Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is one of the top commercial fruit crops in the world, alongside bananas, mangoes and avocados. A single plant can stay alive and produce fruits for more than 40 years. Pineapple plants are grown from their leafy top and mature within 2 to 3 years before flowering and fruiting occur.
Pineapple is more than just a fruit; it is a significant source of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. These elements bolster the immune system to fight against diseases and inflammation. If you’ve been wondering about how to grow your own pineapple at home, continue reading this article as we give you a comprehensive answer.
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Pineapple plant varieties
More than 2000 species of pineapple are grown all over the world. However, in international trade, the various pineapple cultivars are classified into four main groups. These include Smooth Cayenne, Red Spanish, Queen, and Abacaxi, with each having its breeds.
Smooth Cayenne: Typically, a ripe Cayenne pineapple weighs between 1.8 – 4.5 kgs, and it contains no spines, except for the needle-like leaf tip.
Its huge size, juiciness, and sweetness make it one of the most harvested in the world. Cayenne can be used for canning due to its adequate fibre, firm slices, and lasting flavour.
Red Spanish Pineapples: These are orange-coloured skin pineapples mostly grown in Central America, Mexico and Puerto Rico. They are smaller in size (1 – 1.8 kgs) but more fibrous than a Cayenne variant.
Red Spanish pineapples are often harvested unripe to ripen as they travel to markets around the world.
The variants are available throughout the year, and you can tell if they are ripe by smelling them. Keep in mind that unripe Red Spanish Pineapples can cause chronic diarrhoea and vomiting.
Queen: This is the leading pineapple variant in South Africa, Queensland, and the Philippines. The plant is typically shorter and highly immune to diseases than the ones mentioned above.
Queen pineapple matures very early but produces small quantities, with lots of sucker thinning. The fruit has a deep-yellow colour, with hollow eyes. It has less fibre and weighs lesser (0.5 – 1 kgs) than Red Spanish and Cayenne. But it’s juicier and has more fragrance.
Queen pineapple is sold fresh and lasts long when preserved. Companies typically use it for canning because of its shape.
Abacaxi: This pineapple breed is popular in the Bahamas, Brazil, and Florida. Like Red Spanish, Abacaxi is spiny, and the leaves are bluish-green. It is disease-resistant, but for it to grow to its fullest, its suckers need consistent thinning. The fruit weighs 1 to 5 kgs and is pretty tall and erect.
The flesh is pale yellowish and succulent with a sweet flavour. Also, you can trust Abacaxi for its mesmerising fragrance and juiciness. Due to its delicate nature and low yield, the plant is not suitable for commercial purposes. You can harvest the fruit without a knife as it breaks off easily.
Step-by-step guide: How to grow a pineapple at home
These instructions will guide you to grow healthy pineapples at home successfully:
- The first item you need to have is a pineapple crown. A pineapple crown is the top part of a pineapple fruit with green leaves. You can get a fruit from your local grocery store and gently twist the pineapple crown off.
- The next step is to remove the lower leaves and trim off the bottom of the crown until the root buds become visible.
- Leave the pineapple stalk to dry for three days – a week before planting. Drying is essential to eliminate any problems that may inhibit growing.
- Leave only the largest 7 to 12 leaves standing and clip the others so that the pineapple can mature very fast.
- Fill a transparent container or glass with clean water and dip it inside. Leave the plant in the water for 2 – 3 weeks indoors.
- Change the water every two days to allow the stem to grow faster and healthier.
- After three weeks, you should notice some roots sprouting out of the stem. This growth indicates that the pineapple stem is ready to be transferred into the soil.
- Get a 6 to 10-inch pot and fill it with a potting mix of well-aerated and free-draining loams, perlite and sand with a rooting medium that encourages root growth.
- Make a hole inside the soil, large enough to contain the dried pineapple top. Gently place the pineapple stem into the soil, and cover.
- Place the pot in a greenhouse or windowsill where it can receive sufficient sunlight daily.
- Look out for blue flowers. Your new fruit will be grown from these. By repeating the process, you can grow new plants.
Your pineapple may outgrow its pot a couple of times as it matures, which may require repotting. Also, ensure dead leaves are cut away as they appear. If your healthy-looking plant seems not to be flowering, you can force blooming. This can be done by encouraging the formation of ethylene gas. Apples produce ethylene gas. Place the pineapple in a plastic bag with an apple for several days or lay the plant on its side in between watering.
Pineapple plant care
Knowing the right way to water your plants is always important. During the planting stage, water the pineapple stem thoroughly but give some time to dry out before doing this to avoid overwatering.
Generally, after the planting stage, pineapple does not need much water as they have tough leaves that do not allow evaporation. Let your home-grown pineapple have one inch of water a week.
Pineapples need to receive full sun, and the best time for this will be during the warmer months of the year in your location.
Ensure your plant gets at least 6 – 8 hours of light a day. A sunny window side will be a great location. If you don’t have a bright light spot in your home, an artificial grow light will be a better alternative.
Once new leaves start coming out of the pineapple sucker, apply liquid fertiliser monthly. You can choose a general houseplant fertilizer and spray it over the plant to get to all parts of the stem, especially the leaf axils. After six months, apply the fertiliser solution directly into the soil to avoid any damage to the growing bud.
Pineapple plants thrive in loose, moist, and water-permeable soil. Like all bromeliads, they do not have a big root system that stretches deep or far into the soil.
The pineapple plant also thrives in soil that is a little acidic. It can also survive in any environment that boasts a neutral pH level. For the best result, opt for well-aerated and free-draining loams, sandy loams, and clay loams.
Generally, pineapples cannot survive in a cold or dry environment. They grow best at temperatures between 18 – 35 degrees Celsius.
Propagating pineapple plants
Pineapples are easy to propagate. The plant’s propagating elements, including suckers and slips, can be found in the leaf axils, crown, and fruit itself. To start a new pineapple, cut off the top of the mother plant, including the leaves.
Set the propagates aside for a week or two to cure and dry. Ensure you cut off any fruit chunk attaching to the crown to avoid contamination. Then plant the crown with the leaves slightly above the soil, and spray water over the plant.
Potting and repotting pineapple plants
Typically, pineapples should not need repotting. Once the pineapple is firmly rooted, you will begin to notice long, strappy leaves growing in the centre. These leaves are usually spiky and jagged, so be extra careful when handling them.
As the plant grows, carefully remove the offshoots from the plant’s base and pot individually, but the mother plant will not need repotting. The mother plant begins to decline after you have harvested the fruit, so it’s best to concentrate on the offshoots and discard the mother plant.
Harvesting pineapple plants
Size and colour are not enough indicators for pineapple harvest. The pineapple plant should be harvested when it shows a light pale green or light yellow colour. During this time, the sugar content and flavour develop early and steadily over several weeks. Pineapple fruits can grow a little longer, but they must not be overripe to avoid losing their flavour and perishing.
Common pests and diseases
Root rot and Top rot
These diseases are caused by the soil fungi Phytophthora cinnamomi and P. nicotianae var. Parasitica. They thrive and affect pineapple plants in prolonged wet weather, autumn and winter.
Good drainage and regular spraying with fungicide can help reduce the risk. Also, you can apply plastic mulch on raised beds to prevent fungi.
Yellow spot virus
This infection occurs on young crowns during the first few months after planting. It spreads fast to the leaves, causing the plant to bend sideways and eventually die. To prevent the yellow spot infection, control weeds around pineapple fields and quickly cut off any plant showing symptoms.
Ensure you cut affected parts out as soon as you notice a yellow or white colour, and dispose to places far from other fruits. You may also place dry grass and leaves over fruits to prevent sunburn.
Nematodes produce swelling on the roots, leading to dead or injured plant cells around the root surface.
To prevent the spread of nematodes, avoid moving the pineapple plants and soil from infested parts of the garden. Nematodes sometimes stay on planting tools, so ensure you clean them before usage.
Pineapples offer many vitamins and contain compounds that help fight off infections and diseases in the body. With patience, adequate knowledge, and care, you can grow this summer plant in the comfort of your home effortlessly.