Growing Pineapple Lilies – Learn About Pineapple Lilies And Their Care
Pineapple lily (Lilium perenne) is one of the most popular houseplants in the world. There are many varieties of pineapple lily, but they all have similar characteristics: They’re tropical plants with long stems and narrow leaves. Most species grow well indoors or outdoors, although some prefer bright light and cool temperatures.
Pineapple lily flowers are produced from the base of the plant up through the stem. These flowers produce tiny white petals which fall off into a cluster at maturity. The clusters of petals look like little pineapples, hence their common name “pineapple” lilies.
The pineapple shape is due to the fact that these small flowers resemble miniature pineapples, and so they are commonly called pineapple lily flowers.
The pineapple lily is native to South America, where it was first described in 1855 by the botanist John James Audubon. Today there are over 200 different species of pineapple lily, with only two found nowhere else on Earth. All are members of the family Lilaceae (pronounced “lill”) meaning “little lily.” Some of them bloom year round; others bloom only once a year.
But all are beautiful and easy to keep!
The plant is perfect for decorating the house or an office, and is increasingly popular as a gift for Mother’s Day and for birthdays. It is also a popular choice for brides-to-be.
The plant is easy to care for as long as you keep it watered. In fact, it is one of the easiest plants to grow from cuttings or seeds. (See below for some tips on growing flowers from seeds and cuttings.
Pineapple lily seeds can be divided or propagated in one of two ways: by seeds or by division. Before you attempt either, make sure your pineapple lily is healthy and disease-free.
Pineapple lily plants can stay in bloom for more than a month. In fact, you can even protect the flowers from wilting if you place them in a cool room where they won’t receive direct sunlight.
Pineapple lily plants can get quite large. If you want to grow just one in a container, be sure to use a very large pot. A 15-gallon pot can hold three or four plants.
There are two types of pineapple lily flowers: those that bloom only once a year and those that bloom more than once per year. If you don’t want to deal with dead flowers, choose a plant that blooms more than once per year. The best varieties for this are those in the Lilium humbieri species.
Pineapple lilies are also called Giant Swallowtail Lilies because they’re one of the favorite food sources of the Swallowtail butterfly. In fact, some people like to grow them just to attract these colorful and enchanting insects. (Butterflies are also big fans of nasturtiums, cosmos, and tithonia, which all belong to the same family as the pineapple lily.)
Pineapple lily plants aren’t just good for attracting butterflies and looking pretty. They’re also edible! Several cultures use the stalk, petals, and heart of the lily in cooking.
The Aztecs even used the petals to make a wine-like beverage.
Some people like to plant pineapple lilies with other types of flowers for a more colorful effect. For example, you might want to plant them near shasta daisies, calla lilies, hollyhocks, or any type of plants that belong to the same family (like the Aponogetonaceae family). Also, try giving your pineapple lily plants some shade during the afternoon.
They like at least half a day of direct sunlight, but too much heat will cause them to wilt.
Pineapple lily plants are related to another popular garden flower: the calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica). The major difference is that the calla lily’s flowers are much larger. Other than that, they’re very similar and either one makes for a great addition to any garden!
Pineapple lily plants are one of the easiest types of plants to grow from seed. (Other plants in this category include impatiens, morning glories, and petunias.) In fact, you can often find pineapple lily seeds for sale at your local gardening store or nursery.
You can also find them online.
You can start growing your pineapple lily from seed by planting them in a potting mix that’s rich in nutrients. (You can buy potting mix at any local nursery or hardware store.) Fill your pot about 1/3 of the way with the potting mix, and then sprinkle your lily seeds on the top.
Then, cover the seeds with an additional 1/4 of potting mix.
Make sure you keep your newly planted lily seeds moist or they won’t grow. You can do this by watering the surface of the potting mix every day. (Don’t let it get soggy, though.)
If you’re growing your lily from seed in the ground, you definitely want to keep it moist while it’s getting established. Water the soil daily for the first week and then once a week after that. You should also fertilize it once during its first month with a liquid fertilizer or manure tea.
It should take between ten days and four weeks for your pineapple lily to sprout from the ground or pot. Make sure to keep your new plant well-watered until then.
After your pineapple lily is growing strong, you only have to water it about once or twice a week (depending on the type of soil you have). Don’t overwater your pineapple lily, though. If the soil is dry, it’s ready for more water.
Otherwise, your plant won’t be able to pull the water it needs from the soil and you risk root rot.
Your pineapple lily also needs to be fertilized about once every three weeks with a standard liquid fertilizer (like the kind you would use on houseplants) or compost. (Use either one sparingly. You don’t want to overfeed your plant!)
As for its container, your pineapple lily can live in a variety of different types: clay, plastic, wooden, or even terra cotta. Just make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes. Also, a larger container will hold more soil and require less watering.
Pick one that’s at least 12 inches across (but deep is better).
When it comes to your pineapple lily’s location, a sunny area is best. (But not in the direct path of the sun through the window, which would be too hot.) Also, your plant wants at least four hours of direct sunlight daily.
If you live in a warm climate, you can grow your pineapple lily outdoors. Otherwise, it’s better to keep it indoors.
Also, pineapple lily plants can reach up to three feet in height. So, make sure you have enough room for it to grow.
As for its size, your pineapple lily will eventually bloom. This will happen during the spring (in the Northern Hemisphere) or during the fall (in the Southern Hemisphere). Once it begins blooming, it will produce flowers that start off as yellow and morph into a cream color.
These flowers will then turn into a golden color and produce a fruit with a brown spot.
After this, your plant’s life cycle is complete. It will die soon after and you can start over by planting its seed. If you want to keep the cycle going, you can pick the fruit and plant it.
If you’re growing your pineapple lily in a container, make sure you choose a pot that has plenty of drainage holes. Also, the container should be at least 12 inches across (but deeper is better).
While a sunny window would be the best place for your pineapple lily, if you don’t have that luxury, choose a place where it’ll get bright but indirect sunlight. You definitely want to avoid locations that are constantly dark or in the path of a heating/air-conditioning vent.
Water your pineapple lily when the top inch of soil is dry. You can check by picking up the pot, shaking it slightly and then letting it go. If you hear a sloshing sound, then it needs water.
You can water just the top layer or give it a good drenching. Just don’t get the leaves wet though.
Fertilize your pineapple lily monthly (if it’s in a pot) with a water-soluble fertilizer. You can also add compost to the soil to give it a nutrition boost.
It’s best to keep it out of drafts and make sure it doesn’t get chilled, as this will slow down its growth.
Pruning pineapple lily can be done a couple different ways…
If you didn’t trim it after it bloomed, then you’ll notice that the leaves have turned brown and a lot of them are dead. You can cut these off since they’re not providing any more nourishment to the plant at this point. You don’t need to be precise when you do this.
Just cut away the majority of them and new ones will sprout in their place.
If you pruned the dead blooms after they bloomed, then you’ll want to prune the plant back now. The clumps can be divided up and replanted or you can just cut them back to a few good buds. After pruning, (unless it’s winter) you’ll want to apply a thin layer of mulch around the base of the plant.
This will keep the soil from drying out too quickly and help keep it clean.
At this point your plant is “headed” and has a new “stem.” It’s important to keep the soil moist, but not soggy wet. You can press your finger into the soil to check.
If it’s dry, give it some water. If you see flowering buds (they’ll look like little pink/purple bulbs that are clustered together), then you know your plant will bloom again next year.
In the fall, just before your weather turns cold and snowy, you should dig up your plant (unless you live in a warm climate like Florida where it’ll stay in the ground). You can pot it up and keep it in a shed or garage over the winter and replant it in the spring. Just make sure you keep it watered and fed.
If you want to speed up its chances of blooming the following year, cut off all the dead stems at the base.
Now you can just let it be and watch it grow. When you see a flower bud, (they’re the bulb-looking things) make a note of where it is so you’ll know where to cut it when it blooms. Once the stalk dries up (it should be brown and not green), cut it off at the base of the plant.
Although this may take awhile. It doesn’t bloom every year.
If you’re giving your plant as a gift, you can let it keep its flower and bloom for the new owner. After all, that’s what a lily is known for!
. . . .
Why are my lily pads turning yellow?
A. If they’re not green to begin with, then they probably won’t be long for this world. Chlorophyll is what makes most plants green. It’s what helps them absorb the sun’s rays and convert them into energy. A yellow lily pad probably means it’s not getting enough sunlight and will eventually die.
Q. My turtle keeps digging up my lily pads and eating the stems!
What do I do?
A. You can place rocks or marbles in the pot so that it can’t dig, but you’ll then have to water it more often since the soil will dry out quicker.
Sources & references used in this article:
Scent chemistry is key in the evolutionary transition between insect and mammal pollination in African pineapple lilies by P Wester, SD Johnson, A Pauw – New Phytologist, 2019 – Wiley Online Library
Postharvest handling recommendations for cut pineapple lily by AS Carlson, JM Dole – HortTechnology, 2014 – journals.ashs.org
Determining Optimal Bulb Storage and Production Methods for Successful Forcing of Cut Pineapple Lily by AS Carlson, JM Dole – HortTechnology, 2015 – journals.ashs.org
History, taxonomy and culture of the pineapple by JL Collins – Economic Botany, 1949 – Springer
How To Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants To Purify Your Home Or Office by F Beauman – 2006 – Random House
The first record of southern blight on pineapple lily, prairie poppy mallow, creeping phlox, white cup and melampodium in Japan. by B Pleasant – 2005 – Storey Publishing