Pineapple lilies (Eucomis) are a lovely addition to any garden. They are native to the rainy, mountainous areas of South Africa. The plant has a base rosette of long lance-shaped leaves. The flowers are on a long spike topped with a tuft of smaller leaves. These leaves and the appearance of the flower spike while the flowers are still in bud make the flower head look like a pineapple, thus the name.
Pineapple lilies come in several different varieties. Variegated Pineapple Lily (E. bicolor) has leaves with wavy edges and flowers that are pale green with purple edges. E. autumnalis is similar, but the flowers do not have purple edges. Wine Eucomis (E. punctata) has flowers that are pink to purple or white. The undersides of the leaves of this species have purple spots.
Pineapple lilies grow from bulbs. You can get the bulbs at a local garden center or through mail order. They may be planted directly in the ground or in pots. They also grow well in a hanging basket. When planting outdoors, plant the bulbs five inches deep in areas that consistently get temperatures below freezing in the winter.
In warmer areas, they may be planted so the top of the bulb is just below the surface of the soil. Do not plant the bulbs outdoors until all danger of frost is past. You may start the bulbs indoors a few weeks before the last frost so that they are already growing before setting them outside.
Pineapple lilies grow best in a well-drained, fertile, sandy soil. Use a mixture of sandy loam, well-rotted manure, and sand. If the soil is not well drained, the bulbs will rot, especially in the winter. Put one or two inches of mulch over the soil if you are in an area where the temperature gets less than 20 degrees.
Water the plants well once they are planted. Pineapple lilies need constant moisture in the summer. Cut back on watering in the winter, as too much water will cause the bulbs to rot. Fertilize regularly with fish emulsion or liquid kelp once the plant starts growing. A dressing of compost or well-rotted manure will help keep the soil fertile.
You may propagate pineapple lilies by removing offshoots of the plant in the spring. Gently pull the new plantlet off the original plant and put it into another part of your garden or into its own pot.
Pineapple lilies may be grown outdoors year round to Zone 7. They grow much better when left in the same spot for several years. In more northerly zones, you should dig up the bulbs and store them indoors for the winter. Store them in a pot of soil similar to that in the garden. Let the pots dry out before storing and keep them dry during the winter. Keep them in a place that stays between 55 and 68 degrees.
Pineapple lilies will tolerate a partly shady area in the garden. However, they bloom best when they get at least 6 hours of sun per day. Give them midday shade, though, as they may wilt if exposed to the noonday sun. If they wilt, water them quickly and thoroughly and they should perk up again.
Pineapple lilies will start to form flower buds in July in North America. They should be in full bloom by August, filling your garden with tall spikes of colorful flowers.