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 top, plant it, and see what happens.
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 one with a large, healthy set of leaves, and check to ensure that there are no dead or sick looking leaves.
You can choose any variety of pineapple, but selecting a ripe, healthy fruit is the first step to successful growth.
Preparing your top
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, 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 stem heal, which helps to prevent issues with rotting.
Taking the time to prepare the top properly is the most important step.
How to plant your top
Once your stem is completely dry and free of fruit, rot, and the small bottom leaves, it is ready to be planted. You can choose to grow it in either a pot or directly from the ground, however there are a few factors to consider. Firstly, whilst the root system 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 your 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 about one inch deep, and gently firm the soil around it. Water the leaves and surrounding soil just enough to moisten it and your succulent is ready to start growing.
Selecting a nice large pot prevents needing to re-pot at a later date.
Ideal growing conditions
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.
This photo shows a fruit which is still growing and not yet ready to be picked, as evident by the tinted outer skin.
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, your succulent is telling you that it needs more nutrition.
Due to their tough leaves which don’t lose much water through evaporation, pineapples can survive for some time without watering.
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 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 leaves will have the same effect.
Your fruit is ready to be harvested when the outside skin changes from brown to yellow.
Your top will also produce suckers or pups, which are small plantlets that grow between the leaves. If you remove these when they are approximately 8 inches long, more will continue to be produced. They are easy to remove, simply by twisting and pulling on them, and they can then be planted in a pot or the ground just like your original pineapple top, to produce more pineapples.