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Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) and (Salvia rutilans) is a particularly aromatic and also very decorative herb. When touched, its leaves give off a delicate, fruity scent. Its edible, crimson flowers appear in summer or, depending on the variety, at a more unusual time in October/November and provide a gorgeous splash of color in the autumn garden. However, this sage is not hardy and is therefore mainly cultivated in tubs. It should overwinter as frost-free as possible.

Pineapple sage is not hardy

There is both the large pineapple sage (Salvia rutilans) and the small one (Salvia elegans), also known as honeydew melon sage.

  • The difference between the two varieties lies in the growth height and the flowering time
  • Salvia rutilans reaches heights of 80-150 cm and flowers in late autumn
  • Salvia elegans grows up to 60 cm in height and flowers as early as summer
  • This perennial herb, basically very robust but not hardy
  • Frost tolerance of these plants from Mexico and Guatemala is very low

In very mild climates, you can risk spending the winter outdoors, but this involves a great deal of risk. Here, in addition to the region, the right choice of location and good winter protection are particularly important. If you want to be on the safe side, consider pineapple sage only in a pot or bucket cultivate and bring it over the winter in a frost-free area. In addition, you remain flexible with a bucket culture if the site conditions are not optimal. However, this plant does not like to be moved too often.

Salvia rutilans

Hibernation in the house

Instructions for wintering indoors

Overwintering Salvia elegans and Salvia rutilans in tubs is the simplest and most promising way to get these plants through the cold season unscathed. Only a few steps are necessary for this.

  • Bring pineapple sage into winter quarters before the first frost
  • Once temperatures approach freezing
  • Or drop permanently below 5 °C
  • If necessary, dig up planted specimens and plant them in pots
  • Then overwinter frost-free like normal potted plants
  • Don't forget to water after planting

If there is little space in the winter quarters, the plant can be pruned back vigorously before the move. The best month for this is October. Otherwise, the pruning takes place regularly in the spring.

Conditions in winter quarters

Pineapple or honeydew melon sage that was not pruned before wintering needs bright, light-flooded but cool rooms for wintering. For example, conservatories, stairwells and basements with sufficient light or other bright and little heated rooms are suitable for this. Under these conditions, the sage usually stays green even in winter and can be harvested.

Temperatures should be between 5°C and 15°C. At temperatures of a maximum of 16 °C and a lot of light, pineapple sage can occasionally form flowers even in winter. The care of these plants in winter is limited and limited to very economical watering. However, the bale should never dry out completely. You should completely avoid fertilizers during this time.

tip: If the sage was severely cut back in October, it can overwinter in a cooler and darker place.

Steps before wintering


If the pot is well rooted by the end of winter, it makes sense to repot the plant before wintering out. Spring is the best time to repot anyway.

  • The new planter should be big enough
  • A capacity of at least 10 liters required
  • First, carefully remove the honeydew melon sage from the old pot
  • Then remove the loose soil and dead or damaged root parts
  • To protect against waterlogging, drainage on the bottom of the pot is essential
  • Should be made of coarse materials such as gravel or broken pottery
  • Spread a conventional garden fleece over it
  • On the fleece, a permeable and nutrient-rich substrate
  • Ideally a mixture of equal parts clay, compost and sand

Now the plant is inserted, filled with substrate up to a few centimeters below the edge of the pot, pressed down and watered well. As soon as no more frosts are to be expected, the plant can go outside again. A warm and semi-shady place is suitable for this, preferably with sun in the morning and in the evening. A location with blazing midday sun should be avoided. If no pruning was done before wintering, you should do it now.

Salvia rutilans

To cut

Pineapple or honeydew melon sage is a very vigorous plant that tolerates pruning. Because a regular pruning definitely recommended for this plant. However, it should be done before sprouting, i.e. in early spring. It is best to cut them back to a hand's breadth above the ground. Do not cut into the old wood. This cut means that the plant grows back more compactly and densely branched, and the willingness to flower is maintained or promoted.

Hibernation outdoors

When frost-free overwintering is not possible

If no suitable winter quarters are available, pineapple or honeydew melon sage must inevitably overwinter in the bucket outdoors. To make it easier for him to hibernate, he should be pruned back vigorously around October. Then place the bucket in a sheltered place, preferably in front of a warm, south-facing house wall. To protect against ground frost, place it slightly higher on a wooden pallet, styrofoam plate or similar.

So that the pot and thus also the bale does not freeze through, it is wrapped with garden fleece, jute, bubble wrap or other insulating materials. Cover the root area with dry leaves and straw. Additional covering with brushwood can be helpful. With rising temperatures in spring, the cover is gradually removed. Under no circumstances should it be completely cleared away immediately. Only after the ice saints, around mid-May, can the cover be completely removed.

tip: If the bale freezes through, this cold-sensitive plant can usually no longer be saved. Good protection is all the more important.

Instructions for wintering in the bed

Overwintering in the bed is generally not recommended and goes wrong in most cases. Nevertheless, outdoor wintering can work, of course only with appropriate protection and only in very mild locations such as the Lower Rhine.

  • Both root and aerial parts of the plant need protection
  • Cover the root area and remaining parts above the ground over a large area
  • Autumn leaves, straw or fleece are suitable as a cover
  • Additional covering with brushwood makes sense
  • Heavy pruning of honeydew melon sage in autumn or October is recommended
  • Pruning can increase the chances of surviving winter outdoors
  • Also water specimens that overwinter outside in winter
  • Only on frost-free days
Salvia rutilans

If you water during frost, the water can freeze in the plant's pathways and literally cause them to implode. If the above-ground parts of the plant come into contact with frozen water, the plant in question dies in most cases.

tip: If overwintering in the bed was actually successful and the plant sprouts again in the spring, the cover should only be removed gradually.

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