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What Is a Pineapple Lily?

The pineapple lily is native to the warmer climates of South Africa, but can thrive almost everywhere.
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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 02 August 2014
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A pineapple lily, also known by the scientific name Eucomis, is a flower native to South Africa but popular in gardens the world over. The pineapple lily consists of a tower of alternating petals that extend out of the stem. The petals are topped by an arrangement of leaves that often resembles a pineapple fruit. The fruit and the flower are not related, however, and unlike the fruit, the flower is not edible. The lily grows from a bulb, and owes its popularity among ornamental gardeners largely to its adaptability to a wide range of climates.

The pineapple lily is often prized for its aesthetic appeal. It rises from the earth as a small cluster of leaves, and from that cluster grows a spike of six-petaled flowers. The spike typically reaches 18–24 inches (45–60 cm) in height. Atop the spike sits another pineapple-like cluster of leaves.

Petal color varies based on the variety of pineapple lily. All pineapple lilies are of the genus Eucomis, but within that genus, the plants occupy more than one species. One of the most commonly planted pineapple lilies is the Eucomis bicolor, also called a variegated pineapple flower. The flowers of this lily are usually alternate between light purple, light green, and cream, all within the same stalk.

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Other species, such as Eucomis comosa, are solid colors, usually cream or light pink. The leaves and flowers of another variety, the Eucomis autumnalis are usually more uniquely shaped, with wavy leaves and bell-shaped petals. The flowers of this variety are typically more green in color.

Pineapple lilies are a perennial plant with a long lifespan. They sprout from a bulb in the spring, bloom through the summer and autumn, and fall dormant for the winter. The re-sprout annually for many years, in most cases.

The lilies reproduce by dropping seed-pods from their blooming flowers. These seeds fall into the soil and, if conditions permit, can grow new lilies the next year. The more common method of lily reproduction is bulb splitting.

After several seasons of successful growing, bulbs frequently send shoots into the surrounding soil, in effect planting baby bulbs in the nearby area. Mature bulbs also tend to grow “baby” bulbs out of the original, which in an excavated bulb often resembles a head of garlic: multiple sections of one whole. Gardeners sometimes intentionally excavate and divide bulbs in the fall, and replant a larger garden in the spring.

Although native to the warmer climates of South Africa, the pineapple lily thrives almost everywhere. They are used as garden plants and ornamental plants all over the world, in climates as varied as those typical of Mediterranean Europe, southern England, and the American Southwest. The lily requires sunlight, but little else: it need not be carefully tended, does not usually need watering, and never requires pruning. In areas where winters are particularly harsh, the bulbs may need to be removed from the soil in the winter and re-planted in the spring to reduce the chance of deep freezing, but otherwise, little care is required.

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