LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
Sweet, tart and juicy, a pineapple is a delicious treat, especially in the hot summer. It is one of my favorite tropical fruits to eat and make juice from. Originating in tropical South America, it is grown extensively in Hawaii. The pineapple (Ananas comosus) grows in USDA hardiness zones 9b to 10a, meaning it can grow successfully in south Louisiana.
Pineapple can be easily grown in containers and, if protected from freezing temperatures, you can enjoy the fruit — if you are patient. Pineapple belongs to the bromeliad family, which comprises more 2,000 species. Spanish moss is even a member of this family.
Bromeliad plants have a common growth habit: leaves that form rosettes with varying forms and color of flowers. The pineapple plant is an herbaceous perennial with 30 to 40 stiff succulent leaves closely spaced in a rosette on a thick, fleshy stem.
Pineapple plants grow up to 3 to 5 feet tall on average and have a short, stocky stem with tough, waxy leaves. Generally, it takes about two years to make a fruit on the plant. After the first fruit is produced, side shoots are produced in the leaf axils of the main stem. These suckers can be removed for propagation of a separate new plant or left to produce additional fruit on the original plant.
After 12 to 20 months, the stem grows into a spike-like inflorescence up to 6 inches long with over 100 spirally arranged flowers. Hummingbirds and bats are some of the common animals responsible for pollinating pineapples. They are self fertile, so you only need one plant to produce fruit.
Pineapple fruit is a sweet and juicy, low in calories and high in vitamin C and fiber. The fruit can add a burst of flavor to any dish. It is particularly popular in Pan-Asian cuisine. Coincidentally, the month of May is federally designated in the United States as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.
In the United States, the No. 1 producing state is Hawaii, where almost half of American pineapples are produced. The state is also one of the largest producers in the world. The farms in Florida and California produce the largest pineapples in the country.
But did you know that you can easily grow your own pineapple plant from a grocery store-bought pineapple? It takes just a few simple steps to turn your kitchen scraps into a thriving plant.
First, choose a ripe and healthy pineapple from your local grocery store. Look for a pineapple with firm, green leaves and a golden-yellow skin. Avoid pineapples with brown spots or soft spots, as they may be overripe.
Next, twist or cut off the crown of the pineapple, which is the leafy top part of the fruit. Remove any excess fruit flesh from the bottom of the crown and let it dry for a few days in a sunny spot. Once the crown is completely dry, it's time to plant it. Plants can also be planted directly into a container with well-drained potting soil. You can go as small as a 1-gallon pot or use a 3- or 5-gallon size for larger plants.
Fill a pot with well-draining soil and plant the crown about 1 inch deep. Water the soil lightly, being careful not to overwater. Place the pot in a sunny spot and make sure to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
In about two to three months, you'll start to see new growth emerging from the center of the crown. This means your pineapple plant is taking root and starting to grow. After a few more months, you'll notice the plant growing larger and producing leaves.
It takes about 18 to 24 months for a pineapple plant to fully mature and produce fruit. During this time, make sure to keep the soil moist and provide the plant with enough sunlight and warmth. The first sign of flowering is a bright red color on the plant. A stalk will appear with purple flowers on a structure that will become the fruit. Once the plant is fully mature, it will produce a single pineapple fruit that is ready to be harvested and enjoyed. From flowering to ripe fruit takes about five months.
Growing your own pineapple plant is a fun and rewarding experience that anyone can try. It’s easy to turn a grocery store pineapple into a beautiful and delicious addition to your container garden. In coastal areas, they can be grown outdoors if protected from extended freezes.
Throughout time, the pineapple has been used as a symbol of hospitality and welcome in some cultures, often being placed in doorways to greet guests. You can find my plants at the front door of my home to greet visitors. The fruit provides some fun topic of discussion, and I wanted to share that you too can grow your own pineapples.
Place the crown of the pineapple about an inch down in well-drained potting soil and place it in a sunny area. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
The crown should root a couple of weeks after planting. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Flowers emerge by the second summer after the crown has been planted. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
From flowering to ripe fruit takes about five months. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter