The orange to blue coloration of flowers in nature is, in most cases, provided by anthocyanins, a class of plant flavonoids, many of which are modified by malonyl group(s). However, the identity of the enzyme catalyzing the malonylation reaction remains to be established. Here, we describe for the first time the purification, characterization, and cDNA cloning of an anthocyanin malonyltransferase from scarlet sage (Salvia splendens) flowers. The purified enzyme (termed Ss5MaT1) was a monomeric 50-kDa protein catalyzing the regiospecific transfer of the malonyl group from malonyl-CoA to the 6‴-hydroxyl group of the 5-glucosyl moiety of anthocyanins. Ss5MaT1 showed a kcat value of 7.8 s-1 at 30 °C and pH 7.0 for the malonylation of bisdemalonylsalvianin (pelargonidin 3-(6″ -O-caffeyl-β-glucopyranoside)-5-β-glucopyranoside) and Km values of 101 μM and 57 μm for bisdemalonylsalvianin and malonyl-CoA, respectively. p-Coumaric acid, which mimics an aromatic acyl group linked to the 3-glucosidic moiety of an anthocyanin substrate, was a competitive inhibitor with respect to the substrate. This strongly suggests that the presence of an aromatic acyl group at the 3-glucosidic moiety of anthocyanin is important for substrate recognition by the enzyme. On the basis of the partial amino acid sequences of the purified enzyme, we isolated a cDNA encoding Ss5MaT1. Ss5MaT1 consisted of 462 amino acids and shared motifs that are commonly found among members of a versatile plant acyltransferase family, which was recently shown to include numerous homologs of unknown biochemical functions. Northern blot analysis revealed that the transcripts of Ss5MaT1 were detected in petals, sepals, bracts, and red stems, in accordance with the pigment accumulation patterns. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that the aliphatic and aromatic acylations of anthocyanins are generally catalyzed by subfamily members of the plant acyltransferase family.