Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ (Red Pineapple Lily) – Tropical-looking bulbous plant that forms a rosette of upright 2 inch wide by 18 inch long dark reddish-purple leaves with wavy margins. In late July emerges the 2 to 2 1/2 foot tall spike bearing a tight terminal cluster of reddish-purple buds that open to paler pink to white flowers, all topped by a leafy crown of reddish-purple leafy bracts. These tufted flower bracts resemble small pineapples on a stick and give this plant its common name. Plant in coastal full sun to light shade in a well-drained soil and irrigate regularly – although from South Africa this plant comes from summer rainfall areas and needs fairly regular summer irrigation. Hardy to at least USDA Zone 8 – some claim down into zone 6. The foliage turns greener during the flowering period and it has been noted that if foliage and flowers are trimmed to the ground after the flowers are spent, new dark foliage emerges. A great plant for the garden and the flowers are long-lasting when cut for the vase. Eucomis comosa comes from the summer rainfall Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal of South African where is found growing long the coastal belt and inland, on damp, grassy places on hillsides, and along river and stream banks. The name for the genus comes from the Greek word ‘eu’ for “good” and ‘kome’ meaning “hair” in reference to the attractive flower heads. The specific epithet is Latin meaning “furnished with a tuft” or ” bearing tufts of leaves”, again in reference to the showy bracts on top of the flowers. This cultivar was selected at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum by Edith Eddlemen in the late 1980s and it was awarded the prestigious Royal Horticulture Award of Garden Merit in 2002. The picture on this page courtesy of Roger Raiche. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’.

Variety Profile

Commonly known as the Pineapple lily, this bulb has unusual and striking, burgundy coloured foliage. Sword-like in shape, and rich in colour, this plant provides dramatic visual impact. To add even further interest, during summer, a thick stem rises from the central rosette of foliage producing a spike of pineapple like flowers with masses of tiny star shaped purple flowers which begin to open from bottom to top over a six to eight week period. Above the cluster of flowers, a tuft of burgundy blushed, green bracts form, finishing off the pineapple-like appearance.

Cultural Care

Hardy and easy to grow, it will tolerate some shade, however the best colour is produced when planted in well drained soil and a full sun position.
Grows well in most soils which are well draining. Once established water requirements are low but do not allow to dry out over extended periods of heat.
Generally no pruning required other than removal of spent flower stems to encourage further flushes.
In cold climates foliage will recede during winter with fresh, colourful new growth reappearing in spring. Apply a slow release fertilser during spring for best results.

Plant Uses

  • Water wise for containers or gardens.
  • Small or narrow spaces in gardens/courtyards.
  • Last well as a cut flower for floral arrangements.
  • Year round interest for general garden use.

Outstanding Qualities

Swords of saturated purple leaves make for a spectacular presence in the garden in late spring through summer. Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ is a plant used for some spicy visual impact. It was selected at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum by perennial aficionado Edith Eddlemen in the late 1980’s. It is a truly handsome foliage plant and and added bonus in late summer (August-September), it sends up spikes of amazing pineapple-like flowers. The purple foliage fades to a bronzy-green at flowering. Grow it through silvery-pink flowering Geranium ‘Mavis Simpson’ to give it a kick in the pants or with the chartreuse-leafed, magenta flowered Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ for a zippy combo.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: bulb

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 3 ft. 0 in. (0.91 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 3 ft. 0 in. (0.91 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 to 10

Flower Color: purple

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun

Water Requirements: occasional watering keeps the plant looking best in summer

Wildlife Associations: bees, butterflies

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: silver, chartreuse, rose

Great Color Partners: dark green, cream, bronze

How to grow Eucomis comosa

One of the most attractive varieties is ‘Sparkling Burgundy’. The foliage of this newer hybrid should emerge bright beetroot in spring, changing later to a bold and glossy dark green, with a faint purple stripe at the centre (plants do vary in their leaf colour). The summer leaves are more than 60cm tall and when the flower appears the whole plant will be almost half as tall again. The name ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ describes the flower spike perfectly. Best of all, this is a glamorous performer for the dog days, after the roses are over and before the freshness of September arrives. Eucomis lasts for ages. You can count on six weeks: the tiny waxy flowers open in succession and after the purple petals have faded the spike is still a handsome affair. They also make good pot plants, the sort that you can use as grand punctuation marks near the front door.

Growing tips

Though not infallible, the best guide to growing any plant is to replicate its native conditions, so I still think that dry winters and wet summers is the safest advice for those trying eucomis outside. Full sun is important, because even in half shade the leaves will droop, but the bold foliage is a great adornment to any garden.

Plant them in a container if you’re worried about risking them in the ground over winter – each bulb will need a pot about 23cm across. Bring them into the greenhouse under the staging when the cold weather starts. (A frostproof shed would be fine too.) Bulbs should be kept dry but may need the odd drink to stop them shrivelling. Start watering properly around the end of April and feed them well in the summer to build up their strength.

Propagation

Eucomis bulbs should be planted about 12cm deep, in good soil with a bit of manure or compost worked into it. If you are lucky and they are happy they will slowly increase so that there are more bulbs around the original (rather expensive) one. These can be separated from the parent and planted on their own, but may take time to reach flowering size.

Good companions

The green-flowered E. comosa is a gentle plant that looks best among quiet neighbours. Try it with white Dianthus ‘Haytor’ or in front of silvery salvia in cool schemes. ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ needs other strong colours as companions, such as blue-flowered Agapanthus ‘Loch Hope’, another South African native. Green flowers are also a good choice: Bupleurum fruticosum, one of my favourite shrubs for this time of year, would be a dazzling foil with its umbellifer flowers; for something smaller to last the rest of the summer, try Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’ or N. langsdorffii.

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