Just about anyone with enough space and patience can grow a pineapple. This tropical fruit is hardy only in USDA zones 11 and 12, but you can grow it indoors in your home or a hobby greenhouse. All you need is the crown of a grocery store pineapple, a large pot with space to put it, and lots and lots of time. Pineapples take from 16 months up to three years to produce fruit.
Planting a pineapple crown is just one of several fruits and vegetables you can grow from scraps. You can also grow one from a purchased seedling or from seed but you may have to wait even longer for your plant to yield fruit.
If you're game for an unusual and long-term gardening project, consider the pineapple. You could end up with a tasty home-grown treat, bragging rights included.
|Botanical Name||Ananas comosus|
|Plant Type||Tropical fruit|
|Size||3' wide, 5' tall|
|Sun Exposure||Bright, indirect|
|Soil Type||Sandy, loamy|
|Soil pH||4.5 -6.5|
|Bloom Time||March but can vary|
|Hardiness Zones||USDA 10-11|
|Native Area||South America|
How Pineapples Grow
Pineapples are small shrub-like plants, up to 6 feet wide and 6 feet tall, grown in tropical climates in fertile, sandy, loamy soil. The short, stocky stem produces spiky leaves up to five feet long and an axis of 100 or more flowers. The complex flower structure is similar to blooms seen on plants in the bromeliad genus, appearing at the top of the stem and forming a spiral. In the case of the pineapple, the self-fertile flowers produce berries that fuse to form an aggregate, blocky fruit which develops at the top of the plant and is topped, itself, with a crown of multiple short leaves.
Where to Plant Pineapple
If you live in USDA zones 11 or 12, you can grow pineapple in your garden as long as you can provide 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight regularly for up to three years. Optimum temperatures range between 68 and 84 degrees F. Above 90 degrees F. or below 60 degrees F. can slow growth or cause frost damage. Cooler temperatures promote flowering with spring plantings maturing to bloom more quickly that pineapples planted in fall.
The total growing time for a pineapple from start to harvest can be as long as 34 months. It can take from 16 to 28 months just for flowers to appear, and fruit development begins about six months after flowering.
Outside of tropical climates, pineapples are grown as houseplants. Generally the same growing conditions apply with a slightly lower temperature range of 64 to 75 degrees F. and no lower than 61 degrees F. in winter. You need a sunny location near a south or southeast facing window with space for a large potted plant. Pineapple plants grown indoors are often smaller in size but can still grow to 3 feet wide and 5 feet tall. Be prepared to repot your plant into larger pots as it grows. You may need to provide additional humidity or mist the leaves regularly. Grouping a pineapple with other houseplants can also raise humidity. Potted pineapple plants can be moved outdoors once temperatures reach 68 degrees. Do this gradually by exposing the plant to outside conditions a little longer each day for a week or so. When the thermometer drops to 60 degrees F., bring the plant back indoors.
Methods for Growing Pineapple
Commercial growers propagate pineapples by removing and replanting slips, suckers and the crown of the fruit. This insures a continuous crop. Even though considered perennial, a single pineapple plant will fruit only up to three times before dying back.
There are three ways for the home gardener to grow pineapple.
Saved or Purchased Seed
The small black seeds can be purchased on-line or harvested from a store purchased pineapple. They require cold stratification, are often not viable, and are difficult to germinate when they are viable.
Purchase a Potted Plant
Pineapple plants also are available for purchase at retail outlets, garden nurseries and on-line. If you choose to start with a potted plant, be sure to ask your grower if the fruit is edible. Several ornamental cultivars are sold as landscape or houseplants that bear tiny or inedible fruits.
Plant a Pineapple Crown
The easiest, most reliable method to grow your own is by planting the crown removed from a store-bought pineapple. This involves removing the crown with at least one inch of stem attached. The stem and crown are allowed to dry and then planted in a pot with well-draining soil. Once roots develop to fill the pot, the plant is repotted into a larger pot.
Pineapple Plant Care
They may not fall into the no-fail category, but as houseplants go a pineapple plant is not fussy. Getting the plant to bloom is probably trickiest but there are ways to increase your chances for fruit. First, though, here are the basics.
This is a tropical plant that needs plenty of bright sunlight. Grown indoors, indirect lighting is adequate, near a south or southeast facing window. If you live in a climate with dark, dreary winters, you may need to add artificial lighting during the day. Pineapples need 6 to 8 hours, if not daily, at least on a consistent basis. Due to the lengthy growing time, natural light may not always be sufficient.
A potting mixture on the acidic side with a pH of 4.5 to 6.5 is recommended. Use a cactus and citrus mix or make your own with a combination of loamy soil, sand and perlite. It needs to drain well.
Keep the potting mix moist until roots are well-established. Once the plant is actively growing you can allow the surface to dry slightly between waterings. Once a week is usually sufficient. Water thoroughly and let excess water drain. Never let the pot sit in water as this can lead to root rot.
Temperature and Humidity
The best indoor temperature range falls between 64 and 75 degrees F. Maintain winter temperatures no lower than 61 degrees F. Keep in mind that close proximity to a window can expose the plant to colder than minimum temperatures. Pineapples grow naturally in consistent humidity from 40 to 60 percent. Leaves absorb water and nutrients so misting twice weekly is recommended up to fruit development.
Small amounts of compost worked into the potting mix before planting can promote root growth. Once established, feed your pineapple once a month with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer according the label directions. Pineapples also benefit from foliar applications.
Pineapples are self-fruiting which means they do not require pollinators or a second variety to produce fruit. In fact, pollination produces seeds which are thought to reduce the quality of the fruit. The key to fruiting is to coax all the flowers of the influorescence to bloom. The flowers form individual fruits that join together to develop one pineapple.
The best way to encourage flowering at home is to place a ripe banana or apple in the pineapple leaves or pot. The ripe fruits produce ethylene gas which encourages uniform flower production.
Types of Pineapples
Numerous cultivars exist but all are consigned to one of four groups. Characteristics can vary greatly among types even in the same group.
- 'Smooth Cayenne': the most common variety grown commercially in Hawaii and readily available in the U.S. Orange rind with shallow eyes and yellow flesh with juicy, sweet, low-acid fruit.
- 'Red Spanish': 2 to 4 pound fragrant fruits with yellow flesh
- 'Queen': 2 to 3 pound fruits with golden yellow flesh, crisp texture and delicate mild flavor. Keeps well after ripening.
- 'Abacaxi': least common but sweetest, juiciest cultivars with pale whitish-yellow flesh.
Pineapples are ready to harvest when the lower third of the fruit begins to turn from green to yellow or orangish- yellow. Fruits of the individual flowers will have flattened out to form 'eyes' on the rind. A ripe pineapple emits a sweet fragrance.
Use a sharp kitchen knife to cut the fruit from the stalk. Leave it at room temperature until fully ripe before refrigerating.
If you want to grow fruit from a crown, you need a store purchased pineapple. a sharp knife, cactus or citrus potting mix, a 6 to 8 inch pot, and gloves. Be warned — growing pineapple can take a while.
- Use the knife to remove the top of the pineapple. Gloves protect your hands from spiny leaves.
- Trim away any fruit, but leave one inch of stem. This is the solid middle of the fruit.
- Allow the stem and attached leaves to dry for one week in a well-ventilated spot.
- Fill the pot with planting medium and make a small depression in the center for the stem.
- Plant the stem, filling in with potting mix, leaving the crown leaves above the soil.
- Water thoroughly and allow the pot to drain.
- Place near a sunny window and keep the soil moist but not wet.
- Roots should develop in six to eight weeks. Check by gently tugging on the leaves. If you feel resistance, roots are present.
- When the roots have filled the pot, repot the plant in a container one or two sizes larger. You might need to repot again as the plant grows.
- Water weekly or when the soil surface is dry. Fertilize monthly with an NPK 10-10-10.
- Wait a year or two and then begin looking for flowers to form.
- Encourage flowering by providing ethylene gas with a ripe apple or banana placed in the pot or leaves of the plant.
- In another six months or so fruit should begin to develop.
Pineapple plants start out in 6 to 8 inch pots. As the roots grow to fill in the pot, you will need to go up a size and possibly more than once. Your plant could grow quite large before producing a fruit. Potting up is straightforward. Turn the pot on its side and grasp the base of the plant stem. Gently pull it from the pot and repot in a container one or two sizes larger.
Potted plants can be moved outdoors when temperatures reach 68 degrees F. Expose the plant to increasing amounts of outdoor time daily, for about a week, to acclimate it. Bring the pot inside when temperatures dip below 60 degrees.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Mealybugs are the biggest threat to indoor plants and can cause a condition called mealybug wilt. Ants, sticky leaves or waxy patches on the undersides of leaves are signs you may have mealybugs. Signs of mealybug wilt include reddish color or brown tips on the leaves. Spray leaves with neem oil.
Can I root a pineapple crown in water?
Yes, you can root a pineapple crown in water. Place the stem in a clean glass of water with the leaves above water level. It can take up to eight weeks for roots to develop so plan to change the water at least weekly.
Will a pineapple plant produce more than one fruit?
It is unlikely a pineapple plant will produce more than one fruit. Pineapple plants are considered perennial and side shoots can develop fruit a second or third time after initial harvest. With plants grown indoors these fruits are usually quite small. Better to plant another crown for a full size fruit.
If I plant a crown, what is the total time to harvest a fruit?
A mature pineapple fruit takes two to three years when grown as a houseplant,