A symbol of royalty, hospitality, and luxury, the pineapple has a famed history and notable presence, with a golden textured body and an erect green crown. From indigenous use by the Tupi people of the Amazon to gracing the banquet tables of European royalty, the pineapple has been shared around the world and used in many different ways.
Related to spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides), the pineapple (Ananas comosus) is part of the Bromeliaceae family, which is mainly native to the tropical Americas, so it thrives in a climate like ours in Southwest Florida. Bromeliads come in a variety of colors, from bright pinks and reds and oranges to deep violets that look almost black. Some sport stripes and others spots, but almost all have small teeth-like ridges on the edges of their leaves.
Bromeliads, including pineapple, are widely regarded as hardy and relatively easy plants to grow. They do not require intensive care or watering. In fact, many people tend to over-water their bromeliads. Their structure of tightly-overlapping leaf bases keeps water in the plant. There are a few plants in the bromeliad family that require special care and attention, but most of this plant family requires little to no care, making them ideal for Southwest Florida gardeners. As easy as they are to grow, they require a bit of patience on the gardeners’ part: a pineapple can take two to three years to develop, sometimes longer.
Although they are native to the tropical Americas, pineapples can be grown anywhere as long as their conditions are met. Many gardeners have potted pineapples at home as ornamental plants or grow them in their greenhouses in more temperate climates.
Did you know you can grow a new pineapple from an existing one? That’s right. Don’t throw out that pineapple crown. Read on to see how you can grow your own at home.
What You’ll Need:
A pineapple, a durable serrated knife (I prefer serrated because it helps cut through the tough outer skin of the pineapple), a cutting board, and a flat surface.
Where To Begin:
- To start, securely place your pineapple on your cutting board. Taking your knife, cut off the crown where it meets the fruit. I try to take a little bit of fruit with me so I don’t take away or damage any of the crown.
- Put your pineapple fruit to the side. Taking the crown, carefully cut off any fruit or flesh from the bottom of the crown stalk, leaving only the tougher whitish-yellowish stalk visible. You might need to cut some of the stalk from the bottom to expose the part you need. You’ll also notice a ring of brownish dots around the base of the crown stalk. These are primordial roots , essentially roots that have not yet begun to grow. It is important to make sure these are present or visible on your crown stalk, as these will be the first roots to grow after planting.
- Next, strip off the outer leaves until your crown stalk only has its tallest leaves upright. This process removes any leaves that could rot and also helps the plant regrow.
4. After stripping the leaves, let the crown stalk dry for a day or two. As bromeliads can be susceptible to overwatering and rot, the drying of the stalk prevents any rot from occurring. I usually place my crown stalk in an empty bowl near my sink so I can check on it over the two days of drying.
Planting Your Pineapple:
After you’ve dried your crown stalk, it’s time to plant! You can begin growing your crown stalk in a pot to start or put it right into the ground. If you’re planting outside of a tropical region, it might be a good idea to start off in a small pot, such as a 4-inch or 6-inch pot. This way, you can keep the soil moist (not damp, not wet, just moist!) and check on its root growth. My new pineapple (left) has found its new home next to the one I planted last year (right). You should give your pineapple some space, a foot or more away from other plants, as their leaves grow long and outward. Be sure to water it just after planting.
Pineapples like sunny areas with some shade and require little watering. The plants don’t need a special potting mix, but the area where you grow them should be well-drained. Although extra nutrients are not necessary, I sometimes recommend adding a little potting mix or fertilizer if you have sandy or loamy soil to bring it up to a more “normal” composition.
You can check on your pineapple a few weeks to a month after planting. To do this, lightly tug at the pineapples’ most inner leaf growth. If you feel resistance, then the plant has begun to take root. If it is in a pot, you can now step up your pineapple to a larger pot or plant it in the ground. If you do not feel resistance, or the leaf can be easily pulled from the plant, then your pineapple did not take root.
My two first home-grown pineapples never took root, but my third one did, and I sure hope this next one does! They provide an aesthetic dynamic to landscapes as well as a tasty treat. There are also ornamental varieties, usually dwarfed and often colorful, for indoor and outdoor plantings. The fruits the ornamental ones produce will likely be too tart or acidic to enjoy, although it is fun to see a bright pink pineapple!
So grab your pineapple, and get chopping and planting! And remember to #stayplanted with us at Naples Botanical Garden and follow us for more demonstrations, tips, how-tos, and fun activities!