This used to be known as Salvia rutilans and is the old-fashioned pineapple sage plant (ht 1m). It can be quite an aggressive plant as it tends to sucker. In a place where this is not a problem, you can let it go: otherwise it needs to be chopped back with a shovel every so often. It has pineapple-scented leaves and slim spikes of red flowers in autumn. A very pretty new cultivar is 'Golden Delicious' (ht 1 to 1.5 m, pictured at left) which has the same red flowers with beautiful golden foliage: a very striking combination. It looks good with yellow-variegated foliage and with dark purple leaves. It remains to be seen whether this cultivar spreads as much as the plain-leaved species. The leaves of pineapple sage can be made into a drink by steeping them in boiling water for five to ten minutes and adding a little honey. Cut this plant to the ground in late winter.
Another form is Salvia elegans Purple Form, a winter- and spring-flowering plant with long spires of dainty cerise flowers. Its foliage acquires a purplish tinge if it is grown in full sun. It grows up to 2m tall, and needs other plants around it for support. To produce a more compact plant, cut it back almost to the ground in midsummer. It is attractive with the silver leaves of Plectranthus argentatus or the mauve-pink trumpets of the shrubby Chinese rain bell (Strobilanthes flaccidifolia) which is in bloom at the same time. The dark leaves and lilac flowers of goldfussia (Strobilanthes anisophylla), also in bloom at the same time, look attractive nearby. Sweet garlic (Tulbaghia simmleri) a cousin of society garlic, has large starry lilac flowers in winter and is a pretty under-planting for this salvia. At the same time, a glowing red cultivar called 'Honey Melon' (ht 1-2 m) also comes into flower, useful for hot-coloured border plantings; however, it can be quite invasive if it decides it likes your garden.
Flowers in March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October.
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