Neither a pineapple nor a lily (it's an Asparagaceae), the bold foliage and frilly blooms of the pineapple lily adds tropical flair to borders, decks, and patios. The bulbs of pineapple lilies take a few weeks to get going when the weather warms up, but the broad leaves look handsome while you wait, and some even have a burgundy tint. As the flower stalks form, blooms open from the bottom up, and finally develop a little crown of leafy bracts on top, like the feathers on a cap. These long-lasting blooms make a good cut flower, save for one feature: they have a distinct odor designed to attract pollinating flies.
|Botanical Name||Eucomis spp.|
|Common Name||Pineapple lily; king's flower|
|Mature Size||18 inches to three feet|
|Sun Exposure||Full or partial sun|
|Soil Type||Loamy and well-drained|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic to alkaline; 5.5-7.5|
|Bloom Time||Late summer|
|Flower Color||Green, purple, pink, white|
|Hardiness Zones||USDA growing zones 6B-9|
|Native Area||South Africa|
How to Grow Pineapple Lilies
Although pineapple lilies look exotic and fussy, they are no more difficult to grow than other summer flowering bulbs like gladiolus. Good drainage is central to maintaining healthy pineapple lilies, as they grow in the coarse soils of South Africa. Start with large bulbs, which will produce multiple flower stalks on unusual, burgundy-speckled stems. Plant them in late spring, after evening temperatures have warmed and all danger of frost is past. Bury the bulbs at least five inches in the ground to help them overwinter in hardy areas. Even in warm weather it takes a while for the foliage to emerge, so look for leaves after about a month. You can pot up the bulbs indoors a month before your last frost to shorten the wait.
Pineapple lilies grow and bloom best in full sun. In Southern gardens, some afternoon shade may help to prevent foliage browning from strong sunlight.
In spite of their lush, tropical appearance, pineapple lilies are not jungle plants, and grow well in rocky soil. Cactus or orchid potting mixes work well, or your own potting mix blend, as long as it drains well.
Water your pineapple lilies when the soil surface feels dry. Keeping bulbs dry during winter dormancy is important to plant survival. If you have mild but wet winters, you should dig and store bulbs indoors to provide that dry dormancy.
Temperature and Humidity
Pineapple lilies don't grow well in cool weather. Temperatures over 65 degrees F will signal the plants that it's time to grow. Dig your bulbs in the fall to store inside if you live north of zone 7. The plants tolerate all humidity types, as long as the soil itself isn't soggy.
A balanced flower fertilizer every two weeks will help your pineapple lilies grow large and vigorous. Plants that are fertilized are also more likely to produce offsets.
Potting and Repotting
Pineapple lilies growing in pots don't need to be planted as deeply as those in the ground; about three inches. Choose chunky or coarse potting mix, and a container with adequate drainage holes. Do not place a dish that collects water under the pot; use pot feet to let water drain away.
Propagating Pineapple Lily
Observe your pineapple lilies in the spring for offsets, or "pups." You can dig up the entire plant, and remove these pups. Replant them at least 12 inches away from the parent plant.
Varieties of Pineapple Lily
'Aloha Lily Leia' pineapple lily is a dwarf variety with bright pink flowers. 'Joy's Purple' has deep purple flowers as well as purple foliage. 'Cornwood' bears late-season creamy flowers with maroon centers.
Toxicity of Pineapple Lily
The bulbs of pineapple lilies are poisonous if ingested. The foliage and flowers are not toxic, but neither are they edible.
Pruning Pineapple Lily
Pineapple lilies need no pruning when they are actively growing. All plants will enter a winter dormancy, even in warm areas, and this is the time to remove dead and dying foliage to tidy up the plants.
Being Grown in Containers
Container culture allows gardeners with any soil type to successfully grow pineapple lilies. Plant three to five bulbs in a container alone, or pair them up with other South African ornamentals, like agapanthus, pelargoniums, or nemesia.
Growing From Seeds
Collect the shiny black seeds from pineapple lilies when flowering is finished. Like many plants grown from bulbs, seed growing is the slow-motion way to get blooming plants. Sown in spring, the seeds can take several weeks to germinate, and several years to reach blooming size.
Common Pests and Diseases
Root rot is the most common issue to plague pineapple lilies. Move containers out of the rain if wet weather is a problem, and keep bulbs dry over the winter.
Pineapple Lily vs Bromeliad
With their strappy leaves and composite of small flowers emerging on a central stalk, the bromeliad bears a resemblance to the pineapple lily. However, the bromeliad is an epiphyte, and does not need soil to grow. Bromeliads have a longer blooming time than pineapple lilies, but after blooming, the plant dies. Bromeliads are also very frost sensitive, and cannot survive outdoors below zone 9.