Looking for a new way to grow your own food? Try your hand at growing an exotic edible: pineapple. Wherever you live, even if you only wish it were Hawaii, it's entirely possible. But be aware it's not a fruit that yields instant gratification. It can take two years or more to reap the sweet reward of picking and eating your own pineapple.
1. Buy a pineapple with healthy green leaves and fruit color that's more gold than green. Inspect leaf bases for gray spots, which could be scale insects. If you spot those, find another fruit.
2. Grab the leaves, twist hard and pull them out of the fruit. Or cut off the clump of leaves. At the base, you'll see a stalk section. Once leaves are free, remove any adhering fruit to help prevent rotting after planting.
3. Remove some lower leaves. Expose about 1 inch of stalk.
4. Let the crown dry for a few days to allow the stem base and leaf scars to heal. This helps prevent rot.
5. Root the crown in a glass of water in a location that's free from temperature extremes. Or root it in a pot. Fill an 8-inch-diameter or 1-gallon pot with 2 inches of lava rock topped with a fast-draining bromeliad or cactus mix. Tuck the stalk into the planting mix. Water well. If you root the crown in water, plant it after roots form.
6. Keep soil slightly moist. Don't fertilize for the first 6-8 weeks.
7. Fertilize when new leaves begin to appear, using a citrus-type fertilizer quarterly and a liquid fertilizer monthly. Use the rate listed for small shrubs.
8. Flowers first appear when plants are 12-14 months old, but the bright-blue blooms don't open for another 6-8 months. Individual blossoms open for one day, then die. Fruit starts to develop after the last flower dries. Typically a pineapple is ready to pick 5-7 months after flowering.
- Move plants outside in summer. In warm regions like Southern California, plants can stay outdoors year-round.
- Keep soil consistently moist – not too wet, not too dry. In summer, splash water into the cup at the base of leaves.
- Repot a plant when it outgrows the current container. Bump plants up to 5- and later 15-gallon pots.
When should I harvest a pineapple?
Pineapples don't ripen once picked, so wait until fruit is mostly golden. The flesh becomes sweeter as skin turns yellow.
Can I grow a pineapple in a wintry area?
Yes, just move the plant indoors before temperatures drop to 32°F. Provide the brightest light you can. Consider using grow-lights.
How big will my pineapple be?
If you want a supermarket-size pineapple, your plant needs to grow roughly 6 feet wide and tall. If a pineapple grows 4 feet wide and high, fruit will weigh about 2-4 pounds.
I've been growing a pineapple for two years, and so far – no flowers, no fruit. What am I doing wrong? I live in Lansing, Mich.
In cold regions and areas receiving limited winter sun, pineapples stop growing in winter. This means the typical 24-month fruit production timeline stretches an additional 12-18 months, making up for winter's no-growth months.
My pineapple was growing fine, but no new leaves have appeared in a while. I stopped watering, because the soil doesn't seem to dry out. What should I do?
Carefully remove the pineapple from soil. Look at the roots. Healthy roots are white and firm. If roots are brown and mushy, you're dealing with rot. Gently wash soil from roots, and repot in fresh potting mix.