South African native makes a bold statement.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
1 FRUIT OR FLOWER? Eucomis,
pronounced “YOO-com-iss,” is commonly known as pineapple lily because
its flower spikes are topped with a cluster of leaves that resembles a
pineapple. The small individual florets that compose the flower spikes
are six petaled and star shaped. This bulbous herb’s long, lanceolate,
wavy-edged leaves are spotted with purple beneath.
2 IT’S ALL RELATIVE. Eucomis is a
member of the Liliaceae family. Close relatives include lilies,
hyacinths, Ornithogalums, Muscaris and Scillas.
3 GOOD HAIR DAY. Eucomis derives its
name from the Greek eu for “good” and kome for “hair,” implying a
beautiful head, from the tufted leaves crowning the flower spike.
4 BY DEMAND. Horticulturists and
florists are becoming more aware of this eye-catching flower, which is
native to South Africa and has been cultivated in England for more than
200 years. As a result, many new varieties and selections are being
produced in the United Kingdom, Germany, Holland, Australia and New
Zealand. Eucomis is available in the United States from California
growers from May through August.
5 NEW COLORS AVAILABLE. Most Eucomis
flowers are greenish white, sometimes spotted with purple. New varieties
include red, burgundy and violet.
6 BUYING RIGHT. Purchase Eucomis
when the lower one-third of the spike’s florets are open. If they are
too tight, it may be difficult to get them to develop. Do not purchase
stems that show any signs of wilt, bruising or rot.
7 PROCESSING IS EASY. Process these
stems immediately upon arrival in the shop. Remove any bindings and
wrappings, then cut at least 1 inch off stems with a sharp knife or
pruner. Dip or place the stems into a properly prepared hydration
solution, then place them into a cool flower-food solution. Allow the
flowers to hydrate in a floral cooler for at least two hours before
designing with or selling them. Eucomis should be stored at 36 F to 38
F. Frequent misting also is beneficial to their development.
8 FRESHEN THE WATER. It is
advantageous for Eucomis to have their stems recut and the water
freshened every other day or so. Be sure to use properly prepared cut
flower food when changing the water.
9 LONG LASTING. Eucomis will last
for up to 14 days in arrangements if they are kept in cool conditions
away from heat sources. Florets can be removed when they fade to
maintain a fresh appearance. Eucomis’ bold architectural lines warrant a
prominent spot in arrangements that have an unusual flair.
10 DANGER ZONE. Eucomis bulbs are
toxic and can be harmful if ingested in large quantities, but some
species are used for medicinal purposes. The Xhosa people of South
Africa’s Eastern Cape province boiled the bulbs into a poultice and used
it as a cure for rheumatism. Eucomis have an unpleasant odor, and they
attract flies, bees and other insects.
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of
horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 27
years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry.
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