Gardeners who want to add a tropical flair to gardens can plant pineapple lilies (Eucomis). Also known as King’s flower, the eye-catching perennial is a member of the hyacinth family. The exotic plant has funnel-shaped spikes of flowers that resemble the shape of a pineapple. Pineapple lilies are native to southern Africa. They resist pests and diseases.
Pineapple lilies are deciduous bulb plants that grow 2 to 3 feet tall and up to 2 feet wide. The focal point of the plant is a pineapple-shaped inflorescence of star-shaped flowers topped with small leaves. The inflorescence is atop a long thick spiky stem that rises above a rosette of wide, glossy, strap-like leaves. Flowers of the plant are hues of cream, green, yellow, pink or purple, and may have striped red or purple edges. The tree also produces triangle-shaped fruit. Cultivars of pineapple lilies include the “Sparkling Burgundy,” which has leaves that stay purple for about two months. The “Tugela Ruby” also has dark foliage but is larger than the “Sparkling Burgundy.” The “Can Can” is a small cultivar that only grows up to a foot and has pleated leaves.
Pineapple lilies can grow in several climates, including U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 to 10. Since it is native of damp areas of southern Africa, it needs enough water to keep soil moist. It adapts to a wide range of soil types and thrives in full sun to partial shade. The plant is great in large containers, as borders, in beds and as a focal point of gardens. Bulbs go dormant during the colder months and stay healthy as long as there is no frost.
Propagation and Planting
Start pineapple lilies from seeds, bulbs or cuttings. When planting bulbs, loosen about 7 to 8 inches of well-drained soil and plant right at the surface of the soil. Ideal spacing for bulbs is 6 to 12 inches apart in gardens or one bulb per container. For seeds, ideal planting conditions include placing them about 4 to 6 inches below the soil and a foot apart. For leaf cuttings, take specimens early in the season for planting and start growth in containers or trays. Plants experience the most growth during the summer. Blooms appear in late spring through summer.
When foliage begins to die back in autumn, dig up bulbs to store in a cool, dry dark place of about 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. At the onset of spring, gardeners replant bulbs. During the summer, apply fertilizer once a month to help keep plants healthy. For plants in containers, it is best to repot them once a year. Dividing plants every five to six years also is a good cultural practice. While plants can withstand a lot of moisture, soggy soil will cause bulbs to rot. Pineapple lilies generally are free of pests and diseases.