Monday 24 November 2014

Pineapple lily brings a real touch of the exotic

Gerry Daly

Published 18/08/2013 | 05:00

PINEAPPLE lily is a very descriptive common name because the shape of the flower spike resembles a pineapple fruit.

The spike is made up of dozens of small open trumpet flowers and it really looks like a narrow pineapple with a little tuft of leaves on top, just like a real pineapple fruit.

The botanical name of this plant is eucomis and it is not actually related to the pineapple.

The similarity of shape is just coincidental, a quirk of the way these two plants are structured.

There are various species, and hybrids of these. The flowers can be green to cream-colour and some have very attractive, wind-purple colouring on the flowers and stems.

Pineapple flowers mostly reach about knee-high but the flowers can be taller.

The flower is produced from a rosette of broad strap-like leaves.

Because it flowers in late summer, the pineapple lily brings a touch of magic late in the season.

Being part of the lily family and close to the familiar hyacinth, it is not surprising that this plant grows from a bulb about the same size as hyacinth or a medium-sized onion.

The bulbs are sold in spring and planted out in April or May in the open ground or into pots. Although this is an exotic-looking flower, it is very easy to grow.

It is native to South Africa where it grows in meadows that are moist for at least part of the year. The leaves die off in autumn and the plant re-appears in spring.

Years ago, this plant was considered to be suitable only for growing in a greenhouse, because it seemed so tender, but it can be grown outdoors.

The bulbs are almost hardy and can be left in the ground year after year, the greater danger being due to rotting if the soil gets flooded in winter. It can also be grown in a greenhouse or conservatory where it looks great in a large pot, given plenty of root space to make its big broad leaves and upright flower spike.

The pineapple lily brings a decidedly exotic touch. Its lushness is great for a tropical planting scheme along with banana, tree ferns, cannas and dahlias.

The pineapple lily is ideal as a low filler at the front. Eucomis likes rich fertile soil with plenty of humus.

It likes a good supply of moisture but must have good drainage.

When the leaves have gone tatty, they can be cut away or allowed to wither.

Sunday Independent

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