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Eucomis - Pineapple Lily

3/10/2024 2:14 pm


Eucomis - Pineapple Lily



About Eucomis


Eucomis, known commonly as "Pineapple Lily" comes to us from South Africa. This is a reliably hardy plant in Southern gardens.


Eucomis features dramatic upright and wide strappy foliage. This foliage can illuminate other plants when used as a background plant or it can stand alone as a dramatic accent. Depending on the cultivar, the foliage can range from 6 - 30" tall. You can find foliage that is pure green, a mix of green and burgundy or nearly pure burgundy. Eucomis also features unique pineapple-shaped flowers that are long-lasting.


Eucomis prefers a sunny location, but can also stand part sun just fine.  It is unfussy about soil conditions. It will tolerate dry to moist soils, but because it is a bulb, standing water is contraindicated. If planted on a slope, expect to need to stake the flowers at some point, especially after heavy rains. Eucomis is hardy from Zone 6b to at least 9b, although the dwarf forms may be more tender (Zone 7 up).


The flower of Eucomis resembles a pineapple with a tiny lily on top, though the plant is not  a relative of a pineapple or a lily. Eucomis is, in fact, in the Hyacinth family. Indeed, to some eyes it resembles a Hyacinth on steroids. 


Plant standard size Eucomis bulbs about six inches deep at the base. Propagation is by leaf cutting or division. I have shared many a Pineapple Lily with friends as clumps enlarge and are easily divisible with only the effort it takes to dig up a clump and split apart with bare hands. I've also experienced a bit self-sowing of Eucomis downslope.


Pollinators attracted to Eucomis include butterflies, bees, and flies. I was also caught by surprise to notice hummingbirds visit Eucomis last year. 


Pineapple lily is also valuable as a cut flower for both the drama it provides and because the flower is long-lasting.  


Trivia fact: Eucomis means “beautifully haired." The reference is to the small "lily-like" foliage on top of the flower. 


the cultivars


Plant Delights introduced a garden favorite Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' to the market in 1997 and it remains a success story today. Growing about two feet tall, the foliage holds its deep burgundy color from spring to fall. The flower reaches about 20" tall.


Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' flower



The foliage forms a fabulous backdrop even when the flower has faded or collapsed. Here are a few happy mixtures with pink flowers. 


Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' with Penstemon 'Husker's Red' in Spring




 Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' with Penstemon smallii 



Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' with pink Sinningia in summer




Another popular early cultivar was the Tugela series. Eucomis 'Tugela Jade' features green leaves and light green/whitish flowers. 'Tugela Ruby' has green leaves flushed with burgundy and light green/whitish flowers with pink/purple centers.  The "Ruby" part refers to the flower stem.



 Eucomis 'Tugela Jade' (left) and close up flower of 'Tugela Ruby' (right)


 Eucomis 'Tugela Ruby'


I like the contrast of the green and pink in the flower of 'Tugela Ruby,' but if you like your pink more saturated, recent breeding is achieving darker pink blooms (and taller ones too). Look for newer cultivars like Eucomis 'Reuben' and 'Princess Bride.'




Eucomis 'Reuben' - picture courtesy of Nurseries Caroliniana




Eucomis 'Princess Bride' - picture courtesy of Walters Gardens


A recent eye-catching introduction from Walters Gardens is E. ‘Safari Adventure’. It features bi-colored flowers and dark olive green leaves with purple highlights. It seems a little jarring in the picture, but in the right garden setting or with a better background -- well, I might just have to try it!


 E. Safari AdventurePicture courtesy of Walters Gardens


Breeders are also working on shorter and dwarf versions of Eucomis. My experience with an early dwarf cultivar was disappointing. I had a little bloom in the first year but since then it has been foliage only. According to literature, my experience seems to be not unusual. Note too that dwarf versions may only be hardy in Zones 7 and higher.



Eucomis 'Tiny Piny' fizzled after this first bloom


Still, I could be tempted to try others like those below if I could find them, for the foliage alone:   



Eucomis Freckles - a Terra Nova introduction


Eucomis 'Dark Star' - another Terra Nova introduction



One Eucomis that you might want to pass on is Eucomis bicolor. It lacks the dramatic flower of the cultivars and it is quite rank smelling. Its main attribute is a flower stem that is striped red like many Arisaema. I suspect it is less common in the trade now with the plethora of more attractive and less smelly cultivars available.  


I have not noticed other Eucomis flowers smelling stinky. They might have a slightly rank smell as the flowers first open, but it doesn't last long. This scent attracts their primary pollinators: flies. After that, you will also enjoy watching all kinds of flying critters and hummingbirds visit the flowers. One thing is for certain: Eucomis gives you a long season of viewing pleasure!


Contributed by Liane Schleifer