Grocery Store Gardening: Pineapples
I find it really funny that one of my favorite places to shop for new plants is in my local grocery store. It shouldn’t be funny. I mean that is where we buy our food. Most people don’t think about looking for new gardening plants while they are shopping for tonight’s lasagna. It may just be me that finds this hilarious. The produce department is always one of the best parts of the market to find new plants to grow. Today we are going to start a pineapple.
Pineapples are really easy to grow. They are a bromeliad. Bromeliads are mostly a South America family. There are a few varieties that have native homes outside of here though not many. Did you know that Spanish Moss is a bromeliad? These plants live in a range of habitats from the desert where they often live like a succulent. Most people know a bromeliad because of their ability to hold water in the central growing part of the plant. They do this by overlapping their leaves so that water is held in the bowl created.
Pineapples are thought to have originated in the south of Brazil or maybe a bit further south. They were grown by the Incas and Aztecs. The Philippines and Hawaii, where they were introduced many centuries ago, and Costa Rica are the largest commercial areas of production. It is important to understand where these are grown and exported. We can interpret growing conditions by researching where most of the large plantations are. The better we can reproduce their preferred growing conditions the better our own plant will grow.
All three of these locations share similar habitat features. They have a loose free draining soil. This means a soil with high silicon (sand) content along with an abundance of natural macro minerals. Clay content in these locations is a rather low percentage. I have had success using a very good potting mix with a good amount of perlite in the blend. If I had to choose the best bagged soil I would recommend Ocean Forest. It has this blend as well as mycorrhizae inoculants and bat guano. Adding a bit more sand or perlite should be considered.
These major growing plantations are in areas that receive an abundance of water and tons of sunlight. Those of you in the northern hemisphere contemplating growing pineapple may wish to invest in a lighting system for those times the plant will live inside for the winter. I have been able to grow my pineapples in a south facing window. The plants sulk a bit but quickly return to normal after I set them outside after winter. I think it takes longer for my plants to fruit.
More Cultural Information
I fertilize with moderately high concentrations just as I begin to see growth beginning to pick up again after I put the pot outside in the spring. I also make sure this plant gets treated with a good micro mineral too. These plants need a higher micro mineral diet than some house plants. Try to include soluble silicon if it is not already in your micro mineral blend. Silicon is a mineral plants use to provide strength and helps with pest situations. It does affect cell growth. The soil in Hawaii is volcanic produced stone that has weathered and eroded. It is high in many micro nutrients these plants love. Stop fertilizing when bringing the pineapple inside for the winter.
Pineapples begin just as many familiar bromeliads. When the plant is ready to fruit, which can be 2 or more years depending on your growing conditions, it blooms in the center where the water sometimes collects. All those pointy hard brown dimples you painstakingly cut out when you are peeling your fruit were once small purple flowers. The part that we eat is the unfertilized fruit of those flowers that grow together.
It is possible to produce fertilized seed. When I researched this I learned that plantation growers in Hawaii are constantly on the lookout for escape hummingbirds. I imagine it is rare to produce seed but do try to keep any eye when your plant is blooming. Fertilized and viable seed can affect the quality of the pineapple. Me on the other hand will try to get a seed now that I know it can happen!
Planting and Caring for the New Pineapple
Pineapples are propagated by planting the top growth of a mature fruit or by removing a sucker. Remember that once the fruit is removed the main plant only lives long enough to make suckers. There are times when a secondary smaller crop can develop on the stem when the primary pineapple is removed. Still like most perennials, once an individual plant goes through a complete growth cycle it passes on after either first creating off shoots or produce viable seed. Most bromeliads behave this way.
Choose a pineapple from the store that has a nice golden color. I know your mom told you to pull on the center leaves. If they come out easy that means your pineapple is ripe. If you want to start a new pineapple plant I don’t recommend doing this. Plucking out the leaves damages the plant too badly. Buy your pineapple when they are on a really good sale. This means you are getting plants that are fully ripe and ready to eat. The top of your pineapple should be dark green. The leaves should be undamaged. Look to make sure the center of the top is not off color. It should be just as dark as the rest of the top.
It takes forever for them to root and begin growing. When I cut the top off I angle my knife so that I do not include much of the fruit but it gets as much of the core as possible. I want the core to help act as a way to get water to the new plant until new true roots form. I use a small container. Make sure that you keep this soil wet. I usually keep the container sitting in a saucer that has water in it.
I introduce a worm or three from my garden too. These little guys are great at taking care of rotting fruit left on the core. They also aerate the soil. I also water with a good soil bacteria blend at the same time I treat my house plants. These bacteria help with the soil web and enable good root growth. These are aerobic bacteria which reduces anaerobic types that hurt plants. Lastly, if you have a root enhancing compound like Rapid Start of Clonex, by all means use this too. Place your pot in full sun.
That’s it. Once the start roots, which can take a few months depending how much light and heat is available. Often my rooting top sends out side shoots that develop into plants instead of the top itself growing. Just because the center turns yellow and dies does not mean you should throw out your start just yet. Wait until all the leaves are not dark green anymore before giving up hope. Either way, be sure to keep your plants roots moist.
Be sure to upsize the pots as the plant grows. The diameter of the container is more important than the depth. The depth of the container doesn’t have to be more than a foot deep. The diameter of the container for a large pineapple plant could approach 24 inches. It is possible your pineapple plant can get to be above 3 feet tall. Sit back and enjoy a wonderful new house plant. Do keep it away from young children as the leaves are very sharp. And, don’t give up. Sometimes the top will not root. Don’t worry. I’m sure you will be buying another for dinner to try again.