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Starting a Pineapple Plant From A Pineapple

By John Atlee

I got my first pineapple out of the garbage can in a grocery store in Pampa, Texas. I know that might sound strange but pineapples are just about the only Bromeliad of commercial value and the company "Dole" has made sure of that.

As far as I know there has been no definitive site given for the original discovery of pineapples in the new world. Who knows, maybe they were eaten by Columbus. It is thought they may have originated in the northeastern area of South America, near what is now known today as Guiana. There are several different pineapples besides the grocery store variety. At the moment I have an Ananas nana in bloom on top of my piano. It is one of the smallest, about 18 inches tall and growing in a 6 inch pot. One of the showiest pineapples is Ananas bracteatus, tricolor. When mature it is about 4-5 feet in diameter and about the same height. It flushes a brilliant pink at the base of its white and green striped leaves. It also has pink recurved spines so caution must be exercised when working around the plant.

Our commercial pineapple, Ananas comosus, var. Smooth Cayene is the one most people are familiar with, but only in a can, as a fruit. As a fresh fruit these are easy to grow in most household environments. The trick is to get one rooted. Please take note: These plants, although almost spineless, will grow to about 4 ft. wide and 4 ft. in height when in bloom and fruiting. It will also take about 3 years or more to bring it into bloom and production and will require at least a 5 gallon nursery pot. It is a fairly uninteresting, plain green plant until it sends up its stalk right out of the center. It will then flush red and bloom blue flowers. After that it takes another 3 months to ripen. Surprisingly enough it will be just about the size of a can.

To grow a pineapple select a mature fresh fruit from your local grocery store or market. Grab hold of the entire top set of leaves. Twist hard and it will come out with a bit of stalk. (If the top has been cut off you will need to remove all of the excess fruit flesh. I do not recommend cutting with a knife. Just twist out the top as best you can. Otherwise it will only rot and may kill the whole plant.) Let the leafed stalk dry out for about 5 days. This will seal off any excess openings for disease and decay. Remove about 15-20 of the lower leaves by pulling them downward. They will come off in sort of a spiral fashion. The idea is to bare the stalk. You may notice some roots forming at the base of some of the leaves. These are important so try not to damage them.

At this point I often let the stalk dry for another couple of days but it is not absolutely necessary. I also lightly dust the small roots with a common commercial rooting compound containing a mild fungicide. The most common reason for failure, at this point, is when the stalk is planted it rots rather than roots. Anything you can do to prevent this will be of value.

On my first potting I use my regular Bromeliad potting mix. (2 parts commercial peat based mix, plus 1 part perlite to promote drainage) I use a standard 6 inch azalea plastic pot. (These are shorter than the geranium pots. I don't think it really matters.) I place the pot where there is good indirect light and where the pot and potting mix will be warm and stay moist but not wet. It will take about 6-8 weeks for the stalk to really start sending out strong roots. Do not rush this process. I often leave the plants there for 3 months or longer. I do not fertilize at this point.

When new growth begins to appear, it will be a lighter green. You will need to repot the plant into a larger container. I move the plant up to a 1 gallon nursery pot. This will give more room for root development. I use my regular potting mix but I use less perlite. These Bromeliads are terrestrials and will need the more compact, water holding, potting mix. I move the plant into as much direct sunlight as I can provide. During the summer I put the pots outside on the unshaded patio and bring them in for the winter. They need at least 6 hours or more of direct sunlight. It is also important that they never completely dry out. Then again, they must never sit in soggy soil. I leave the plant this way for at least one year. Fertilize carefully and only about once a month during the peak of the growing season.

After one full year of growth I pot the plant into a five gallon pot using a compost enriched, but well draining potting mix. It should contain some good soil. This will provide many of the necessary trace elements. At this point it is very important to have a nutrient rich mix. It is also very important to make sure the mixture drains well. There is always a risk of root rot in a mixture that does not drain well.

Rot is commonly caused by over watering or the soil not draining properly. If the plant stops growing at this point take the plant out of the pot and examine the root structure carefully. They should be firm and solid. If necessary wash off the old potting mix and repot into fresh mix. I've had to do this more than once so don't feel bad if it happens to you. Just watch the plant carefully. It should only stop growing during the winter months. It will put out new growth all during the early spring and summer well into fall. It will also become huge so allow plenty of room. It will really grow to four or more feet in diameter.

This five gallon pot is the last potting. I usually figure one full season in this size. The following year it will throw its stalk well above the foliage. It is an amazing site to behold. Almost the entire stalk will take on red tinge. The bracts under the top will be bright red. The top will swell with many small sections and a light blue flower will emerge from each.

These flowers only last one day but there will be many to enjoy. (Throw a pineapple blooming party and serve all your Bromeliad recipes.) After all the flowers have opened and closed it will take 3-4 months for the fruit to mature and ripen. Keep the plant well watered. I have found they are almost, but not quite, as sweet as a commercially grown pineapple. There will be a few new plants to emerge during this last year. There may be one or two from the lower foliage along with several at the base of the fruit. Let these grow as large as possible before you remove them to start the process all over again.

There are seven different kinds of pineapples listed. Many of the suppliers on the BSI page have some of them available. Try to grow a variety of them. They are all edible when mature and ripe. Good luck and good growing.

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