By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
The variegated pineapple plant is grown for its foliage, not its fruit. The gorgeous bright red, green, and cream striped leaves are held rigidly off a low stem. Their bright fruit is attractive but rather bitter. The plants make lovely and interesting houseplants or warm season potted outdoor plants.
The pineapple flowering houseplant is a bromeliad and requires similar care. Care for the variegated pineapple is the same as an edible pineapple, but don’t expect fruiting overnight. Both types can take up to five years to produce fruit.
Bromeliads are a family of sometimes stemless, sometimes epiphytic plants. They may also be grown in an almost soil-free environment made up of other materials such as sand, peat, and bark. Bromeliads are common in warm areas with high humidity.
There are hundreds of varieties of pineapple. Not all of them produce a yellow fleshed fruit armored in green. There are also red and blue varieties. The best pineapple bromeliad varieties for home growers are the miniature types. These plants are easier to keep to container size, so you can move them in and protect them in case of freezing weather.
Pineapples are only hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11. These warm season plants can be grown inside as striking houseplants. The variegated form is colorful and lively, well suited for a partially sunny room. Growing variegated pineapples in full sun is not recommended as the best color comes in lower light areas.
The plant is a novelty plant and not as easy to find as the regular pineapple bromeliad varieties. Mature plants can produce a flower within a year of planting. To start your own pineapple flowering houseplant, harvest a fruit and cut the top off. Let the top dry on the counter for a day or two.
Plant the base in a mixture of orchid bark and sand that is lightly moist. Keep somewhat moist until the top roots, taking care not to overwater, which will make the fruit top rot. You can also remove any offsets and plant them. Let these root and you will soon be growing variegated pineapples to share with friends and family.
Pineapples require medium light, soil low in organic amendments, and moderate moisture. The plant can tolerate short periods of drought with no ill effects.
They can be prone to several pests including aphids, whiteflies, and scale. Rinse off soft bodied pests and use a horticultural soap to combat the others.
Fertilize every two weeks in spring until dormancy in fall. Use a diluted liquid plant fertilizer.
Water thoroughly each time, but allow the surface of the soil to dry out before applying more water.
Variegated pineapple plant must be kept where temperatures are between 65 and 82 degrees F. (18-28 C.) with high humidity for best growth. Mimic the growing conditions of a Hawaiian island and you are guaranteed success with your pineapple flowering houseplant!
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Read more about Bromeliads
Pineapple plants (Ananas comosus) only grow outdoors in tropical U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 11 and 12, but they make attractive indoor plants in all climates. The deep green, swordlike leaves grow upright and remain evergreen. Pineapple plants can flower indoors when they are 2 to 3 years old. The flower blooms for approximately two weeks then begins setting its edible fruit. Although each plant only flowers and fruits once in its lifetime, the main plant produces small offsets or suckers that can also produce blossoms and fruit.
Water the pineapple plant when the top inch of soil begins to feel dry. Empty the excess water from the drip tray beneath the pot after watering.
Fertilize the pineapple once monthly with a soluble, general-purpose houseplant fertilizer applied at the package-recommended rate. Mix the fertilizer with water and apply it to the soil. Avoid splashing fertilizer onto the plant because it can damage the developing flower bud.
Insert a 2-foot-tall stake near the developing flower stalk. Tie the stalk loosely to the stake with a cloth tie. The stake keeps the flower spike upright and prevents the fruit from breaking off the stem once it begins to develop.
Cut the pineapple from the stalk once the rind develops a yellowish-orange color all over.
I have always wanted to grow a pineapple plant as a houseplant. Is this possible? Can I get it to grow a new pineapple to eat? Can you tell me how to do this?
It is possible, and easy, to grow a pineapple plant indoors. Growing new pineapple fruit is more difficult. To make full-sized pineapples, the plant will ultimately need to get about six feet across and six feet tall. But, you can grow it as an interesting indoor plant and even get it to produce fruit (albeit small fruit) without letting it take over the living room.
Start with a pineapple from the store. Cut the top off and trim the fruit from this small plant. You will wind up with a tuft of leaves and a bit of stalk. Carefully peel some of the lower leaves from the base of the tuft of leaves to reveal more stem and some small bumps, perhaps even some roots which have started to grow beneath the leaves. The bumps, by the way, are root primordia, baby roots waiting to grow.
Place the stem portion of this into a potting soil which is about one-half sand. Sandblasting sand is a good type of sand for this. The idea is to have a potting soil which holds water well but has enough sand to allow it to drain readily and to allow sufficient oxygen into the soil.
Keep this soil slightly damp until roots develop. The roots should form in about two months. I like to place the pot and plant in a white garbage bag which is loosely sealed at the top. Place the plant and the bag in a south window if possible. This garbage bag keeps the humidity high and diffuses the light so the plant doesn't burn in the sunlight. In a less sunny window, use a clear plastic bag.
After about two months, you should see some new growth beginning at the top of the plant. Gently tug on the plant to see if new roots have formed. If they are present, they will resist your tug. If absent, the top of the pineapple will pull from the soil revealing the absence of roots. If there are no roots, replace the pineapple top in the soil and wait longer. If the base looks like it is rotting, start again with a new pineapple top and fresh potting soil. Repeat the process, but be sure not to overwater.
To grow your new houseplant, give it a brightly lighted location which receives at least six hours of bright light each day. Water sparingly, as the soil drys. Don't overwater, but don't let it go completely dry either. Fertilize once or twice a month with a houseplant fertilizer. If possible, let it spend the summer outside in a brightly lighted location. You can find such a site in the shade of a tree where grass grows successfully. Too much shade will not be good. Before frost, bring the pineapple plant back indoors for the winter.
When the plant gets as large as you can manage, lay the plant and pot on its side between waterings. This interferes with hormones in the plant, causing the production of another hormone, ethylene, which induces flowering. An alternative method of inducing flowering is to place the plant in a bag with a ripening apple. The ripening apple produces ethylene gas which will induce flowering in the pineapple. You will have to continue these treatments for a couple of month and will probably need to replace the apple several times.
Now that you know how to grow it, here is some interesting trivia about your pineapple. The pineapple is a member of the bromeliad family. As such it is related to Spanish moss and some interesting ornamental plants sold in many nurseries. These ornamentals are interesting in that they absorb water and nutrients from a water-tight reservoir formed where the leaves come together, or by interesting absorptive hairs which cover the Spanish moss and similar bromeliads, allowing them to draw water and nutrients from the fog and dust in the air. The pineapple, however, uses its roots like houseplants with which you are familiar and should be easy to grow if you treat it like a normal houseplant which needs bright light.
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Pineapple is one of the world's most unique and exotic tropical fruits, yet it is possible to grow it in a temperate zone under controlled conditions with the most difficult part of the process just getting it rooted. Although you may not be able to grow as large a plant as is grown on a plantation in Hawaii, the following information should enable you to grow a healthy, attractive pineapple for your home. And it makes a fun family project for the kids!
With some patience, you can even grow a new pineapple from this plant. It takes about two to three years, though, and even then some plants are difficult to get to produce new fruit. However, I've searched the web and have provided below the best techniques for improving your odds of harvesting a ripe & delicious pineapple that will fill your house with its aroma. To make full-sized pineapples, the plant will ultimately need to get about six feet across and six feet tall. But, you can grow it as an interesting indoor plant and even get it to produce fruit (albeit small fruit) without letting it take over the living room :-)
Here is some interesting trivia about your pineapple. The pineapple is a member of the bromeliad family. As such it is related to Spanish moss and some interesting ornamental plants sold in many nurseries. These ornamentals are interesting in that they absorb water and nutrients from a water-tight reservoir formed where the leaves come together, or by interesting absorptive hairs which cover the Spanish moss and similar bromeliads, allowing them to draw water and nutrients from the fog and dust in the air. The pineapple, however, uses its roots like houseplants with which you are familiar and should be easy to grow if you treat it like a normal houseplant that needs bright light.
Inspect the base of the leaves for small grayish spots which are scale insects. If these are found, the crown should be discarded and one selected which is free of these insects. Try to find one that is ripe but not overripe. Test for ripeness by gently pulling on a leaf. If it pops out with ease, the fruit is overripe.
To make the most use of the pineapple, use the pineapple corer you see here. It's an inexpensive but ingenious little gadget that cores and slices all in one step. To see it work, click here. To order one, and support this web site, click here or click on the picture above. They also make great gifts!
Next, strip off some of the lower leaves, exposing up to about an inch of the base of the crown (the stalk will root but the leaves will rot - see photo). They will come off in sort of a spiral fashion. The idea is to bare the stalk. The small brown-colored bumps below the leaf scars are root primordia (baby roots waiting to grow) and there may even be a few short roots at the base of the crown (the picture at right shows a crown with a lot of roots). Though these won't be the roots that will grow in the next step, try not to damage these.
After trimming and stripping, let the crown dry out for a couple days before going to the next step. This will permit the cut end and the leaf scars to heal and prevent rot.
There are various ways to do this, but I have found after trying several methods, that the simplest is the most effective. Place the crown in a clear glass of water and change out the water every few days. Place the crown away from any temperature extremes (heating or cooling vents/hot south-facing windows). On top of the refrigerator will work. In three weeks you'll see healthy root growth as illustrated in the pictures at right. You're now ready to plant the crown. As an aside, I've been told that if you use a dark colored glass, like a red plastic cup for example, you'll get better rooting. However I haven't tried this myself. You might want to try a clear glass as well as a dark glass, and let me know your results.
The first step is to cover the drainage hole with the pottery shard. Second, put in a layer of stones followed by the soil and perlite mix. Finally, plant the crown and water it thoroughly prior to placing it in a window or some other sunny place. You can see the sequence in the pictures to the right (the inner leaves of the pineapple on the left are easily pulled out which doesn't bode well for the plant. Only time will tell which is a good example of why it's good to root two plants in case one dies).
In terms of watering, the soil should always be slightly moist not wet (which will promote rot) and not dry. It will take six to eight weeks for the stalk to really start sending out strong roots. Do not rush this process or fertilize at this point.
After about two months, the pineapple should be supporting itself as a new plant. Gently tug on the plant to see if new roots have formed. If they are present, they will resist your tug. If absent, the top of the pineapple will pull from the soil revealing the absence of new roots. If there are no new roots, replace the pineapple top in the soil and wait longer. If the base looks like it is rotting, start again with a new pineapple top, root it again as above and then use fresh potting soil. Repeat the process, but be sure not to over water.
At this point you should notice that the original leaves of the pineapple will begin to die and turn brown, with new leaves beginning to grow at the center. Over the course of the following year, remove the original leaves as they die. During this time the pineapple should be watered no more than once a week.
If roots have developed with the new leaf growth, it is a sign that things are going well.
After one full year of growth, repot the plant.
Below you can see these two plants one year later. Three lessons I've learned: 1) don't give up on your plant even when things are looking grim (the pictures on the right are of one of the plants that had rotted in the center you can see two brand new sprouts that formed along side the original plant.)
Tamp the soil firmly around the base of the crown at planting. Avoid getting soil into the central leaves of the crown.
Rot is commonly caused by over watering or the soil not draining properly. The plant should only stop growing during the winter months. It will put out new growth all during the early spring and summer well into fall. If the plant stops growing during its growing season, 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.
Pineapples like to get at least 6 hours of bright light each day. During summer, set your plant on a sunny porch or bury the pot in your garden. Do not take your plant out of the house until all danger of frost is past. When you first remove your plant from your house, keep it in a semi-shaded spot for several days to prevent sunburn.
During cold months, keep your plant in the house. Bring it in early in the fall, by mid-September. Place it near a window or sliding-glass door for maximum sunlight. At night, move it away from the window to prevent freezing. The pineapple prefers a temperature of 65 - 75 degrees F (minimum of 60 degrees). If the room is warm enough for you to be comfortable, the pineapple will be at the right temperature.
You can also grow your plant indoors, for example in a basement, by using "Plant-Gro" fluorescent light tubes. This light can also be helpful if your windows do not let enough sunshine into the room where you are keeping your plant. You should keep the light on for between 12 and 14 hours per day. When the plant gets large enough to bear a fruit you should reduce the day length to 10 to 11 hours until the inflorescence appears in the center of the plant. You can then return to longer days.
Fertilize carefully and only about once every month or so during the growing season. If using a solid plant food, scatter it on the surface of the soil and wash it in by watering.
A liquid (foliar spray) fertilizer can also be used. Pour the solution into the base of the leaves and on the surface of the soil. Take special care not to pour the solution into the center of the plant as the young leaves may be injured. Follow directions under "small shrubs" given on the label of the products you use.
The only disease you would likely encounter would be heart rot caused by fungi. In heart rot, the central leaves turn black and are easily pulled out of the plant. When heart rot occurs, the plant can sometimes be saved by pouring a fungicide into the heart (center) of the plant. If this stops the infection, a side shoot will start growing. This shoot will then become your plant and will eventually flower and form a fruit. Or you can remove it and begin a new plant.
(By the way, to the right you can see very healthy baby pineapples growing at Longwood Gardens, in Longwood, PA. There were a total of 8 plants in the room. Clearly they have a system that works!)
After twenty months come the flowers. Bright blue flowers open row by row, starting at the bottom, over about two weeks (flower development in Hawaii typically occurs in late December or January when the days are short (about 10.5 hours) and the nights are cool (55 to 65 F about 13 to 18 C)). Each flower only lasts one day, but there are many to enjoy.
When the petals of the last flower have dried, the fruit begins to develop. After three to six months from this period, your fruit will begin to ripen. When the fruit is golden halfway up, your pineapple is ready. Surprisingly enough it will be just about the size of a can of pineapple, or a bit larger.
If your pineapple plant is at least 24 inches tall and has not flowered by the time it is twenty to twenty-four months old, you can "force" it with a few different techniques that trick the plant into putting its energy into flowering instead of making new leaves.
It is best to force the plant to flower during the winter months when the days are cooler and shorter as this is when a pineapple is accustomed to making fruit.
The first technique is to lay the plant and pot on its side between waterings. This interferes with hormones in the plant, causing the production of another hormone, ethylene, which induces flowering.
A second method of inducing flowering is to place the plant in a bag with two ripe & bruised apples for two weeks. Move the plant to a shady location during this time, and then move it back to its sunny spot. The ripening apples produce ethylene gas that will induce flowering in the pineapple.
A third method is to place a small lump of calcium carbide about the size of your little fingernail in the center of your plant and pour a quarter cup of water over it. This will release acetylene gas that will force your plant to flower. To improve your chances of success, it is best to treat your plant in the evening after the sun goes down and temperatures are cooler. (Calcium carbide may be obtainable at a welding shop, garden store, pharmacy or toy store.)
Two to three months later, the plant should form a flower spike in its center.
During this change, the fruit becomes sweeter and the color of the flesh changes from white to yellow. The fruit will weigh from two to four pounds. When the fruit is golden half way up it can be picked and eaten, though if you wait until it's fully ripe it will be worth the wait! Once the fruit develops, it should last on the plant for several months.
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Naturally, pineapples are tropical plants so they need sunlight to thrive. An indoor pineapple plant needs around 12 to 14 hours of sunlight. In case you can’t provide your plant with 12 straight hours of sunlight, then you can use an indoor LED-grow lamp with a timer. The good thing is that LED grow lamps are affordable and can sustain your plant for many months.
This can affect the plant’s foliage color. It may end up looking yellow instead of having deep green leaves. Besides that, the leaves may end up stunted. This may affect flowering and eventually maturity.
A pineapple planted from a crown may take up to 28 months to flower and another six months to produce a ripe fruit. After the plant blossoms, add a stake to support the stem and developing pineapple. Continue to water and fertilize as the fruit develops.
When the pineapple ripens, the outer scales turn pale green and then yellow depending on the cultivar. Thump it with a finger. A hollow thud means the pineapple isn't ready, while a dull, solid sound indicates that the fruit is ripe. Avoid harvesting green fruit pineapples soften but don't ripen further once harvested. Cut the stem just below the fruit with a sharp knife to avoid damaging the parent plant.
After harvesting a pineapple, allow the slips, hapas and leaf suckers to mature for several weeks, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, and then remove them from the parent plant. Also remove all but one of the ratoons. Treat them like cuttings allow them to dry for one week and then root and replant them. A new pineapple may develop from the ratoon. This process can be repeated several times before replacing the plant with a new rooted piece or crown.