Eucomis (pineapple flowers) may look exotic, with their blooms being crowned by a tuft of leaves, but they are, in fact, quite easy to grow. Try them in containers on the patio and in the conservatory, or a sunny border in the garden.
Botanical name Eucomis
Flowering time Late summer to mid-autumn (August-October)
Planting time Spring (April to early May)
Height and spread Up to 75cm (30in) by 20cm (8in)
Hardiness Borderline hardy
Frost-hardy pineapple flowers can be grown outdoors in the southern parts of the UK, but in other areas, grow them in containers and move to a sheltered position when the weather cools.
Planting in the garden
Plant bulbs 15cm (6in) deep to help prevent frost damage, in fertile, well-drained soil, in full sun. Avoid shady areas of the garden, but also make sure that the pineapple flower won’t be shaded by other plants as they grow. Excessive shade will reduce the flowering.
Keep plants well watered during the growing season (April to early October). Don’t let them dry out, as you won’t get such a good flowering display.
Each spring, top-dress with a general fertiliser, such as Growmore or fish, blood and bone at 50-70g per square metre (1½-2oz per square yard).
Growing in containers
Plant in a wide, shallow pan, if possible. A normal-shape flower pot will do, but is less stable when the bulbs are fully grown. Use a loam-based compost, such as John Innes No.3, with added sharp sand or horticultural grit to improve the drainage.
Allow at least 7.5cm (3in) between bulbs, but up to 15cm (6in) will still produce a striking display. Make sure that the top of the bulb is just below soil’s surface.
Just like plants in the garden, keep well watered during the growing season (April to early October) and apply a balanced, liquid-feed fortnightly.
In winter, protect the bulbs in the garden with a layer, about 10cm (4in) thick, of dry mulch, such as bark or leafmould. Alternatively, lift the bulbs, dry them off and store in a frost-free place, such as a greenhouse or shed.
Containers can be brought into a frost-free place in October. You can allow the compost to dry out and the bulbs will become dormant. Remove all the dry and yellowed foliage. Begin watering again in late March or April.
Pruning and training
Pineapple flowers don’t require any pruning. Just remove dead leaves, which usually appear in autumn or if the bulbs are dried off for the winter, and cut away the old flower heads once they become untidy.
- Take leaf cuttings in early to mid-summer
- Choose a healthy, undamaged newly-matured leaf from a well-watered plant
- Use a sharp knife to cut through the base of the leaf, making sure not to damage the remaining leaves
- To raise a larger number of plants, cut the leaf across the midrib into 4-6cm (1½in–2½in) sections, ensuring you keep them facing the direction they grew on the plant. Alternatively, make the cuts into shallow chevrons to point the way for you
- Insert the cuttings vertically 2.5cm (1in) deep into pots or trays filled with moist cuttings compost
- Place in a propagator, or cover with a clear plastic bag, and keep at 20°C (68°F). Do not overwater and remove the cover twice a week for a few hours to prevent rotting
- After eight to ten weeks, individually pot up the bulblets that have formed along the bottom edge of the leaf sections
Caring for young bulblets
- Plant the young bulblets into individual pots and keep in a sunny spot
- Water well when in active growth. Reduce watering during the winter months and keep the young plants in a protected environment, such as frost-free greenhouse, for the first two winters
- The bulblets are fast-growing and will require regular repotting
- They will flower in two to five years
Choose from an attractive list of eucomis available to gardeners;
- Eucomis autumnalis – pale greenish flowers
- E. bicolor AGM – pale green, purple margined blooms
- E. comosa – white flowers with purple tepals (fused petals)
- E. comosa 'Sparkling Burgundy' – reddish-purple foliage and purple-tinted flowers
- E. pallidiflora AGM – greenish white flowers
Outdoor-grown plants can be damaged by the low winter temperatures. In colder areas, consider growing in containers in a greenhouse or conservatory.
Flower development may be poor on light, sandy soils or sites prone to drying out. Avoid shade and ensure they are not smothered by the foliage of other plants. Keep the plant well watered. Watch out for slugs, snails and aphids.
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