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Pineapple lily a showstopper

By Shelly Nold from January 2014 Issue

Pineapple lily a showstopper

Kentucky is a transitional area between northern and southern climates, so we often find ourselves trying to push our southern boundary to grow plants that are not cold-hardy enough for our hardiness zone.

THE PINEAPPLE LILY IS A GOOD EXAMPLE of pushing the limits. It is hardy to USDA Zones 6b to 9, which means we are at its northern limit and it must be planted in a protected site. If you are not sure if the site offers enough protection, you can dig up and store the bulbs for winter and replant them in the spring.

THE BEAUTY OF THIS PLANT IS INTOXICATING and the lure to plant it, hoping it will become perennial, is equally enticing. The long, trap-like leaves of the purple pineapple lily, Eucomis comosa 'Sparkling Burgundy,' can range from purplish green to dark burgundy, depending on the amount of sunlight it receives. The plant prefers and is most colorful in full sun. A warm, protected site is critical as well as moist, well-drained soil.

by Angie McManus

Q: How do you take care of a poinsettia after it's done blooming?

A Poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, prefers a sunny window with a temperature no less than 60 degrees. In general, it should be watered every seven to 10 days or sooner if the soil is dry. It does not like wet roots, so keep the soil on the dry side and make sure the container has sufficient drainage.

To get your poinsettia to rebloom next Christmas, continue regular watering until early April. Then it will need a drying phase in a space where the temperature is as close to 60 degrees as possible, with good air circulation. In mid-May cut back the stems to about 4 inches, repot with a good-quality container mix, and water it well. Move it to a warmer location, preferably a south-facing window; when it puts on new growth, give it a dose of water-soluble fertilizer and repeat every two weeks.

In June, move the plant outdoors to a sunny location, continuing to water and fertilize. In early July pinch back about 1 inch of each stem and do this again in late August, leaving only three to four leaves on each stem. Then bring it back indoors to a sunny window.

From October until Thanksgiving, the plant requires complete darkness from 5-8 p.m. daily; otherwise, it should be in a sunny window. Continue to fertilize until mid-December and once again enjoy the blooms.

ITS FLOWER RESEMBLES A SMALL, THIN PINEAPPLE, which explains the origin of its name. It looks most like a pineapple before the small, white star-shaped flowers fully open. The dense raceme is unusual in that the flowers open from bottom to top, while most flowers open top to bottom. The bottom-to-top blooming makes for a long bloom sequence that can last six to eight weeks in mid to late summer.

SPRING OR EARLY SUMMER IS THE BEST TIME TO PLANT all marginally hardy plants, to ensure they have adequate time to establish themselves before winter. This gives them the best opportunity to show whether they will overwinter in your garden. The pineapple lily is definitely worth a try.