Eucomis originate in ‘summer rainfall’ regions of South Africa growing in habitats on mountain-sides, in grassland and woodland. They are grown for their attractive strap-type leaves (often well-marked) and ‘pineapple-like’ heads of flowers in summer. In the autumn the plants still look great as seed pods form.
Eucomis are superb feature plants in containers which can be easily moved under cover for the winter, however they also make excellent border plants. Mid height Eucomis look impressive when 5 to 7 bulbs are planted in an 18-20” (45-50cm) container. Dwarf forms such as vandermerwei are ideal for small terracotta bowls, or well-drained rock-gardens. The giant pole-evansii is superb in a sheltered border or large container.
Eucomis prefer sun - generally, plants that are in sun will produce more flowers. They are hardy down to around -6°C in well-drained conditions.
Potted Eucomis can be planted directly into larger containers or in the border. Dry bulbs are best started off in pots, then planted once they are in growth. Plant with the bulbs around 8” (20cm) apart.
Dig a 10” (25cm) deep hole and fill the base with a few handfuls of grit until the hole is around 6” (15cm) deep, plant the bulb directly on the grit. For E. vandermerwei reduce this depth to 2-3”. Fill the hole with a mixture of soil and composted bark and a sprinkling of general purpose organic food.
Plants in the border rarely require watering. Plants in patio containers benefit from watering in the evening, from late Spring to Autumn. Feed with organic fertiliser in early spring and occasionally add weak tomato feed when watering in summer. Shorter Eucomis rarely require staking, however taller forms such as comosa and pole-evansii benefit from stakes. In late autumn apply a thick mulch of bark over the plant. Old leaves and flower stems should be removed only once they turn yellow. Eucomis are generally pest-free. Watch out for slugs as new leaves emerge.
Clumps can be divided every 3 years or so - in early spring. A sharp knife is often required to separate the bulbs.
Eucomis readily grow from seed although hybrids will not reproduce true. Sow fresh seeds in autumn or spring, at around 60°C. It usually takes 3 years from seed to flower.
You can also take leaf cuttings in summer – half-bury 2” sections of leaf in a mixture of compost and perlite in 5” (12.5cm) pots. Keep in the shade and just-moist. If successful, tiny bulb-lets which will form along the base of the leaf section. Once these are 0.5 to 1cm in size they can be removed & potted up.
ENJOY YOUR PINEAPPLE LILIES!