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Pineapples Grown at Home: Home

Pineapple plant growing indooors; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/Tobin
Pineapple plant growing indooors; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/Tobin

Once the pineapple, or Ananas comosus, was called the fruit of the gods.Originally, from Brazil and Paraguay, where it was called na-na, pineapples are bromeliads. It was the first bromeliad brought to Europe from the New World, in the 15th Century.

In hothouses of England during the 1700's, pineapples were being grown, as decorative elements rather than fruit. Large scale commercial production of this delicacy did not begin until around 1900.

Can I grow a pineapple plant in my home?

Yes, it is surprisingly easy to grow pineapples indoors. It starts with purchasing a fresh pineapple, and planting the green leafy top. Just remove the entire top of leaves with some of the fruit and pot up.

When choosing a ripe pineapple it is important to get a tasty, fresh one, worthy of planting. Press the bottom of the fruit, if it gives a little, then it is probably ripe. Also, a good ripe pineapple has a heady fragrance.

Getting Started

To propagate your pineapple, cut off the green leaves on the top along with about two inches of the fruit. Use a sharp clean knife, and cut in one slicing motion (no ragged edges please); the surface should be flat and level. Remove some but not all the leaves.

It’s important to let the cutting dry out and scar (heal) over for a few days before planting. Once the pineapple cut surface has dried out, you can place the cutting in clean water, vermiculite, or a porous soil.

Three Techniques to Propagate from your Cutting

  • Water Method -- In the water method, use a large mouth glass jar, fill it with water just below the rim, and prop up the cutting with toothpicks. The toothpicks are placed at equal distances around the perimeter of the dried fruit. The leafy, fruit cutting will be about an inch or less into the water.

Roots will eventually grow. After rooting in the water, place the cutting into a well-drained medium, such as vermiculite (not soil or potting mix yet). When new leaves appear, pot up in the fresh potting mixture.

  • Vermiculite Method -- Place the pineapple cutting into a shallow container filled with vermiculite or similar mix. Use a container with drainage holes. Leave about a ½ inch gap below the container’s rim. Imbed the cutting 1 inch into the medium, and place the container in bright light, but not direct sun. Keep the mixture barely moist, never soggy or rot will develop.

Good air circulation, and some humidity is best for growth. In most homes, humidity is low but you can increase the humidity affecting the plant with a plastic bag. Place a clear plastic bag over the top of the plant. Remove it when green leaves appear and repot into potting mixture.

  • Potting Soil Technique -- Use the same procedure as above, but use potting mixture instead of vermiculite. The method eliminates the transplanting stage; you simply continue to grow the plant in its current pot. Watch for rot; don’t overwater with this method.

With all three techniques, make sure that you are using sterile tools and containers. The next important step to succeed with your cutting is to give it bottom heat. Use the top of your refrigerator; it’s a very useful warm place for propagating cuttings. Alternatively, you can use inexpensive heating cables, available at  hardware shops or online. Insert a cable into the bottom of the clay container to provide the warmth if you are using vermiculite or potting mixture. The heat will promote root development. In addition, a warm room, one where the temperature does not fluctuate a lot, is helpful.

If rot occurs in the water propagation method, or other propagation techniques, you will have to start again with a new cutting. There’s a lot of pineapple out there, so give it another try!

Potting Up

Once your plant strikes roots and is growing well with green leaves coming in, giving it what is needs to thrive is the next step. Use orchid mixture for your pineapple plant. This potting mixture contains fir bark useful for epiphytic plants. Using a clean container, drop the fir bark mixture into the pot first, position the plant in the center of a 8 - 10” pot, and keep adding potting mixture until it is holding the plant solidly in the pot. Leave about a 1 - 2” gap from the rim of the pot for watering.

Caring for your Pineapple Plant

The pineapple plant has a growing season of about 2 years, from planting to fruit. Pineapples cannot tolerate temperatures lower than 50º F. It loves sunshine, warmth, some humidity and a temperature of 80º  for best growth. Once the plant is a few months old, a slight temperature change between day and night is desirable.

Keep humidity level between 40 and 60 percent with a small humidifier or a pebble tray. A pebble tray is a deep tray (2 inches or so), larger than the pineapple’s container bottom. Fill the tray with small clean pebbles bought from your plant store. Add clean water to just below the pebbles' tops. This will supply evaporating humidity naturally around the plant.

Light coming from a southern, or eastern window is best for good growth. You can also use artificial lighting instead of natural light. Two 40-watt lamps work fine, or two fluorescent tubes close over the plant works well.

Water your pineapple plant thoroughly and allow to drain through the hole in the bottom of the pot before emptying the drainage saucer. Let the soil dry before watering again. It will need more water in the spring and summer growing months than in the fall and winter.

Fertilize with a 10-10-5 strength plant food during spring and summer, every other time that you water the plant. In fall and winter, feed your plant every six weeks.

Fresh air, and good air ventilation is required to keep stagnant air moving; a small fan in the area is helpful and will aid in keeping disease problems at bay.

Tidying up is easy: just remove any old leaves close to the crown with sterile cutting tool. It’s best to repot your pineapple in nine months to a year’s time to keep it thriving.

Flowering? Yes, your pineapple can flower, producing a red bud. This bud opens sporting hundreds of tiny blue velvet flowers in a tufted crown. The flowers last about a day or so. Each remaining flower bract develops into a segment of the fruit. Once the pineapple flowers and fruits, it will die, but not before nature provides offshoots or kikis.

Each flower bract develops into a segment of the pineapple fruit; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/Varin
Each flower bract develops into a segment of the pineapple fruit; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/Varin

Bearing Fruit

Fruit usually form slowly from the flowers, after the plant is growing well and has matured. If no flowers appear indoors to start the process, you can try a technique with a little help from a helper fruit, an apple. The apple releases ethylene gas, forcing the pineapple to flower and fruit.

Place a plastic bag over the plant and set a ripe apple inside the bag; tie or tape the bag closed. It will take about five days for new leaves to start forming from the center of the pineapple. If nothing happens, try the apple technique again. Successful growth will produce rows of golden yellow pineapple fruit on the bottom of the new leaves. The new fruit grows about 5 inches above the old plant on robust stalks. Important: Use stakes to hold up the new fruit. No toppling please.

Your pineapple plant is also capable of producing offshoot plants. When the offshoot grows to about an inch or two, gently twist it from the mother plant. You can use a sharp sterile cut if that is easier to remove it. Pot up the tiny offshoot in a shallow container filled with vermiculite. Transplant it when 4 to 6 inches in height into one of the potting mixes described in "Potting Up", and you have a new pineapple plant.

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