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How To Grow A Pineapple: Three Methods To Use

Pineapple plants grow in sunny regions of Central and South America, Hawaii, and the Philippines. But did you know you can plant the crown of a store-bought pineapple and grow a new pineapple plant? If you’d like to learn how to grow a pineapple, keep reading as we’ll cover the ins and outs of how to start from one pineapple crown. 

Pineapple, a type of bromeliad, is a lovely tropical addition to your garden. They start indoors in a window as a houseplant and grow to take up almost five feet of space. Care for this unusual species long enough and you may get a mature pineapple that provides sweet bright flavor to your meals. 

Growing pineapple is a fun way to spend time concentrating on production. Pineapple fruits are full of nutrition, and it’s an excellent food for people who want to be healthy. With patience and persistence, you’ll have a lovely yellow pineapple growing – and its future top may be made into yet another pineapple plant!

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Quick Care Guide

How to grow a pineapple
Once you know how to grow a pineapple, you can have large tropical plants year-round. Source: michellerlee
Common Name(s)Pineapple
Scientific NameAnanas comosus
Days to Harvest970 to 1400 days or 32 to 46 weeks
LightFull sun
Water1 inch per week
SoilWell-drained sandy loam
FertilizerBalanced dry fertilizers applied every two months
PestsMealybugs, scale, nematodes
DiseasesRots, leaf spots, marbling, root rot

All About Pineapples

Closeup of pineapple development
A closeup of the center of the plant where the pineapple forms. Source: d_flat

The pineapple we know used to be divided into five separate species. Today we know them as five varieties within one species: Ananas comosus var. parguazensis, Ananas comosus var. ananassoides, Ananas comosus var. bracteatus, Ananas comosus var. erectifolius, and Ananas comosus var. comosus. Ananas comosus var. comosus is the variety sold in stores. 

Pineapple originates from river drainages between the Paraná and Paraguay rivers. Native peoples in parts of South America cultivated this wild plant. Eating pineapple was popularized further north in Central America. Christopher Columbus brought pineapples back to Portugal, and attempts were made to grow pineapples in Europe. Pineapple plants were not successfully cultivated there until an effective greenhouse method of growing was established. Then it was introduced to Hawaii and the Philippines by colonists in the 1800s. Today, Hawaiian farms produce fruit for people worldwide. 

Pineapple plants grow in a bush-like rosette formation, with spiny leaves branching off a substantial trunk. These leaf blades emerge directly from the base of a transplanted pineapple crown. Flowers look like segmented fruit. They grow from the stem which emerges from the rosette center before fruit forms as flowers grow and merge into one another. 

Although pineapples form 100 to 200 flowers, only one fruit is produced on each plant. It takes almost three years for the fruit to form. Pineapple plants can grow up to 3 to 6 feet tall and wide. 

The pineapple fruit is the only edible part of the plant. The leaves, core, and trunk are too tough for consumption without heavy processing. Recently, with the popularization of high-powered juicers and blenders at home, eating the rind of the pineapple due to its nutritional content has become more common. The fruit’s skin can also be used to flavor dishes and then pulled out when it’s time to eat. 

Planting Pineapples

Top twisted off
Firmly grasp the fruit and the base of the top and twist the top off.

Plant pineapple in spring when the last frost has passed. There are three ways to plant pineapples: via the pineapple crown, slip, or sucker. 

Select an area of the garden that has full to partial sun and slightly acidic soil. Loamy or sandy well-draining soil is best for a pineapple plant. If you start them in a pot, either make sure the pot is large enough to accommodate a large plant; or opt for in-ground growing. Since pineapple leaves are sharp and spiny, avoid picking a spot near a walkway where ankles and legs could be unwittingly sliced. Also, note that you’ll need to move the plant into a warm area before the first frost. This determines whether or not it’s possible to keep plants in the garden or a pot. 

Planting A Pineapple Top

While some sources suggest the pineapple crown must be rooted in water before it can be planted in soil, water is not necessary. Instead, cut the top of the pineapple you want to propagate. Then remove all the remaining fruit, bottom leaves, and suckers on the crown. It’s important to remove the fruit because it will rot and cause growing problems, like stem rot. Plant the crown in a small hole in your pot or garden. It takes about six to eight weeks for root formation. 

Leaves peeled back for planting
Peel back some of the lower leaves to expose the brown ring, and trim off fruit below it. The brown is where your roots emerge.

Another option is twisting off the pineapple top. If you grasp at the base of the pineapple foliage with one hand, and the fruit with the other, a strong twist should make the leafy part come right off. Peel off lower leaves to expose the brown base of the pineapple top from which your roots will develop. Cut off any excess fruit below that brown portion and plant the top.

Planting A Pineapple Slip

Slips sometimes form below fruit and shoot sharp leaves out from underneath the fruiting area. Remove the slip by twisting it off. To propagate a pineapple plant from this point, remove fruit beginning to form at the top of the pineapple slip. Then remove the bottom leaves and plant the slip just as you would from a crown after the other tissues are removed. 

Planting A Pineapple Sucker

Suckers are extra plants that grow out from between pineapple leaves. To remove them, use a sharp knife and cut at the base of the sucker, leaving a little of the base behind. This ensures you don’t damage the remaining leaves. Then plant the sucker just as you would a crown or slip. Always remove lower leaves to expose any roots that are potentially growing there. 

Care

Very young pineapple
This very young pineapple is just past the flowering phase. Source: jdnx

Once established, a pineapple plant is easy to care for. Since patience is the name of the game when it comes to pineapple fruit, you will have a lovely plant with stark green leaves growing year-round if you give it the care it needs. 

Sun and Temperature

For pineapple growing you need light. Full sun is best and partial shade can still help maintain healthy leaf production. Ensure your pineapple plant gets at least six hours of sunlight.

Pineapples grow best in zones 11 to 12, where they grow easily in the ground. Ideal growth occurs at a range of 65 to 85 degrees. Pineapple plant growth slows at 60 degrees. 

Freezing weather damages leaf tissue. Avoid placing pineapple in the ground where winter has hard freezes. In fact, it may be easiest to bring your plant inside during the winter if you’re in a cold climate.

Since pineapple enjoys tropical climates, summer heat isn’t usually a problem, although plant growth slows at 90 degrees or higher. 

Water and Humidity

Water pineapples well when newly started to help roots develop. Start with a good soak of 6 to 8 inches. After roots have established, water your pineapple plant in the morning every few days. Allow the soil to dry out between irrigation, but provide at least one inch of water per week. 

While it’s possible to water your pineapple plant from above, soaker hoses and drip irrigation are better candidates in areas where water hanging out in the crevices of leaves doesn’t dry fast. In times when it’s rainy, do not water. In cooler times, water once a week. Avoid over-watering as much as possible. 

Soil

Prep a garden bed or a pot with loamy or sandy soil that has slight acidity and drains well. Pineapple roots are shallow and don’t need a medium that holds a lot of moisture. Although some gardens have acidic soils, prepare ahead with a good mix of one part sand, two parts soil, and two parts humus. As long as the media isn’t alkaline, contains sand, and has a pH of 4.5 to 5.6, most likely you’ll have an easy time.  

Fertilizing

Your plant needs fertilizer at the beginning when the crown has just been planted. Dry fertilizers are best for pineapple because high concentrations of foliar feed can burn the leaves. Apply fertilizers every six to eight weeks for the first 14 to 16 months of growth. Initial fertilizers should be high in nitrogen to help pineapple produce leaves. Reduce nitrogen levels after 16 months. The best NPK content for the beginning of fertilizing should be 6-6-6 to 10-10-10. 

Bromeliad or fish emulsion fertilizers are great for pineapple as long as they are heavily diluted. Micronutrient fertilizers work too, especially when they contain concentrations of iron and magnesium, which pineapple loves. 

Pruning

Pineapple leaves experience some damage from insects or bruising from being brushed. Since leaf production is so important to flower production, avoid removing leaves as much as possible. However, you may cut off dead leaves or brown leaves with a sharp knife or shears. Do not pierce the stalk in the process. When suckers and slips arise, remove them. If you wait to remove them until after removing the ripe fruit, you’ll have more luscious produce. 

Propagation

To propagate your plant, refer to the planting section of this article. Remember that all fruit should be removed from a pineapple top before you plant it. Slips are best removed with a twist, and suckers are best removed with a knife. 

Harvesting and Storing

Pineapples poking out
Pineapples poking out from their individual plants. Source: vic15

Pineapples are easy to harvest and easy to store. And the crown can be planted to flower again, or kept in a pot as a houseplant. Add it to your favorite food when it’s ripe or freeze it in a plastic bag or container for later. 

Harvesting

A ripe piña looks like it’s about one-third yellow, and sounds solid when you knock on it. The rest of the skin will be a bright brown color. Ripe pineapples also smell fresh. To harvest, simply cut the fruit at the base where it joins the stem. Because the stem can be tough, it’s best to cut away from yourself for safety’s sake. Pineapple does not ripen indoors after harvest, so it’s best to let it mature on the plant. Green fruit will always remain green and have an underdeveloped flavor.

Storing

If you’d like to enjoy fruit in your food immediately, simply cut it up and toss it in! Nothing is better than a sweet local fruit from your backyard. Pineapples can also be dehydrated and stored in an airtight container for two to four weeks. They can go to the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag for five to seven days. The freezer will keep pineapples for ten to twelve months. For each of these storage methods, cut pineapple into strips or chunks. 

Troubleshooting

Pineapple foliage
Pineapple foliage is attractive, but can have sharp spines at leaf tips. Source: avinashbhat

Pineapples are tall, summer-loving, and don’t need much fussing to survive. But there are a few things to keep in mind when growing them. 

Growing Problems

When pineapples get too cold or hot, growth slows and they won’t flower. As it may take multiple years to get a pineapple to form, it’s crucial to mind the temperature when it appears to be trying to bloom. If necessary, provide protection from the climate to ensure the bloom develops.

If established pineapples get too moist, they will rot. But if unestablished plants do not have a moist area for rooting, they won’t take. Instead of rooting, they will brown and decay. If pineapples don’t get enough water they dry out. Moisture control is tricky at first! 

Flower and fruit production is slowed if slips and suckers are not removed as they arise. Propagate them in a pot, and keep them in a window to root them if winter is nigh. They are great gifts for friends during the holidays. 

Pests

The pineapple mealybug, Dysmicoccus brevipes, is a sap-sucking insect that feeds on the green parts of your plant. They cause damage to leaf matter and roots and spread diseases such as pineapple wilt virus. Use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to make the mealybugs release from your plant’s leaves. If you have a high population of mealies, applications of insecticidal soap or mycoinsecticides such as Botanigard ES can assist with their removal. Neem oils or horticultural oils can be effective preventative treatments.

Another scale insect, Diaspis bromeliae, relies on the juices it sucks from foliage. These look like small oysters or mussels that attach to the plant surface and create brown lesions on the skin. Horticultural oils, neem oil, or even just wetting down the plant and rubbing it with your hands to pop the scale insects free are all effective treatment methods. With a persistent scale that doesn’t respond to these treatments, apply an insecticidal soap 24 hours in advance, then repeat the wetting-down and rubbing technique. As with mealybugs, apply oils to reduce population growth.

Root-knot nematodes are microscopic roundworms that feast on the roots of pineapples growing in the ground and cause stunted growth at the second stage of their lives. In the process, they create small nodules on roots that prevent proper nutrient uptake. To control root-knot nematode populations, introduce beneficial nematodes that feed on them. Alternatively, nematodes are eliminated by solarizing soil, although this will kill off both the beneficial and pest forms.

Diseases

Black rot appears on fruit after damage occurs during the harvest process. This fungal disease is caused by the parasite Chalara paradoxa which makes its way into damaged fruit when they are stored in humid conditions. It appears as black rotted areas on the pineapple’s skin during storage. To prevent black rot, dunk and hold pineapples in a bath of 122-degree water after harvest for at least one minute fully submerged. 

Some leaf spot diseases are also caused by fungi and start as small brown spots that grow into large grey lesions. These fungi tend to spread in areas that are humid or very rainy, such as Hawaii. Treat them with sprays of Bacillus subtilis, a bacteria that feeds on the spores. For a stronger treatment, liquid copper fungicides are extremely effective. Use clean tools when propagating pineapples to prevent spreading fungal spores.

Marbling is a disease caused by two bacteria, Pantoea ananatis and Acetobacter spp., that makes inner fruit tissue woody and speckled during the last month of development. This bacteria enjoys conditions that are warm and wet. To avoid this bacteria, plant resistant varieties. This disease is typically only found in tropical lowland regions.

Pythium and Phytophthora are two fungi that cause root rot and occasionally fruit or stem rot in pineapples. To prevent these, plant in well-draining soil at the right time of year. Because there are few organic fungicides that will prevent or eliminate root rot, your best bet is to ensure the soil drains off excess moisture easily. Sandy soil types are good choices here. Application of beneficial mycorrhizae or beneficial bacteria may reduce fungal spread. For impacted foliage, copper fungicide may kill spores.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pineapple forming
A pineapple forming at the center of the plant. Source: Loz Flowers

Q: How long does it take to grow a pineapple from the crown?

A: It takes between 32 to 46 weeks. 

Q: Are pineapples hard to grow?

A: Not at all! But they take a lot of patience due to their slow fruiting phase. 

Q: Are coffee grounds good for pineapple plants?

A: Pineapples like coffee grounds during the vegetative stage of their life when leaf production is key, as coffee grounds release nitrogen during decomposition. After flowers form, do not apply nitrogen fertilizers as they may slow flowering.


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