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Growing Pineapple: Ananas comosus

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A member of the Bromeliaceae family, the Ananas genus consists of 9 species, of which Ananas comosus (Pineapple) is the most economically important.


Form: Herb.
Lifespan: About 4 productive years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Moderate.
Mature Size: 3-5' high and 3-4' wide.
Flowers: Small, red or purple, tubular with three lobes, up to 200 in a cluster at top of stem. Flowering is initiated by low temperature, water deficit, hormone spray or ethylene gas given off by two apples in a plastic bag placed over the plant. Flowering usually does not occur in hot weather.
Bloom: Depends on climate.
Self-fruitful: Yes.
Years before fruiting: 2.
Fruit: Oval to cylindrical-shaped, up to 12" long, weighing 1-10 pounds, a compound fruit composed of many small fruits fused together. The tough, waxy rind is dark green, yellow or reddish. The flesh is white to yellow with a fibrous core formed from the stem. Hundreds of small, hard seeds are formed next to the rind if the plant has a hummingbird pollinator. Commercial pineapples from Hawaii have no seeds because hummingbirds are banned. One compound fruit is produced per plant per year.
Months for fruit to ripen: 6. A change in color from green to yellow signals the start of maturity. If the stem end smells sweet, it is probably ripe. If a center leaf pulls out from the top with one hard tug, the fruit is ripe. Overripe fruit bruise easily and rot quickly. Fruit do not ripen significantly after harvest.
Storage after harvest: 2 days at room temperature, one week refrigerated.
Leaves: Waxy, narrow triangle, needle-tipped, upward-curved spines along edges, growing in a spiral rosette pattern. Leaves form a cup at center which collects rainwater.
Stems: Short, inconspicuous among leaves. Auxiliary buds at base of each leaf produce lateral shoots called suckers. These are cut off at harvest and planted for the next crop. The plant can also be trimmed back with one sucker left to produce the next crop, called a ratoon crop growing in the same place.
Roots: Shallow, sparse.
Cultivars of Note: Many cultivars are variations on these four.
'Smooth Cayenne' sugary and acidic, 5-6 pounds, good for canning and shipping, no spines on sides of leaves, most common cultivar grown in Hawaii and worldwide.
'Red Spanish' acidic, 2-4 pounds, canned or eaten fresh, almost as common as Smooth Cayenne.
'Sugarloaf' very sugary and sweet, edible core, 5-6 pounds, eaten fresh, does not ship well.
'Queen' 2-3 pounds, mild taste, eaten fresh, dwarf plant.
Wildlife: Attracts hummingbirds which pollinate the flowers, producing seeds in the fruit.
Toxic / Danger: Sharp spines at leaf tips and on sides of leaves of most cultivars. All parts of plant, including green, unripe fruit are poisonous.
Origin: South America.

Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 10-15. Can withstand brief exposure to 28°F. Grow in a container in zones 8-9.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Prefers temperatures under 95°F.
Sun: Needs afternoon shade in hot, dry regions.
Drought tolerant: No. Water needs vary across stages of plant development. Insufficient water can cause long term damage.
Water after becoming established: Depends on stage of development.
Vegetative stage - 11 months, water weekly.
Forced flowering - 3 months, reduce water to one-half, every two weeks.
Fruit formation - 5 months, water weekly.
Harvest - once fruit is yellow instead of green on the outside, harvest immediately. Water can be stopped when yellowing first begins. If heavy rains are predicted, harvest in advance.
Soil: Well drained, sandy loam, high organic content including composted manure, pH 4.5-6.5 (strongly acidic to slightly acidic). If nematodes are present, soil must be sterilized or fumigated.
Fertilize: Fertilizer should be high in nitrogen, potassium, and iron, and relatively low in phosphorus and calcium. Potassium is usually applied to the soil before planting and may be added in small amounts later. Other nutrients, sometimes including potassium, are applied as foliar sprays or through a drip irrigation system, or both, during the plant growth cycle. Phosphorous and calcium are usually added during bed preparation. Fertilizer needs increase substantially five months after planting and are highest two to four months before flowering begins.
Mulch: Use organic mulch to conserve moisture loss.
Spacing: Crowns are spaced 1' apart in staggered rows 2' apart.
Planting: Pineapples do very well grown in five gallon containers. Crowns are planted 2" deep, slips and suckers are planted 4" deep.
First Year Care: Water weekly without fail.
Prune: Not until harvest.
Litter: No.
Crowns are twisted off the top of the fruit, bottom leaves and remaining fruit flesh is scooped off, and the crown is planted into moist soil immediately. When buying fruit at the grocery store, choose those with the greenest, most healthy looking tops. Keep the plant in moist soil for three months even though most of the outer leaves have turned brown. As long as the center of the plant is green, it is alive and will grow.
Slips are rudimentary fruits with exaggerated crowns. They arise from the upper base of the leaves just under the fruit, and usually appear when the fruit is half developed. They are removed 2-5 months after the fruit is harvested, then dried for one month, or dipped in fungicide, and planted. If not used for planting, they are removed at harvest to improve ratoon production.
Suckers are cut off at harvest and can be planted, but they often bloom prematurely after planting and the flowers must be removed so the plant will grow to normal size. These are seldom used except in ratoon production (see Stems, above).
Seeds are the least favored method of propagation because they need special care and take a long time to develop into a seedling that can be moved to the field.
Pests: Mealybugs and their attending ants.
Uses: Edible fruit, ornamental.


Some pineapple cultivars which have striped yellow and green leaves and vivid red fruit are grown as ornamentals. Other bromeliads are available in nurseries that are more suited as ornamentals and require less care.

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Pineapple: Ananas comosus

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