Growing a pineapple houseplant
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Issue: November 24, 1997


Growing a pineapple houseplant

Question:

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?

Answer:

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 loction. 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.