Pineapple plants are the perfect way to combine a love of tropical fruits and houseplants. We get to enjoy every element of the process, from the eating, planting, growing.. and then eventually eating again.
Move over palms, there’s a new multi-functional tropical houseplant in town.
The best thing is, you really can grow a plant using a pineapple from the store (though you may want to choose one of the miniature varieties – more on that later).
In this article I’m going to show you exactly how to plant a pineapple and turn it into a healthy houseplant. Let’s get tropical!
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Wait, It’s a Pineapple Plant Not a Pineapple Tree?
Contrary to popular belief, pineapples do not grow on trees.
The pineapple plant (or Ananas comosus as it’s botanically known) is actually a Bromeliad – a family of epiphytic plants that’s known for growing on trees. Think of the Tillandsia Air Plants and colourful Neoregelia, they’re both in the same genus.
Though, thankfully for us houseplant lovers the humble pineapple plant is a terrestrial species and it’ll readily root up and grow in soil. Which makes planting one for yourself an absolute breeze!
As you might imagine, to produce a fruit the size of a pineapple the plants do get pretty big. We’re talking a good few feet tall and wide.
But they do take a long while to get there…
It’s also important to know that the pineapple plant is somewhat of a sacrificial being, in that it’ll only flower once and bear you a single fruit before perishing (how dramatic).
However, the mother plant should produce babies before it’s done.
Types of Pineapples and Their Plants
Though there are only 5 distinct botanical varieties of pineapple, there are dozens of pineapple cultivars on the market.
Thankfully, it’s possible to grow pineapples of any variety, but the resulting plant can vary quite a bit.
Your typical store-bought pineapple tends to be pretty large (who doesn’t want more fruit for your buck?) but that means it’s going to yield a large plant too. Usually several feet wide and tall.
If you want a larger plant, you’re in luck! If not, you have other options.
I’m sure there are smaller cultivars that are commercially available, but if you’re less interested in eating the fruit, you can also opt for a dwarf variety.
These plants create miniature little pineapples that aren’t great for eating, but they do look adorable…
How to Plant a Pineapple Top (Crown)
Starting a pineapple plant is a pretty straightforward process, and it doesn’t require much in the way of tools and supplies.
As long as you have a pot, something to plant in, and… a pineapple – you’re good to go!
Step 1 – Find a Pineapple (Duh)
Whether you’ve opted for a miniature variety, special pink cultivar, or just picked the juiciest one from your local shop – you’ve completed step one.
We chose the one with the obnoxiously large crown, as that’ll come in handy later (though it is a little past its best).
Generally, the fresher the pineapple the better. Some crusty old specimen is unlikely to have much life left in it to root up again.
Step 2 – Separate the Crown
We don’t plant the fruit itself (that’s purely for eating) so it’s time to remove the crown.
You can use a sharp knife if you wish, or if you’re a dab hand you’ll be able to twist off the crown in one easy motion.
Rae managed to do this one no bother!
It’s totally okay if there’s some fruit fibers still attached to the crown, we’ll sort that out later.
Step 3 – Remove Some of the Leaves
Turns out it’s pretty hard to plant a full foliage crown.
Unless you happen to have a pineapple that naturally has a good length of exposed stem at the bottom, you’ll probably need to carefully remove some of the lower leaves to create a “base” that can be easily planed into the substrate.
Plus, you’ll help to expose the nodes from which your new roots shall spring forth.
Just be careful, those leaves are sharp (gloves help here)!
We stripped ours back pretty significantly, and were able to fully expose lots of brown root nodules.
Step 4 – Scrape off Excess Fruit
It’s generally not a good idea to be planting wet, squishy fruit material.
It’s a fast-track to rot city, and nobody wants to go there.
We used a sharp knife to carefully shave off any excess fruity bits until we reached the root nodes. It still felt a little damp to the touch, but not fleshy.
Step 5 – Leave the Crown to Dry
Finally, just to make extra sure you’re not bringing in plant material that’s going to rot right away, it’s a good practice to let the crown dry out for a couple of days.
As you can see, ours dried up nicely overnight then we planted the next day.
You can probably wait a couple of days if you need to, but any longer and the crown starts to deteriorate.
Step 6 – Plant Your Pineapple!
The final step! Plant your new “base” firmly into the substrate till it’s secure enough to hold the weight of the crown.
Ideally you’ll want a tropical substrate mix that can replicate the conditions of it’s natural South American tropics environment. But, they tend to be pretty forgiving if potting mix is all you have!
Personally, I’d recommend something that’s able to hold lots of moisture, but can still provide plenty of drainage e.g. a mix high in coco coir, sphagnum moss and orchid bark.
You can expect it to root up thoroughly in a couple of months (and hopefully bear you some edible fruit in a couple of years!).
Pineapple Plant Care Indoors
These tropical plants like sunshine and they like a lot of it.
Realistically, that’s going to mean giving them as much direct sunlight as you possibly can. A Southern or Western facing windowsill would be ideal (assuming you’re in the Northern hemisphere).
They will still grow under moderate lighting conditions, but for a plant that takes years to grow, you’re probably going to want to give them their best shot.
Pineapple plants like to be thoroughly watered, but like their Bromeliad cousins, they hate to be constantly saturated with it.
Opting for a well-draining substrate (and a pot with a hole) goes a long way to keeping your plants healthy and happy.
For a tropical plant, Ananas comosus doesn’t need huge amounts of humidity to thrive.
It’s going to do just fine in most household conditions (around 50%), but if you live in a particularly dry area then you can always pop it on a pebble tray of water.
Ideally pineapple plants like temperatures of 20°C+ (68°F).
Personally, I like to keep my UK home toasty year-round, so 20°C+ is room temperature for me. If you run cold however, pineapple plants may be a poor companion for you.
Pineapple Plant Propagation
Pineapple plants literally propagate themselves in a variety of ways.
They’re the gift that keeps on giving.
That being said, much like the top planting we’ve done earlier, there are other ways we can force the issue if we want to take control.
Option 1: Harvest the Off-shoots/Suckers/Pups
The baby plants that grow around the base are often called “pups” in the plant world, or they also by the name “ratoons” on pineapples.
You can expect every mature plant to produce at least a few of these.
Once they’re of a decent size (maybe a few inches) the ratoons can be relatively easily twisted off to create new baby plants. These can be planted right away!
Option 2: Let the Attached Babies Keep Growing
If there are new baby plants growing on the mother plant (not around the base), these are going to be able to take advantage of the existing root structure from the mother plant itself.
So, they’re going to develop a lot faster than any other method!
But, the resulting pineapples will generally be smaller if there are multiple ratoons vying for the same nutrients. Which I guess isn’t a problem if you’re not eating them.
Option 3: Harvest the Crown… Again
It’s definitely the slowest of the propagation methods, but if you enjoyed planting a pineapple crown the first time – you can certainly do it again.
If you’d like to mix it up, water propagation can be a fun way to root your pineapple top.
Try to suspend the pineapple crown in a glass so the bottom is only just touching the water. Water propagation often roots even faster than soil (as little as a few weeks). Just make sure to change the water once a week.
If you’re growing a new plant from a pineapple top, the resulting plant will produce a single pineapple. Though, if you eventually harvest that fruit, you may have multiple smaller pineapples emerging from the mother plant.
A pineapple plant looks a lot like the crown of a pineapple, just much larger. With long, sharp leaves coming from a single stem, and another pineapple on top!
Pineapples take about 6 months to sprout from seeds, which makes an already long growing process extra long. If you have plenty of patience, it’s fairly straightforward, but the other propagation methods are going to be more suitable for most people.
Like most tropical plants, yellowing of a pineapple plant is usually a sign of overwatering. Making sure your substrate has plenty of drainage will go a long way to preventing this.
It can take a few years before a fully grown pineapple plant bears fruit that you can eat, but good things come to those who wait!