Some people are happy to make their gardens attractive with some pretty flowers and a neat lawn. Others prefer a practical garden that produces food. A third group of green-fingered people may not have a garden at all, but they like to grow things in pots indoors. It may surprise you to learn that there is a tropical plant that will suit all three groups of people and this easy to grow plant can survive almost anywhere in the world. Here is what you need to know about the pineapple plant and how you can grow and care for one yourself.
An Overview of Pineapple Plants
The taxonomical name of a pineapple plant is ananas comusus, and this plant is the most significant plant in the Bromeliaceae family. It is a tropical plant that flowers and has multiple edible berries called pineapples. The plant originated from between Paraguay and Brazil, and it is still native to South America. From the 16th century onwards, the plant was introduced to many other parts of the world and it is now grown in multiple locations across the globe. Now, Costa Rica is the leader in global pineapple production. Other countries that produce large amounts of pineapples are Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Indonesia. In 2016, 25.8 tons of pineapples were produced globally.
Common Pineapple Cultivars
There are many different species of this plant, and the most commonly grown is the smooth cayenne. These weight between five and six pounds and have a pale-yellow flesh. This is the variant that is most commonly sold in grocery stores across the United States and in countries that do not naturally produce their own pineapples. Other variants of pineapple plants include Hilo, knoa sugarloaf, natal queen, Pernambuco, and red Spanish.
There are also several ornamental species of the pineapple plant. These are grown purely for their appearance and not to produce fruit. The fruit they grow is usually much smaller and does not have the same mellow, sweet taste of other pineapple plants. People often keep these an indoor plant for decorative purposes. Some varieties of ornamental pineapple plants include abacaxi, tropical gold, and Victoria.
The Characteristics of a Pineapple Plant
The appearance of the pineapple plant can vary significantly from one species to the next. The leaves of the plant are usually tough and pointed, while the berries are large and have a cylindrical shape with a yellow, fleshy center and a thick, spiny skin. Usually, the leaves are green, but some species have leaves that are tinged with gray or pink. Classic pineapples generally have shades of yellow and green, but ornamental versions are often bright pink.
Uses of Pineapple Plants
There are two main uses of pineapple plants; food and textiles. The flesh of a pineapple is a popular food around the world and is used for both savory and sweet dishes. It is also used to create juices. The leaves of pineapple plants are used in some countries for textiles, especially in the Philippines. The leaves are woven together to create intricate lace-like fabrics.
Is It Possible to Grow Your Own Pineapple Plant?
Many gardeners are surprised to learn that it is possible to grow a pineapple plant in a climate that is not tropical. Not only is it possible, but it is also surprisingly easy. Even better, once your pineapple plant starts to grow, they need hardly any care. This means that a pineapple plant is something that both experienced and novice gardeners can grow.
What Conditions Does the Pineapple Plant Prefer?
According to Tropical Permaculture, pineapple plants are one of the easiest tropical plants to grow and they need hardly any care. In their natural environment, they live in a tropical climate but they do not necessarily need these conditions. When deciding how, when, and where to plant your pineapple plant, you should consider the following points to make sure you get the best out of your plant:
- Pineapple plants thrive in full sun, so an area of your garden that gets direct sunlight for most of the day is the best location for planting. However, they can also grow in dappled shade. It is best to avoid a completely shaded area as they are unlikely to grow as well.
- They do not need much water and they absorb this through their lives. They do not thrive in soggy conditions.
- Although they naturally grow in warm climates, they will also grow in the cold. However, they will not grow well in frost.
- Pineapple plants grow best in acidic soils.
Planting a Pineapple Plant
Today’s Homeowner describes the steps you need to take to grow a pineapple plant at home just using the pineapple crown.
- The first step is to slice the crown off a fresh pineapple. You should choose a pineapple that is not overly ripe or that has dead leaves. You will need a sharp knife to remove the crown and cut fairly close to the top of the pineapple.
- Next, you need to prepare the crown. To do this, you must carefully remove the rind and any remaining fruit.
- This will leave you with a stalk that contains the root primordia, which are the unformed roots. To allow these to grow when planting, you should make thin slices int the stalk until you can see a ring of brown dots.
- You are now ready to remove the leaves from the stalk. You only need to remove the lower leaves so that approximately one-inch of the bare stalk is exposed.
- The stalk then needs time to dry, and this usually takes a few days. The drying process is important to stop the stalk from rotting after planting.
- Choose a plant pot, preferably clay, for your pineapple plant and fill it with approximately seven-inches of a fast-draining planting mixture. Alternatively, create a mix of perlite, sand, and peat.
- Plant the pineapple crown around an inch deep into the mixture and then gently press the soil around the crown to hold it secure.
- Add a little water to the pineapple crown using a spray bottle. Using a spray bottle will prevent you from overwatering the plant.
- Now that the pineapple crown is planted in its pot, put it on the windowsill of a bright window.
- Your pineapple now needs to root, and this can take between one and three months, depending on the variety of pineapple. To test whether the crown is growing roots, give it a little tug to see if it remains attached to the soil. Be careful that you do not tug too hard or you might break the delicate roots.
- Once the roots have grown and it has started to grow some new leaves, you can repot the pineapple plant into a larger container. Choose a pot that measures between 10 and 12-inches deep and fill it with a fast-draining mixture before putting your pineapple crown and roots into the new pot.
- Approximately one year after planting, your pineapple plant is ready to move to its final location. You can choose either a large container, such as a barrel, or to plant the pineapple plant directly into your garden.
Choosing an Outdoor Location for Your Pineapple Plant
If you decide to transfer your pineapple plant from a pot to your garden, then you need to think about the best place for it to grow. Tropical Permaculture recommends finding a spot with plenty of space around it because although the roots do not take up much room, the leaves spread outwards. If the leaves extend over other things you have growing in your garden, the other plants may not get the amount of light they need to grow well.
Can You Keep a Pineapple Plant Indoors?
It is just as easy to grow and care for a pineapple plant indoors as it is outdoors. In fact, due to the warmer environment, they will usually thrive. You would grow and care for the plant in exactly the same way. It is important to note that you will need a large container and space around the plant for the leaves to spread. So, they are better suited to larger rooms if you keep them indoors.
Pineapple Plant Care
The Spruce says that pineapple plants are a plant that takes very little care. The following tips will help your pineapple plant to thrive.
- Make sure your pineapple plant gets enough light when it is in its pot. If you move it into the garden, make sure you choose a spot that gets plenty of natural light.
- Water your pineapple regularly, but make sure you do not give them so much water that the roots are sitting in water. Always water the pineapple from the top so that the leaves can absorb the water.
- You do not necessarily need to feed your pineapple plant fertilizer as they usually grow well without the need to use fertilizer at all. If you do decide to feed your pineapple plant, a weak fertilizer is better. Overfeeding your pineapple plant is one of the fastest ways of killing it.
- Watch out for scale, as this is a common problem for pineapple plants. Fortunately, these plants are not susceptible to pests, such as mealy bugs or aphids.
When Does a Pineapple Plant Flower and Produce Fruit?
The length of time it takes for a pineapple plant to produce flowers and fruits can vary between species, but all will produce flowers before they produce fruit. Typically, a pineapple plant will begin to flower approximately one year after you first pot the crown. They will not produce fruit for at least 18 months, and it can even take some plants as long as two years to begin producing fruit. When the plant produces its first berry, there is just one pineapple. Once this has fully grown, the plant produces side shoots, that are called suckers. If these are left on the plant, they will each grow their own fruit. In commercial situations, the suckers are often removed and cultivated.
Which is the Best Type of Pineapple Plant to Grow?
In theory, you can grow any type of pineapple plant at home if you can get hold of a fresh pineapple of that variety. In most circumstances, you would probably grow a smooth cayenne pineapple plant as it is this variety of pineapple that is sold most commonly in stores. You may also come across Hilo pineapples, which are a variant of the smooth cayenne that was originally cultivated in Hawaii.
Can You Grow Clusters of Pineapples?
It is possible to grow clusters of pineapple plants, although they each need plenty of space to spread. It is best to grow them individually in pots first, but you can then plant them in clusters in your garden. In fact, they can make an excellent border in your garden.
Finally, When Should You Harvest Your Pineapple Plant?
Growing a pineapple plant that produces fruit takes a lot of patience. It can sometimes take up to three years from planting your pineapple crown to harvesting your first pineapple. After flowering, it takes a few months for your pineapple fruit to grow. Knowing when to harvest may seem tricky as it doesn’t come down to the size of the pineapple. Smaller plants will produce smaller pineapples, while larger plants will produce larger pineapples.
Instead, you should decide when to harvest based on the feel of your pineapple. The pineapple should feel firm but not so hard that there is no give when it is squeezed. They should feel evenly ripe all over and have a golden appearance to the skin. Check for baby shoots when you harvest your pineapple as these will grow into more pineapples. Alternatively, you can remove them later and plant them separately to grow more pineapple plants.