Monday, January 12, 2015

Eucomis, the African Pineapple Lilies

Eucomis zambesica

Eucomis montanus

E. montanus

Eucomis vandermerwei

E. vandermerwei

Eucomis autumnalis

E. autumnalis
Eucomis are becoming more popular of late, and there are now a number of hybrids that can be grown in pots and gardens.  But I find the species even more interesting, and although I grow most in pots, many are hardy in the ground based on reports I have come across.  I only have E. bicolor in the ground, and it took forever to emerge this year, July to be exact so it didn't have time to flower, plus it probably didn't like the move from the old house.  But I anticipate it will flower next season as it gets used to its new home.  Of the ones pictured, E. zambesica would not be expected to be hardy, coming from Malawi, and it is hard to differentiate from some forms of autumnalis, though the latter species is generally green, but can be white in flower too.  E. vandermerwi is a miniature species that is a real treasure, it does well in pots and has both beautiful spotted foliage and long lasting dark maroon flowers.   E. montanus should be hardy as it comes from the Drakensberg but I  keep mine in pots for now, although I have been harvesting seeds to grow more so  I can try some in the garden. 
Eucomis are trouble free as pot plants, they can sit out winter in their pots without water in my cool garage, and will sprout anew in spring.  Some try to retain foliage, especially one I got as E pole evansii but it is way too small to be that species.  Interestingly, eucomis can be propagated by leaf cuttings, I haven't tried it yet but it would be a good way to rapidly increase stock.  Simply slice across the leaves, plant basal direction down with some rooting hormone, and with luck small bulblets should form. 
The species often show a good deal of variation in both flower forms and spotting of the leaves, and selections have been made from them as well as hybrids.  I had "Peace Candles" but I think all I have now is seedlings of the same.   Haven't tried the other selections/hybrids, there is plenty of fun to be had with what I already grow.

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