Do you like the unusual in your garden? Then the Pineapple Lily or Eucomis may be just the thing for you. Easy to grow and not bothered by pests, the Pineapple Lily is also a good plant for those who have a brown thumb. They are a plant that plant connoisseurs and beginners alike can share. Pineapple Lilies make good specimen plants for rock gardens, sunny dry borders or patio pots. The thick, sword shaped foliage is an excellent texture contrast when used with smaller leaved plants.
The Pineapple Lily is not related to pineapples or lilies. It is a native of South Africa and related to Hyacinths. It gets its common name from its flowers, which look like small pineapples. Until recently it was rarely seen in gardens; but more and more gardeners are discovering the charms of Pineapple Lilies and more Eucomis species are being brought into the market place. There are about 10 native Eucomis species and the species are also being crossed to produce new varieties.
Pineapple Lilies have long strap like foliage and form a rosette of foliage. The leaves are thick and tough and have a milky sap. Some leaf edges may be wavy, others straight. In some species of Eucomis the leaves are green, in other species the leaves are mottled or spotted with purple, or are maroon- purple. Pineapple Lily plants are rarely more than 8-10 inches high but the flower spikes may rise another foot above the basal rosette.
Pineapple Lilies grow from a bulb that looks similar to a hyacinth bulb. Like most bulbs they require a rest period before they bloom again and they will lose their leaves and become dormant during this time. Eucomis plants produce bulblets abundantly and quickly become large clumps.
It is the flower of Pineapple Lilies that make them interesting. They arise on long stalks from the center of the plant and form a cluster at the top. The actual flower is small, with six petals, but large sepals, which make them appear more substantial, back them. At the top of the flower cluster a tuft of small leaves will grow, this gives the appearance of “pineapples”. Flower color ranges from greenish-white to purple, depending on the species. Pineapple Lily flowers have a light scent, which is fortunate, because it is not pleasant. Flies are attracted to the flowers and are probably the pollinators. Pineapple Lilies have a fairly long bloom time beginning in early summer. The flowers eventually turn into fat green seedpods.
Pineapple Lily culture
Eucomis is marginally hardy in Michigan’s zone 6 with a thick winter mulch. In zones 6 and 7 it is better if the bulbs are dug and stored inside for the winter. The easiest way to do this is to plant the bulbs in large flat pots, such as a 10 inch hanging basket and sink that into the ground in the garden. Just before frost bring the whole pot inside to a sunny but cool spot. After the leaves die back stop watering and store the pot in a cool spot. In March bring the pot to a warm, sunny window and begin watering. It may take a few weeks before the bulbs sprout. The pots can be put back outside after frost danger has passed. Bulbs can also be stored for winter in brown paper bags or cans of peat or sand. Do not store in plastic bags, the bulbs may rot.
Most gardeners will start with a bulb or a potted plant, but Pineapple Lilies can be started from seed. Depending on the Eucomis species and growing conditions, it can take from 3-5 years for a plant to bloom from seed.
Pineapple Lilies like rich, loose soil and full sun. They will grow in partial shade, but will have fewer and smaller flowers. The soil or pot you plant Pineapple Lilies in should be drain well. Plant Eucomis bulbs so that the top of the bulb is just below the soil surface.
Pineapple Lilies have few disease or insect problems and deer and rabbits avoid them.
Pineapple Lilies rarely need fertilization if grown in good garden soil. In pots they may require a yearly feeding of a slow release fertilizer for flowers when growth begins in the spring. Pineapple lilies are fairly drought resistant. They do need warm, moist conditions to get them started after dormancy, after that they can withstand periods of dryness, but bloom will be better if they are watered during dry periods. Try not to let water stand in the center of the Pineapple Lilies, where the leaves form a vase like area. This can cause Eucomis plants to rot. Water at the base of the plant if possible.
Over time pots of Pineapple Lily that are brought inside to winter will fill the pot with bulbs. These should be divided every few years and the pots refilled with fresh soil.
Some varieties of Pineapple lilies
Some newer Pineapple Lilies on the market are ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ – purple foliage, pinkish-purple flowers, ‘Oakhurst’- maroon-purple foliage and flowers and ‘Octopus’ which is a dwarf variety. It has green wavy edged leaves spotted with purple and wine colored flowers. Many times you will just find the common green leaved, white flowered, Pineapple Lily in garden stores, but these are delightful too.
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