It's easy to see how these unusual plants from southern Africa got their common namethe summertime spikes of tiny, closely packed, star-shaped blossoms are topped with leaflike bracts resembling those of a pineapple. They make striking cut flowers. Purplish seed capsules follow the flowers, keeping the show going even longer. Leaves are coarse and straplike, emerging from large bulbs to form a basal rosette. Plants go dormant in winter. Not browsed by deer.
E. bicolor. Spikes to 2 ft. tall; green flowers with purple-edged petals. Attractive, wavy-edged light green leaves to 1 ft. long, 34 in. wide.
E. comosa. Thick spikes 23 ft. tall are set with greenish white flowers tinged pink or purple. Stems are spotted purple at the base. Light green leaves grow to 2 ft. long and are less wavy than those of E. bicolor. 'Sparkling Burgundy' grows to 1122 ft. tall. Foliage emerges deep burgundy, then slowly fades to olive-green as weather warms. Flower spikes to 20 in. tall are set with creamy white blossoms tinged pink and purple. Flowers are followed by a new crop of burgundy leaves.
E. 'Dark Star'. Dark purple foliage gives the plant its name. Flowers are pink up to 10 in. tall.
E. Mini Tuft series. Growing just 10 in. tall and 15 in. wide, these pineapple lilies bloom in shades of soft to vivid pink.
E. 'Oakhurst'. This glossy, burgundy foliage crowned with a cluster of pink flowers makes it a drama plant.
E. 'Twinkle Stars'. Two-foot tall spikes of dark purple buds open into light purple flowers atop 16-in. clumps of green leaves.
Plant bulbs 5 in. deep and 8 in. apart in well-drained, humus- rich soil in fallor start plants from seed in spring. Bulbs are hardy to about 5F; where temperatures dip lower, mulch plantings heavily in late fall, or dig and store bulbs over winter. Divide clumps when they become crowded (every 5 or 6 years). Pineapple lilies can also be grown as houseplants beside a bright (south- or west-facing) window; while they are actively growing, give plenty of water and feed monthly with a general- purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer.