There’s nothing like a vine-ripened homegrown pineapple for a tasty fruit. Growing a pineapple fruit requires only a few simple tasks and a lot of patience, three years’ worth.
Although pineapples were grown on Hawaii in the past, today’s pineapples come from Costa Rica, Brazil or the Philippines. In the 1800s, pineapples were a popular hothouse crop in England, although it seems just as many were used for table decorations as for dessert.
The key to a good start for a pineapple plant is a healthy, green top. As the fruit ripens, the growing point at the top declines and turns brown, so there is a fine line between a healthy top and a ripe fruit.
The top should be removed with a sharp knife to make a clean, level cut through the flesh no more than one inch below the top. The top is placed deep enough into potting soil to cover the fleshy base. It is not necessary to treat with rooting hormone.
Pineapples need well-drained soil. A 6-inch-diameter porous terra cotta pot keeps the soil from staying too moist. The pot should be watered thoroughly until water drains out the bottom.
The new pineapple start should be placed in a partly sunny spot for a few weeks as it forms roots. The soil should be watered enough to keep it moist but not wet.
When new leaves appear, the pineapple should be moved to a spot where it gets as much sun as possible, although part-sun spots, particularly those that receive mid-day sun, are adequate. My plant didn’t get all-day sun, so perhaps that is why the fruit took more than three years to form.
When watering a pineapple plant, over-watering is riskier than under-watering. The thick leaves and stem of a pineapple are natural water reservoirs.
The new leaves of a pineapple will grow much longer than the short leaves on the top of a fruit. Leaves edged with small teeth can be 18 inches or longer.
Pineapples are frost sensitive. They supposedly tolerate temperatures as low as 30 degrees, but because winter frost can be as variable as summer thunderstorms, plants should be covered or moved to a protected spot whenever there is danger of frost.
After a year-and-a-half, or sooner if the plant is making good growth, the pineapple should be transferred to a larger clay pot. "The New Southern Living Gardening Book" (Oxmoor House, 2015) recommends an 8-inch-diameter pot. My pineapple would have preferred a 10-inch pot.
Pineapples do not have large root systems, but that doesn’t seem to affect their growth. Consequently, a large plant may need to be staked to keep it upright.
Once a pineapple plant is large enough to produce fruit, things happen rapidly, relative to the previous slow pace of vegetative growth. My pineapple initiated a flower bud on April 7, and a fully formed, golden yellow fruit was ready to harvest in early September.
Botanically, a pineapple fruit comes from a compound flower. By April 29, individual purple flowers could be seen sticking from some lower bracts of the compound flower. Already at this stage the juvenile fruit had two visible parts, the gray-brown fruit and a greenish top with red tips to the new leaves.
By the middle of May, the fruit looked like a miniature pineapple. A few flowers still protruded from bracts in the middle or top of the fruit.
By June 24, the fruit looked like a small jade-green pineapple with a large, dense top. Three vegetative shoots peeked out underneath the pineapple to show that the original plant was not giving up after fruiting. Shortly afterwards, another shoot appeared at the base of the plant.
Two months later, in late August, the fruit started to turn yellow, and after another week, it already was almost fully yellow. I wasn’t convinced the fruit was fully ripe, so I left it another week, which turned out to be a few days past its peak. Nevertheless, this fruit was the sweetest pineapple I’ve ever eaten (if I do say so myself).
Determined gardeners can keep the pineapple cycle going by rooting the top of the new fruit to produce a “granddaughter” fruit of the one originally purchased. Equally determined gardeners, like me, can keep the original plant to find out if it will take another three years to fruit again.