Pineapple you grow yourself—even if it is smaller—is much tastier than the pineapple you buy, and it's basically free. This may come as a surprise, but you can actually grow a pineapple at home from one that you've bought from the grocery store. If you're looking for a fun gardening project (with a sweet payoff!) this may just be it.
Pineapple fruits are native to South America—they gained their unique name right around the time of the European colonization of the New World when they were thought to look something like traditional pine cones. Both in the wild and indoors, they grow slowly and can sometimes take as many as 24 months to reach full maturity and be ready for harvest. When planting and growing a pineapple indoors, you can start at any time; however, outdoors they are best planted in early fall.
|Botanical Name||Ananas comosus|
|Mature Size||3–4 ft. tall, 3-4 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun|
|Soil Type||Rich, well-drained|
|Flower Color||Purple, pink, red|
|Hardiness Zones||11, 12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||South America|
Pineapple plants are part of the bromeliad family and can be grown in conditions similar to many other members of its plant family, like aechmea and air plants. When the pineapple plant matures, it will send up a flower spike, except that instead of a flowering bract, it will grow pineapple on top of a stiff spine. Botanically speaking, the pineapple is actually the composite of the plant's many flowers and berries, which merge to form a single fruit. As the fruit matures, a new offshoot emerges from the top, while others emerge from the bottom. Any of these can be divided to yield a new pineapple.
Pineapples are not hard to grow. A successfully rooted pineapple plant will start to grow within weeks, provided it gets plenty of warmth and adequate moisture. Once rooted, the pineapple will typically upwards of two years to produce mature fruit, although this length will vary depending on your conditions.
Pineapples prefer full sun, so give them plenty of light—at least six to eight hours a day. When choosing where to place your pineapple in your home, opt for a sunny windowsill that boasts plenty of direct rays. If you don't have a spot in your home that has enough bright light, consider investing in an artificial grow light to supplement.
Pineapples should be planted in moist but well-drained soil. Any traditional potting mixture works just fine, but there's a chance you may also be able to find a bromeliad-specific soil blend. It's helpful if the soil is slightly acidic in nature, but overall they can thrive in an environment that boasts a neutral pH level too.
Water your pineapple plant profusely throughout its life. As with most bromeliads, you should never allow your pineapple to sit in water, and always water it from the top down. Pineapples will grow slower if they're not receiving enough water, but are generally more tolerant of being under-watered rather than over-watered.
Temperature and Humidity
True to their tropical roots, pineapples cannot thrive in cool, dry weather—and never in frost conditions. For the best results, keep your pineapple plant in temperatures that range from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. When it comes to humidity, your pineapple plant will likely be fine with the conditions already in your home. If you live in an especially dry climate, you can try misting your plant occasionally, but never to the point of saturation.
Feed young pineapple plants with a weak liquid fertilizer monthly throughout their growing season. After the first year of the pineapple's life has passed, you can fertilize the plant once every few months.
Pineapple Plant Varieties
There are eight species of pineapple, but practically an untold number of cultivars. Pineapples are economically important plants, so breeders have worked to produce the "ultimate" pineapple, one that is sweet and tender, with a long shelf life and excellent shipping characteristics. Choose your pineapple based on the mother plant (or fruit, in this case). The offset will be identical to the mother plant, so providing you give it decent conditions, you'll get a very similar plant.
Propagating Pineapple Plants
Pineapples are easily propagated, either the fruit itself or the mother plant. To propagate a pineapple from a grocery store fruit, cut off the top of the plant, including the leaves on top (the immature plant) and a thick slice of the fruit. Plant the cutting so the leaves are flush or slightly above the soil line, then start watering the plant from the top.
Potting and Repotting Pineapple Plant
Pineapples typically should not need repotting. A newly-rooted pineapple will grow long, strappy leaves (about 30-inches long in a healthy plant) that are fiercely serrated (so be careful when handling them!). As the plant matures, it will begin sending off shoots from the base. These can be carefully removed and potted individually, but the mother plant will not need repotting. After the plant fruits and you harvest the fruit, the mother plant will begin to decline, so it's best to discard it and concentrate on the offshoots.
Common Pests and Diseases
If you're caring for and harvesting pineapples at home, there are a few common issues you should keep an eye out for. One of the most common is top and root rot, which are both fungal diseases caused by watering the plant too frequently or potting the plant in poor-draining soil. To address this issue, consider repotting the fruit in more amenable soil, or decrease your watering cadence and allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
In addition to fungal diseases, you should keep out for common pests like mealybugs and scale. If you notice signs of an infestation, treat the plant with a non-toxic horticultural oil, like neem oil, frequently until all evidence of pests has disappeared.