Planting pineapple tops is a fantastic way to create an exotic looking succulent and cultivate your own juicy, delicious fruit. The process is easy and they require little care. Not to mention that rather than purchasing seeds, you’re using the crown of the fruit which would have otherwise been thrown away, so you’re saving money and cutting down on waste simultaneously. It creates a fun activity to do with your kids or grandchildren who can watch it grow over time, yet it’s also exciting for adults. So next time you’re chopping up a pineapple, keep the pineapple top, plant it, and see what happens as you grow a pineapple over time!
The History of Pineapple
Not only can the pineapple plant clean the indoor air, but it has a rich history originating in Brazil. It spread from here thanks to the Tupi Indigenous people, and they brought the pineapple through parts of Central and South America and to the surrounding islands. The Spanish and Portugese spread it throughout the world to Malaysia, the Carribean, India, and tropical parts of Asia. Also, it was the Spanish that gave this plant the name pineapple, and they did so because they believed that it resembled the look of a pine cone.
For ancient cultures, they recognized this plant as a fruit that symbolizes both hospitality and friendship. Families used to hang a pineapple outside of their home to make it welcoming for guests by adding a sweet scent to the area. Some Indigenous tribes throughout Mexico used the pineapple in ceremonies to help them praise the God of War, Vitzliputzli.
In the Americas, ancient people were also known to ferment the pineapple to create wine. The wine made appearances in celebrations and religious rituals. The Spanish had a different view of this plant. When you pick a pineapple at the peak of freshness, it’ll survive right around a month. The trip by boat from the Americas to Europe was longer.
Columbus packed the ship’s hold with several pineapples after one of his trips, but only a single one survived. He gave it to King Ferdinand because he sponsored the voyage. The court adored how this fruit tasted, and this influenced pineapple production throughout the tropics.
As a Symbol of Luxury
Since pineapple would only last a month, it was a symbol of nobility, luxury, and wealth throughout all of Europe. A single pineapple could cost a small fortune, so any host that was able to give their guests a freshly cut pineapple was a host that had power, money, and connections.
There were a few Europeans that tried to grow the pineapple, but only a few plants survived. Also, the plants that did manage to survive were very poor specimens. In the 19th century, this changed with the invention of hothouse growing, and this saw the birth of small-scale production. This is when certain popular cultivars came about, and you can still find them today. However, as soon as the Azores started producing pineapples, they didn’t need hothouses anymore.
Pineapple canning also took root at this time, and this allowed it to become much more accessible to people who weren’t wealthy and who didn’t live in the tropics. As shipping methods evolved to get more effective and faster, the pineapple’s price started to drop so it was available for people at virtually any income level.
Selecting the Fruit
When you’re choosing which pineapple to buy, opt for one that’s evenly ripe all over, and not overly ripe or under ripe. You can tell whether it is ripe by the yellow colour on the outside and by a sweet scent when you smell it. Opt for a pineapple plant with a large, healthy set of leaves on the top, and check to ensure that there are no dead or sick looking leaves on the pineapple plant.
It’s essential that you pick out a fresh pineapple. Any one you pick should have green, firm leaves that haven’t turned brown or yellow yet. The fruit’s skin should be a gold brown, and it should be firm when you touch it. Smell the pineapple to test how ripe it is. If you get a very heady, sweet smell from it, you’ve picked out one that is great to start a new pineapple plant. Also, you should make sure:
- The pineapple can’t be under ripe for this process. It has to be ripe so it can produce a second pineapple.
- Tug a little on the leaves to make sure your pineapple isn’t too ripe. If the leaves come off with a gentle tug, it’s too ripe to use.
- The pineapple shouldn’t have insectes or scale around the base of your leaves. These things look like grayish-black spots that are very small.
Preparing Your Pineapple Tops
Use a sharp knife to chop the top off the pineapple close to the crown, or alternatively you can twist the leaves away from the fruit. Ensure that there is no fruit flesh around the stem, and check that there is no rot in the stem. If there is, you may be able to cut it out. If that’s not possible, it’s best to use a different crown. You will also need to pull away the small bottom leaves of the pineapple plant, as this helps the stem to sprout roots after you pot it. As you remove them, you may already see small roots underneath.
Whilst some gardeners advise putting the stem in a glass of water for a couple of days, it’s actually best to dry out the stem for up to a week instead by leaving it out. This lets the pineapple plant stem heal, which helps to prevent issues with the pineapple plant rotting.
How to Plant Your Pineapple Tops
Once your pineapple plant stem is completely dry and free of fruit, rot, and the small bottom leaves, you are ready to plant the pineapple. You can choose to grow your pineapple plants in either a pot or directly from the ground, however there are a few factors to consider.
Firstly, whilst the root system of the pineapple plants is small, the more space that you allow, the more it can grow. If you choose to start the crown in a smaller pot, you will need to re-pot it at a later date, and it is important to take care when doing this. On the other hand, if you live somewhere that gets frosty in the winter, you will need to keep the succulent indoors at least throughout the cold period, so a pot would be the best option for you. If you’re planting directly into the ground, making your own natural weed killer is a smart and healthy way to keep weeds away.
Select a sandy soil with some organic matter for best results, and fill the pot. You may also decide to make your own compost to guarantee a nutrient-rich soil. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries advises using a soil that is ‘non-compacted, well aerated, and free-draining’ for pineapples. Place the stem of the pineapple about one inch deep, and gently firm the soil around the plant. The top of the plant should sit securely atop the soil. Water the leaves and surrounding soil just enough to moisten the pineapple and your succulent is ready to start growing.
Method 2: Purchasing a Pineapple Plant
You could find a pineapple plant at your local garden center, or you can source it online if you can’t find it locally. When you grow a pineapple, you have to remember that the roots hate sitting in moisture. They like similar soil conditions to cacti. The soil should drain well and be on the dry side to be safe, but it needs a more acidic pH level at 4.5 to 6.5 to thrive. If you’re not sure when to water, look at the soil.
The soil should be dry to the touch, and you want to double-check inside the junctions where your plant and leaves meet. If there is water here, skip watering it. If you don’t see or feel any water, water right over the top of the pineapple plant. You want to get a well-balanced fertilizer and fertilize one a month. You want to mix it according to the instructions on the bag and shower it right over your plant like you were watering it.
Method 3: Starting Pineapples From Seed
If you want to start a pineapple from seed, you have to find a seed. There are seeds in pineapples you purchase from the store once in a while. Buy a fruit that is yellow-ripe and carefully cut it. Look for tiny black seeds that are around ⅜-inch in from the outer edge. Rinse your seeds after you remove them, and start the germination process by wrapping them lightly in a wet paper towel.
Put your wet paper towel into a plastic Ziploc bag, and keep it consistently warm between 65°F and 75°F. It’ll take around six months in the bag before your seeds sprout, and then you can carefully remove your baby plants and put them in one to two-quart temporary containers. You should baby them along until they’re large enough to plant in a permanent bigger pot or out in your garden.
Ideal Conditions for Growing Pineapple
The optimum temperature for a pineapple to grow is 32 degrees during the daytime and 20 Degrees at night, which is not surprising as they grow naturally in tropical climates. However, if you’re living somewhere much colder you can overcome this issue by bringing the succulent indoors. They don’t need much water, however they require 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Full sun or partial shade is ideal.
General Feeding and Care Guidelines
There are few things you can do to help ensure that your plant is happy, healthy, and thriving until it starts to produce fruit. They include by are not limited to:
Temperature and Light Requirements
Since a pineapple is a tropical plant, exposing it to planting zones that freeze or have frost will quickly kill it. If you’re in a temperate climate, the pineapple will divide its time between the garden or porch and inside your home. Pineapples love at least six hours of bright, indirect light each day. During the summer, you can bury the pot in your garden or set it in a sunny spot on your porch. Never bring your plant outside until the freeze or frost danger is gone for the season. Keep the plant in a semi-shaded spot for the first few days after you move it outside so it doesn’t sunburn.
When it’s cold, keep your pineapple plant inside. Bring it inside early in the fall months, around mid-September at the latest. Put it by your sliding-glass door or a window to ensure it gets enough sunlight. Move it away from these areas at night to prevent it from freezing. The lowest temperature your plant can stand without damage is 60°F. If the room is warm enough for you to stay comfortable, your plant will be happy.
It’s also possible to grow the plant inside in a basement if you have grow lights. They’re also helpful if you don’t get enough light from your windows or sliding-glass door during the cooler months. Keep the artificial lights on for 12 to 14 hours every day until the plant is large enough to produce fruit. When it hits this stage, you can cut it back to 10 or 11 hours a day, and center the lights into the plant’s center.
Fertilizing and Watering Requirements
This plant won’t do well with a lot of water, and it only needs 20 inches of rainfall per year to thrive as long as the water is well distributed. You should wet the soil at a maximum of once a week, and apply the water only to the soil when the plant is indoors to discourage rot. When the pineapple is outside, you’ll spray the leaves when you wet the soil so that the plant’s cups fill with water. It should never dry out 100%, and it can’t ever sit in soggy soil. It’ll like more water during spring and summer than during fall and winter.
Fertilize your plant very carefully once a month during the growing season. If you want to use solid plant food, you can scatter it across the soil’s surface and wash it in with a little water. A liquid fertilizer will also work well as long as it’s a balanced one. Pour your liquid fertilizer at the base of your plant on the soil’s surface. You shouldn’t pour it into the plant’s center because this can burn the younger leaves. Follow any directions like you would for small shrubs with your fertilizer for the best results.
Diseases and Pests
As a houseplant, the pineapple will have very few diseases or pests to contend with if you care for it properly. The pests that could present a problem for your pineapple include scale, mealy bugs, and mites. You can remove them by carefully washing the leaves with soapy water and rinsing them with clear. It’s also possible to spray an insecticide, but you want to be very careful and follow the instructions.
The only disease that your pineapple could have a problem with is heart rot, and a fungus causes it. The central leaves will turn black with this disease, and you can easily pull them out of your plant. If this happens, you could possibly save your plant by pouring a fungicide into the center of your plant. If it stops the problem, the plant will produce a side shoot. The shoot will eventually turn into your new plant, flower, and produce a fruit. You can also remove the whole thing and start over.
How to Care for Your Pineapple
Only water about once a week or if the leaves feel dry, as they can survive off very little water, but they hate soggy, waterlogged soil. They take in water through both the roots and leaves, so be sure to water both. You can also help it along with a little spray of fertiliser on the leaves once or twice per month. For the first few months of your top’s life it will rely solely on its leaves to absorb nutrition, so make sure to aim your fertiliser at the leaves.
Artificial or concentrated fertilisers can harm the leaves, so it is best to opt for a diluted liquid fertiliser, ideally something natural. One excellent option is to make your own liquid plant feed.If you notice a red or purple tinge to the leaves of your pineapple plants, your succulent is telling you that it needs more nutrition.
What Happens Next?
It takes approximately two months for the top to establish roots. After this time, you will also see brand new growth. However, it will be some time before new fruit is produced – approximately 20-24 months depending on the climate. There are some tips and tricks that can help your succulent to flower more quickly. For example, placing an apple amongst the leaves and covering it with a plastic bag for several days can force the plant to flower due to the ethylene gas given off from the apple.
Placing the plant on its side between watering is also said to increase ethylene production. Alternatively, mixing two small pellets of calcium carbide with a cup of iced water and pouring this over the middle part of the plant will have the same effect.
Over the past year, you may have noticed a few new plants come out from the lower foliage. You should allow these new plants to grow as long as possible before you remove them to start the growing cycle all over again using the same growing method as you did with the original plant. There may also be one or more shoots present, along with one or more slips or suckers.
Shoots and slips will grow the most quickly when they stay attached to the mother plant, so you want to let them grow for several months after you remove the fruit. Once these branches get around a foot long, you can break or cut them off as close to the stem as possible and grow your shoots, slips, or suckers in the same way you did the original plant.
When you have slips, there is usually a small knob at the base. You want to cut this off because the slips and shoots will produce less fruit in a shorter timeframe than from the crown. If you want the mother plant to grow a second fruit after you harvest the first, you should leave one or two of the shoots on the plant to produce another fruit. You can cut and pot excess shoots.
Ideally, you’ll keep watering and feeding the plant like you did when you first potted it. In Hawaii, it’ll take around a full year for the plant to produce the first fruit. If the plant stays healthy after this, it could produce a second or third fruit, or a second ratoon. It’s also possible to grow a second plant from the crown, and this will give you several free, baby pineapple plants.
What Pineapples Do and Don’t Like
To maximize your chances that you’ll end up with a healthy plant, you have to know what they do and don’t like when you grow them. While you may not get it 100% perfect, you’ll get closer to keeping your plant healthy by following these guidelines:
- Pineapples don’t like a huge amount of water. They produce extremely tough leaves that don’t allow the plant to lose a lot of water by evaporation. So, you only need to wet the soil once a week or so.
- Pineapples absolutely need free-draining soil, similar to cacti soil.
- Pineapples can do well with little or poor-quality soil. Pineapples belong to the bromeliads family, and this means that they don’t have a large root system to them.
- Pineapple plants will get a lot of nutrition and water through the leaves.
- You’ll need a slightly acidic soil for your pineapple plant to do well.
- This plant will grow well in full sun, even in the most scorching climates. They will also do well in dappled shade.
- Plant your pineapple in a pot or tub. It’ll grow very happily here since it has a shallow root system.
- Never leave your pineapple in waterlogged, soggy soil.
- Make sure you don’t get concentrated fertilizer on the leaves because it can burn them.
- Pineapples will die with exposure to frost or freezing conditions.
Growing a Pineapple Plant – General Tips
You’ll want to leave a decent amount of space around your pineapple plants, around five feet at a minimum for growing them both in containers and in the ground. They also need at least six hours of sunlight every day, and a few more tips include:
- Outdoor Growing – You can reliably grow your pineapple plant outside if you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 11 or 12.
- Container Growing – It’s a good idea to consider keeping your pots outside until the freezing temperatures threaten to come along before moving it indoors to a south-facing window.
- Fruiting and Maturity Time – No matter how you start your plant, your pineapple will mature after two or three years before it gives you the first fruit. It can fruit a second or third time roughly two years apart before it won’t produce any more pineapples.
- Sucker Propagation – In the productive years, a pineapple can “sucker” and give you more opportunities to start new plants. Suckers are small plants that can form in the container’s soil, either along the flower stalk or between the leaves. You can remove any of these suckers and plant them to start new plants.
How to Successfully Store Pineapple
Since fresh pineapple is very perishable and it will bruise easily despite the fact that it has an armored exterior, you have to know how to store it. Additionally, pineapple will ferment if you keep it at room temperature for too long, and you should use it within two days in your meals.
Storing this fruit at room temperature can increase the pineapple’s acidity levels, but it won’t improve how sweet it is. You can extend your pineapple’s lifespan up to five days at the most by refrigerating it hole in a perforated bag.
Once you trim and cut your pineapple, you want to ensure that the cut pieces stay covered in juice in an airtight container. Refrigerate the cut pineapple and eat it within a week. You should allow the fruit to warm to room temperature to improve the flavor. It’s also possible to freeze freshly cut pineapple in syrup or juice, but it will lose a little bit of flavor. To do this, peel it, core it, and cut it into chunks. Put the chunks into an airtight plastic bag or in a covered container with the juice and freeze them for up to six months.
You can purchase canned pineapple in chunks, slices, crushed, or just the juice. It takes three pineapples to get one can of sliced pineapple rings. The fancy grade for the rings comes from the bottom portion of the pineapple because it’s sweeter. Soaking any canned pineapple in cold water for 30 minutes before you use it will strip out the metallic taste. You can store canned pineapple for up to a full year in a dry, cool cabinet. Any leftover canned pineapple you have should get refrigerated with the juice in a covered container and eaten within a week.
Hope our guide on how to grow a pineapple will inspire you to grow your own fresh pineapple at home!
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.