Garden Variety: Grow your own pineapple
If you are ready for a fun winter gardening project, try growing your own pineapple plant. The process to get one started is simple, and the bragging rights over the homegrown fruit are priceless.
The easiest way to grow a pineapple plant is to start with a pineapple fruit. Shop for one with healthy green foliage at the top, as this is the start for the new plant. When you get the pineapple home, remove the top by cutting the pineapple about a half-inch below the base of the leaves. Then, carefully trim away the edges of the fruit in that half-inch portion to leave only the hard core tissue in the center. Remove a few of the leaves right around the base also.
The short piece of core at the bottom of the pineapple top needs to dry before planting, so leave it on the counter for a few days. Then, when the top is ready for planting, fill a small container with perlite, vermiculite or coarse sand (available at most garden centers). Make sure the container has drainage holes in the bottom, and moisten the planting media thoroughly before planting. Insert the pineapple top into the planting media up to the base of the remaining leaves. Set the container near a window or door that receives bright but indirect light.
Over the next six to eight weeks, check the planting media regularly to ensure that it stays moist. Frequency of watering depends on how much light the plant receives, type of media used and temperature. Avoid saturating the plant or letting it completely dry out if at all possible. During this time, the pineapple top should develop roots. If the top instead shows signs of rotting or decay or the base begins to deteriorate, start over.
Once the top has developed a root system, transplant the plant into a larger container with regular potting mix. Remember to use potting media or potting mix rather than garden soil for best success in containers. Place the transplanted plant back in bright, indirect light.
After a few weeks of adjusting to the new container, move the pineapple plant to a sunny window. Water and fertilize as needed to maintain plant health. Plants can be moved outdoors for the summer but will die in temperatures below 28 degrees.
Pineapple plants grow slowly, so plan on two to three years before fruit production. By this time, the plant may be up to 2 feet tall. Fruiting can be encouraged by placing the plant in a clear plastic bag with an apple for three to four days. Apples give off ethylene gas, which stimulates flowering and fruit ripening for many plants. Flowering should occur within two to three months after the apple treatment and the fruit will develop from the flower.
— Jennifer Smith is a former horticulture extension agent for K-State Research and Extension and horticulturist for Lawrence Parks and Recreation. She is the host of “The Garden Show” and has been a gardener since childhood. Send your gardening questions and feedback to email@example.com.