year. Photo courtesy Karan A. Rawlins/University of Georgia (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Karan A. Rawlins/University of Georgia
Because pineapple sage is a perennial in the South, I'm going to overwinter my Pennsylvania-grown plants inside under grow lights to encourage earlier blooms next year.

Yet again, I am disappointed in my pineapple sage. It is such a wonderful plant but requires such a long growing season to produce blooms. This year, I haven't seen a single one. I'm going to try to overwinter it inside, though, and see if maybe I can get it to bloom earlier next year by doing that.

Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) is a native of South and Central America and has pineapple-scented foliage and tubular, scarlet-colored flowers. My hummingbirds and butterflies love the flowers when it does manage to bloom, and the plant itself can grow up to 5 feet tall in one season. In the South, it's a true perennial.

I am going to dig up the entire plant, and pot it into a large container with new potting soil. Because pineapple sage likes full sun, I'm going to put it under my grow lights. I also plan to cut it back to a foot or two in height before I move it indoors. I'm hoping that this might prevent it from blooming indoors and will certainly make it more manageable as a houseplant. I won't fertilize it during the winter months because I don’t want to encourage any new growth.

I'm also considering taking a few stem cuttings from the trimmings. This is my favorite overwintering method because it results in more plants, and they’re easier to see through the winter (and certainly smaller in size). To do this, I'll simply cut off a few terminal pieces of stem about 3 inches long with clean, sharp scissors. Then I'll remove all but the top two or three leaves and dip the bottom inch of stem into rooting hormone and insert each cutting into a small pot of potting soil. Then I'll cover the whole thing with a clear plastic baggie to keep the humidity high. It should take about two months for the roots to form.

I've also done a little investigating and I'm told that for earlier blooms, I should seek out a pineapple-sage cultivar called Honey Melon. Apparently, it blooms a bit earlier, but, sadly, it grows to only 2 feet in height.

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