Grow pineapples in tropical or near-tropical gardens. Pineapples can grow indoors if it is warm and there is plenty of light.
The pineapple plant is short and stout. It grows 2 ½ to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide at maturity. It has strap-like leaves that are serrated with needle tips.
The oval to cylindrical-shaped pineapple fruit is actually many small fruits fused together. The pineapple is a compound fruit.
The stem of the pineapple elongates at flowering time. A small head of purple or red flowers forms at the tip of the stem. The flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds. Individual fruits form from each flower; the flowers then join together to form a conical-shaped compound fruit that can be as large as 12 inches long and nearly as wide in circumference. The fruit’s interior is juicy and fleshy; its core is the elongated stem that bore the flowers to begin with.
The waxy outer rind of the pineapple can be dark green, yellow, orange-yellow, or reddish when the fruit is ripe. The flesh ranges from nearly white to yellow. Fruit can weigh from 1 to 10 pounds or more.
Pineapples are commonly harvested with a sharp knife; the fruit is cut away from the stalk and plant below.
To peel and section a pineapple, slice off the leafy frond at top and stand the pineapple on its stem end. Slice the fruit in quarters lengthwise and cut away the central core. The flesh of each quarter is cut away from the rind with a large sharp knife. Cube or dice the flesh and serve.
The pineapple is native to southern Brazil and Paraguay.
The botanical name of the pineapple is Ananas comosus.
Best Climate and Site for Growing Pineapple
- Pineapples are tropical or near-tropical plants. Pineapples grow best where the temperature averages between 65° and 95° Pineapple can tolerate cool nights but growth will be slowed.
- Prolonged cold and freezing temperatures will delay maturity and make the fruit more acid. Pineapples will be severely damaged at 28°
- Pineapples are grown outdoors in southern Florida, southern California and Hawaii in the United States.
- Plant pineapples in full sun; pineapples do not ripen well in partial shade.
- Plant pineapples in compost-rich, sandy loam. The soil must be well-drained; pineapples will not grow in soggy soil.
- Pineapples prefer a soil pH of 4.5 to 6.5.
- Pineapple flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds.
- A pineapple plant commonly bears one head or fruit, occasionally two.
- Space pineapples according to their size at maturity.
- Pineapples can grow 2 ½ to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. Pineapple leaves are spiked so give the plant room.
- Prepare a planting site in full sun that is sheltered from a prevailing breeze or wind. A south-facing wall that can collect and radiate solar heat is a good spot in cooler locations.
- Work well-rotted compost or manure into the soil.
- Mound the soil if it is not well-drained.
- Set a ground cover of black plastic over the planting bed; cut an X in the plastic to plant pineapples. Plastic groundcover will warm the soil, conserve soil moisture, and reflect heat up to the plant.
- Dig a hole half again as deep and twice as wide as the plant’s roots. Add a cupful of all-purpose fertilizer to the bottom of the hole.
- Set the plant in the hole so that the soil mark from the nursery pot on the stem is at the surface level as the surrounding soil. Spread the roots out in all directions.
- Re-fill the hole with half native soil and half aged compost or commercial organic planting mix; firm in the soil so that there are no air pockets among the roots. Water in the soil and create a modest soil basin around the base of the plant to hold water at watering time.
- After planting, water thoroughly and fertilize with a high-phosphorus liquid starter fertilizer.
- See Propagation below for more details.
Container Growing Pineapples
- Pineapples are easy to grow in containers. Chose a container 24 inches wide and deep.
- Pineapples can be grown indoors in a warm, brightly lit spot.
Pineapple Care, Nutrients, and Water
- Keep the soil evenly moist for best fruit production. Pineapples can withstand drought, but fruit yield will suffer.
- Feed pineapples every four months with a high nitrogen fertilizer; a fertilizer formulated for citrus will work. Magnesium will help increase fruit weight.
- Pineapples can take nutrients in through their leaves; use a dilute fish emulsion or seaweed extract foliar spray.
- Mulch around plants with aged compost to conserve soil moisture and protect shallow roots.
- Pineapples are frost-sensitive; cover plants with a plant blanket or erect a frame around the plant and cover the frame with clear plastic sheeting if frost threatens.
Harvesting and Storing Pineapple
- It takes 18 to 32 months for a pineapple to bear mature fruit.
- It is difficult to tell when a pineapple is ripe; size and color change are not reliable indicators of ripeness.
- The “eyes” or scales that run down the length of the pineapple will turn a light pale green color when the fruit is ripe.
- Ripe fruit will make a dull, solid sound when thumped by a finger. Immature fruit will make a hollow thud.
- Pineapples do not continue to ripen after harvest.
- Ripe fruit can be cut from the plant with a sharp knife; some fruit will break away from the plant with a twisting jerk.
- Fruit will keep for two or three weeks at 45°F.
- Pineapples are propagated by vegetative growth. Here are the options: slips that arise from the stalk below the fruit can be cut away and replanted; suckers that originate from the axils of leaves can be separated and planted; crowns that grow from the top of fruits can be sliced away and planted (see below); ratoons or “pups” that grow from the underground portion of the stem can be separated and replanted.
- Suckers growing from leaf axils or pups that grow near the base of the plant can be separated and planted in moist soil. Suckers and pups will take about 18 months to bear fruit.
- Crowns for replanting can be twisted or cut from the top of the fruit. Remove any of the fruit’s flesh and then let the crown dry for two days. Remove the lower, outer leaves from the crown to reveal ½ to 1 inch of the stem. Set the crown in light soil and firm the soil around the edges. Keep the soil lightly moist until roots form. Plants grown from crowns will take about 24 months to fruit.
- Replant rooted crowns about 2 inches deep. Plant suckers and slips 3 to 4 inches deep.
Pineapple Problems and Control
- Mealybugs can feed on the sap of leaves; wash the plant with a strong spray of water or spray with insecticidal soap several times.
- Purple or reddish leaves indicate the plant needs feeding.
Pineapple Varieties to Grow
- ‘Hilo’: a compact version of ‘Smooth Cayenne’; 2 to 3 pounds; produces few suckers or slips.
- ‘Kona Sugarloaf’: sweet and delicious with not acid flavor; white flesh; little core; 5 to 6 pounds; cylindrical shape.
- ‘Natal Queen’: delicate mild flavor; crisp texture; golden yellow flesh; 2 to 3 pounds; stores well after ripening.
- ‘Pernambuco’ (‘Eleuthera’): sweet, melting flavor; pale yellow to white flesh; 2 to 4 pounds; for fresh eating.
- ‘Red Spanish’: aromatic and flavorful flesh; pale yellow flesh; large core; 2 to 4 pounds; squarish shape; fruit breaks off easily.
- ‘Smooth Cayenne’: rich mildly acid flavor; juicy; 4 to 10 pounds; cylindrical shape. This variety is often sold in grocery stores.
Also of interest: