Horticulture Magazine

Eucomis ‘Pineapple Lilies’ Care & Growing Tips

Eucomis 'Alba' Pinapple lily

Eucomis Overview

Official Plant NameEucomis
Common Name(s)Pineapple Lilies, Pineapple Flower
Plant TypePerennial Bulb
Native AreaSouth Africa
Hardiness RatingH4
ToxicityNone
FoliageDeciduous
FlowersRaceme of small flowers beneath a crown of leafy bracts, which resembles a pineapple
When To SowMarch, April, September, October
Flowering MonthsJuly, August, September
Sunlight

Preferred
Full Sun

Exposure
Sheltered

Size

Height
0.1 – 0.5M

Spread
0.1 – 0.5M

Bloom Time
July – September

Soil

Preferred
Chalk, loam, sand

Moisture
Moist but well drained

pH
Any

Sometimes you see a plant that looks completely different to what a plant should look like. So different that it makes you pause, look carefully, and experience a renewed appreciation for the majesty and boundless creativity of nature. For us, the pineapple lily does exactly that.

Maybe it’s the tight cylindrical bushel of flowers blooming atop a long, thin stem. Maybe it’s the tuft of thick, almost succulent-looking bracts on top of that. Whatever it is, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t a striking and captivating plant.

several pineapple lilies in a botanical garden
Breathtakingly different

So if you’re looking for something to grow that will really catch people’s eye, then look no further. Our pineapple lily growing guide will get you ready to get this enticing plant blooming in your garden.

What are pineapple lilies?

Let’s begin by clarifying that pineapple lilies aren’t pineapples, and the two plants have nothing to do with each other. Eucomis just takes the common name ‘pineapple lily’ from the fact that its flowers and bracts combine to look a little bit like the tropical fruit.

eucomis growing in a garden
There’s definitely more than a passing resemblance

The genus Eucomis hails naturally from southern Africa, but has since become popular amongst gardeners around the world for its interesting aesthetic. Thanks to its exotic appearance and the wide range of colours you’ll find amongst its cultivars, the pineapple lily makes a great addition to any garden looking to move beyond familiar plants and play with faraway themes.

Types of Eucomis

There are several types of pineapple lily, ranging in colour and size. Below we’ll introduce two cultivars to give an idea of the variety on offer. The two we’ve chosen have each received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society: An award which signifies particular suitability to growth in British gardens.

Eucomis bicolor, aka the two-colour pineapple lily

Bicolor, if you didn’t guess, refers to the two colours this cultivar boasts. The green leaves around the central rosette erupt into a stunning white-purple in summer, contrasting beautifully against the brown stems that lift the flowers proudly aloft.

This variety likes full sun, and will do best in a south-, west-, or east-facing aspect. It won’t do well in clayey soil, and the ground needs to be able to drain well to promote optimal growth.

While fairly diminutive, the 0.5m taken up by a Eucomis bicolor contains more than enough visual interest to make it worthwhile to grow.

Eucomis pallidiflora, aka the giant pineapple lily

Given that the bicolor reaches around half a metre in height and width, you might expect the ‘giant’ pineapple lily to weigh in at a couple of metres, at least. As it happens, though, this cultivar reaches a maximum height of about a metre.

Despite a slightly misleading name, the pallidiflora is a sight to behold. White flowers burst forth in summer and stick around until autumn, extending the visual interest of this variety beyond some other plants.

As with bicolor, the pallidiflora likes full sun, well-draining soil, and no clay. It does best in a south- or east-facing aspect, and will take up to five years to reach its full height.

How to grow and care for Eucomis plants

If you’re keen to bring a slice of the exotic into your garden, the next section will show you how. Here we cover everything from choosing the right spot, to keeping your plant sufficiently hydrated, to taking care of common problems.

Where to grow your plant

Because of its southern African heritage, Eucomis is used to warmer temperatures than the average UK climate allows for. With this in mind, it’s important to choose a spot that won’t expose your plant to frosts or cold weather which could harm or even kill it.

If you live in the south of the UK, or abroad in a region with a similar climate, you should be OK planting your pineapple lily directly into the ground, as long as you choose the right spot.

If you live in cooler regions, consider planting out your pineapple lily in a container so that you can move it somewhere warmer (perhaps even indoors) when the cold weather sets in.

Whichever you go for, the right spot should be somewhere that gets full sun, and can drain well. Make sure you factor in shade from other plants, not just from fences, walls, and similar. Any shade will threaten the ability of your Eucomis to reach its full bloom potential.

Planting out your bulbs in the garden

Pineapple lily bulbs need to be planted fairly deep to protect them against frost damage, ideally about 15 centimetres.

Planting your bulbs in a container

Because pineapple lilies can grow fairly high, choose a pot with enough weight and width to remain stable. A regular flowerpot will be prone to tipping when the plant reaches full height and becomes top-heavy.

Plant bulbs at least 7 or 8 centimetres apart. Any closer than this and they will crowd each other, but you’ve got flexibility in the other direction: Bigger gaps will create more spacious displays.

Bulbs don’t need to be as deep in the soil when growing in a container. The tip should be just below the soil surface.

Watering

The Eucomis UK growing season spans from April to early October, and the plant must be kept well-watered throughout. If it dries out your pineapple lily will bloom less enthusiastically and, given that the exotic bloom is one of the main draws of the plant, this outcome is best avoided!

pink flowers of a pineapple lily up close
Water regularly for the boldest and brightest blooms!

Fertilising

For pineapple lilies growing outdoors, fertilising each spring will encourage strong growth. A general fertiliser will do the trick, and you’re looking for about 60g per square metre of soil. Follow the instructions on the packet to ensure best results.

In a container, give your Eucomis a fortnightly dose of liquid feed to keep it healthy. Again, check the directions on the packaging to make sure the feed is suitable, and that you’re using the right dose.

Pruning

You’ll be pleased to hear that pineapple lilies don’t need any active pruning. All you need to do is take off dead leaves, and cut away any messy flower heads.

Helping your plant survive the winter

We’ve explained already that Eucomis comes from a climate much warmer than ours, where it never has to put up with the sort of temperatures that a UK winter brings. With this in mind, it’s important to take steps to protect the plant from the cold.

You can leave pineapple lilies in the ground over winter if you live in a southern region of the UK, or somewhere with an equivalent climate. They’ll need a layer of mulch, about 10cm thick, to keep them as insulated as possible from the frigid elements above.

Alternatively, you can carefully pull the plant and bulb from the ground, then store somewhere warmer until next spring. A greenhouse, shed, or sideboard in your house should do the trick.

eucomis bulb that has been dug out of soil
Take it indoors to boost survival chances over winter

If you’re growing in a container, this step is much easier – simply bring the container indoors. If you stop watering the plant your pineapple lilies will become dormant, patiently waiting for the first glugs of water and sunshine next spring.

Troubleshooting common problems

We’ve covered the main problems most gardeners encounter already, but let’s quickly recap those before looking at other pests and problems:

  • Poor flowering: This can be caused by your pineapple lily getting too much shade, either from structures or other plants, as well as being left dry too often. Pick a spot in full sun with well-draining soil, and water regularly to avoid this issue.
  • Winter damage: This plant needs extra care to keep it warm over winter, as it’s not naturalised to British winter temperatures. Either cover outdoor bulbs with a thick layer of mulch, or bring containers indoors.

Pests

Just like pretty much every other plant, Eucomis is prone to visitations from slugs, snails, and aphids. Each of these pests enjoys feasting on your plants, eating their foliage and threatening their ability to thrive.

Physical deterrents can work against slugs or snails: A layer of fleece around the stems, for example. Pesticides can discourage them from getting close, too. Or you can plant something sacrificial nearby: A plant designed to attract their attention away from more prized flowers.

With aphids, you have to monitor the plant manually to make sure no small green critters are taking residence on the leaves. If they do, they’ll suck the sap and cause aesthetic damage or, if left unchecked, leave a more lasting impact on the health of your pineapple lily. Manually removing aphids and their larvae is one option, and if they continue returning, look for a pesticide to discourage further visits.

Push pineapple shake lily

The Eucomis, or pineapple lily, really is a special plant. Its unique aesthetic brings to mind faraway places, an element that can make a massive visual contribution to your garden. Whether you go for a standalone pineapple lily in a container, or you integrate the flower into a more comprehensive display, we assure you that visitors to your garden will turn their heads, captivated by the striking beauty of the plant.

With a selection of cultivars on offer, you’ve also got a range of options available to you. The purple-white bloom of the bicolor, or the moody red of the Eucomis comosa, or even the hot pink of the ‘Pink Gin’ variety: Each brings a different aesthetic and ambience to your garden.

We hope this guide has been useful in introducing you to the pineapple lily, and in giving you the information required to get this fantastic specimen growing in your garden. Wherever you live in the UK, a strong, thriving Eucomis is within reach as long as you take the right precautions in the winter months.

It may feel like a little more work than is required by some other plants, but trust us: It’s well worth it.

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