Raise your own sweet, juicy, plant-ripened pineapple without a trip to the islands. Pineapples aren’t hard to grow, other than providing protection during the winter. The plants are tough and aren’t prone to insect or disease problems. Producing a pineapple does require some patience, however. It usually takes about two years or more from planting to produce a ripe fruit. During that time, though, the pineapple plant makes a very attractive foliage plant.
To grow your own pineapple, start with a fruit purchased at the supermarket. Choose one that has a healthy, green, leafy top – or crown – not too badly battered during processing and shipping. To root the top, you will need a gallon-size container, enough potting soil to fill it, slow-release fertilizer and a sharp knife.
First, use a sharp knife to cut the crown from the fruit. Make the cut cleanly and as close to the fruit as you can. Next, remove enough of the lower leaves from the cut crown to expose about one-half to three-quarters of an inch of stem. Lay the crown aside for three days to allow the cut to callus over.
Fill the gallon container almost full of the potting soil and add the slow-release fertilizer according to label directions. Plant the pineapple top just deep enough to cover the exposed stem firming the soil around it to make it stable. If necessary, you can insert two or three pencils in the soil to hold the top in place. Water the plant thoroughly and place it in a shady area outside to root. The crown should root in a couple of weeks.
After the crown is rooted, move the plant into part sun for a week, and then move it into full sun. Grow your pineapple in full sun outside throughout the summer and fall, keeping it well watered.
In three to four months, the plant will have outgrown the gallon pot. At this time, shift it to a three-gallon-sized container using the same well-drained potting soil and some more slow-release fertilizer. The plant will produce its fruit in this pot. The larger pot is important. If kept in a small pot, the plant will produce a smaller, poorer-quality fruit. Overwinter the plant in a greenhouse or in a sunny window.
By the second summer, the original small crown should have grown into a large, handsome plant about 2 feet across. At this stage, your plant should flower. The first sign of flowering is a bright red color in the center of the plant. Soon, a stalk will appear with lavender flowers peeking out from a structure at the top shaped like a small pineapple. This structure will develop into the fruit. From flowering to ripe fruit takes about five months.