The pineapple you grow yourself—even if it is smaller—is much tastier than the pineapple you buy, and it's basically free. You can grow a decent pineapple from a grocery store plant.
Pineapple fruits come from the Ananas comosus bromeliad, which is native to the Americas. They gained their name right around the European colonization of the New World when they were thought to look something like traditional pine cones.
In fact, the pineapple plant is a bromeliad and can be grown in conditions similar to many other bromeliads. When the plant matures, it will send up a typical 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, and offsets typically emerge from the bottom. Any of these can be divided to yield a new pineapple.
Use these guidelines to keep your pineapple thriving:
- Light: Pineapples prefer full sun, so give them plenty of light.
- Water: Water profusely throughout its life. Pineapples are truly tropical and do not thrive in cooler, drier weather, although they can withstand short bursts of rather cold weather. As with most bromeliads, never allow them to sit in water.
- Soil: A rich typical potting mix will do fine, but make sure the drainage is immaculate. Pineapple should be watered from the top like other bromeliads.
- Fertilizer: Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season.
Pineapples are easily propagated from 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 from the top.
Pineapple should not need re-potting. A newly rooted pineapple will grow long, strappy leaves (about 30-inches long in a healthy plant). The leaves are fiercely serrated, so be careful when handling them. When the plant matures, it will begin sending offshoots from the base. These can be carefully removed and potted up individually, but the mother plant will not likely need re-potting. 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.
There are eight species of Ananas, but untold 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.
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 take 24 months to produce mature fruit, although this length will vary depending on your conditions. Pineapples are not especially susceptible to pests, including aphids and mealybugs, but they are sometimes affected by scale.