Plants - Flower Bulbs

Summer bulb: Pineapple lily

Irresistible and easygoing, pineapple lily adds punch to every plot

While we’re all familiar with summer-blooming bulbs such as lilies, gladioli, begonias and dahlias, there are many lesser-known summer bulbs that are just as worthy of a place in our gardens. Pineapple lily (Eucomis spp.), a captivating, unusual-looking plant, is one such example.

Originally from South Africa, this member of the lily family has some 17 species, three of which are readily available across Canada. It grows 30 to 60 centimetres tall, with the top half of each stem bearing a cone with masses of tiny, star-like, densely packed flowers in pale green and various shades of white. The cone is topped with a jaunty tuft of leaves, which gives rise to its common names (it’s also known as pineapple flower). At the base of the often purple-spotted stem, a whorl of wavy-edged, strap-like leaves forms a rosette 80 to 140 centimetres wide. So whether putting it in the garden or in containers, give this striking plant plenty of breathing room.

As it’s only hardy to Zone 7, treat your pineapple lily like an annual. Pot up bulbs four to six weeks before it’s warm enough to put them outside, or plant them outdoors once all danger of frost has passed. Regardless of the method I use, within two weeks there’s five centimetres of growth on my plants, and two weeks after that the crowning tuft is generally 20 centimetres tall. This bulb blooms in July and flowers last for a month, after which it provides a second show, as its dried seed heads are considered by many to be even more gorgeous than the original blossoms. The spectacular seed pod reigns until first frost.

Pineapple lily makes a dramatic container plant. I’ve grown them in pots on my balcony for the past five years, and not a year goes by that guests don’t ask, “What on earth is that?” 

Pineapple Primer
Latin pronunciation: YEW-kom-is
Light requirements: Full sun
Degree of difficulty: Easy, easy, easy
Cultivation: Plant in rich, well-drained soil in a sunny location. Cover bulbs with a thin layer of soil (3 to 5 cm). The bulb’s “neck” should be barely exposed. Plant two per 30-centimetre pot or space 25 to 50 centimetres apart in the ground. Keep well watered during growing and blooming periods.
Fertilizing: If you plan to overwinter the bulbs, fertilize every couple of weeks or so with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer; otherwise it’s not necessary.
Overwintering: For garden-grown plants, dig up bulbs around the end of September, before the 
first frost, and store dry 
at around 20˚C. If in containers, store pots in a cool, dry area. Reduce water during dormancy, but don’t let soil dry out completely.
Alternative use: Pineapple lily can also be grown as a houseplant, but it needs a bright, sunny, western or southern exposure.

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