Pineapple lilies (Eucomis species) are one of my favorite summer flowering bulbs. These attractive perennial bulbs originate from South Africa, and the long, strap-like green or burgundy foliage adds a tropical and textural flair to the garden setting. There are more than 10 species of Eucomis, with new hybrids constantly being developed by breeders. The first pineapple lilies were exhibited at the Chelsea flower show in England in 1760. Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ is one of the most well-known pineapple lilies with purple foliage and was introduced by Plant Delights Nursery in 1983.
The genus name, Eucomis, is derived from the Greek word eu, meaning good, and kome, which means hair and describes the tufted leaves at the top of the flower spike. The common name, pineapple lily, is derived from the interesting 12- to 20-inch flower spike, a column of florets with a pineapple-like tuft of small leaves on the top of the flower spike. The star-like flower colors range from green, white, pink, or purple. After the flowers fade, showy seed capsules form to prolong the flower spike’s interest.
Cold hardy in USDA Planting Zones 7 to 10, these interesting bulbs are excellent choices for South Carolina gardens. They should be planted outdoors in the spring after the fear of frost has passed, and the soil temperature has reached 65° F. Pineapple lilies will grow in the sun, but with our hot summers, filtered afternoon shade during the hottest part of the day is preferable. They grow in well-drained soil with medium moisture but are drought tolerant after becoming established. Heavy, water-logged soils will cause the bulbs to rot.
These beauties are also resistant to deer, rabbits, and other wildlife that like to munch on plants. The flowers are a magnet to hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinating insects, so pineapple lilies are a great addition to a pollinator garden. In addition, pineapple lilies can be planted in flower borders, rock gardens, or as a beautiful accent to a container garden or window box. When cut, the flower spikes add drama when used alone or in an arrangement and have a vase life of more than three weeks.