Pineapple plants (Ananas comosus) have recently been taking the house plant world by storm. It's easy to see why: the idea of growing a tropical pineapple in your home is very appealing. The plants are attractive, too, with a rosette of spiky, exotic-looking leaves and an interesting flower spike.
Pineapple mania first took off in the UK in the 1700s, after the edible fruits had been introduced to Europe from south America by Spanish conquistadors. They were grown in the grounds of large houses and shown off at the dinner tables of the wealthy. They were a real status symbol, as growing a tropical fruit in the cool UK climate involved the skill of a gardener and the expense of heating a special pineapple house or 'stove'.
You'll find two types of pineapple on sale in the UK. The species is a large plant with an edible fruit. The smaller, ornamental types, including dwarf or pygmy pineapples, produce fruits that are edible but extremely bitter – these are best grown for their good looks and novelty value.
It's possible to grow your own pineapple from the crown of a supermarket fruit. Given the right conditions, it may produce edible fruit within three or four years.
The pineapple is a member of the bromeliad family. In the wild, it grows on the ground and is pollinated by hummingbirds. Like all bromeliads, once it has flowered and has produced a fruit, it will start to die back. However, baby plants (often called pups or offsets) should appear at the base of the plant. These can be potted up and grown on as new plants.
Claims have been made that a pineapple plant close to your bed can reduce snoring as, unusually for a house plant, it produces oxygen during the night. There is no scientific proof of this, however, although like many house plants, the pineapple is a good air purifier.
How to grow a pineapple plant
Grow your pineapple in a mix of orchid compost and peat-free multi-purpose compost in a warm, bright spot. Water when the top few centimetres of compost begin to dry out in spring and summer and keep barely moist at other times. The plant will die back once it has flowered and fruited but should produce more baby plants at the base, which can be potted up and grown on as new plants.
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More on growing pineapples:
Growing pineapples: jump links
- Planting a pineapple plant
- Caring for a pineapple plant
- Propagating a pineapple plant
- Pineapple plant pests and problems
- Where to buy a pineapple plant
- Pineapple varieties to grow
Where to grow a pineapple plant
Pineapples do best in a warm room (the warmer the better, but at least 16°C) with plenty of bright light – a conservatory, heated greenhouse or bright windowsill is ideal. Your plant can take some direct sunshine, but too much will scorch the leaves. It's a good idea to rotate your plant from time to time to stop it leaning to one side.
You can move your pineapple plant outside in the summer months – it will thrive in the high light levels. Make sure you move it back indoors as temperatures fall in autumn.
How to plant a pineapple plant
Your plant should be fine in the pot that it came in as it is not a long-lived plant. But if you want to repot it or are growing a new one, use a mix of orchid compost and peat-free multi-purpose compost.
Caring for a pineapple plant
Water whenever the top few centimetres of compost feel dry in spring and summer; allow any excess to drain away. Keep barely moist in winter.
Snip off any dry leaves and give the occasional dust with a fine brush. Rotate occasionally to ensure even growth. Feed every two weeks with a weak liquid fertiliser in spring and summer and once a month in winter.
If you're growing an edible pineapple, wait until the pineapple turns orange-yellow in colour, with a sweet smell, before harvesting.
How to propagate a pineapple plant
Once it has produced a fruit, your pineapple plant will die back. However it will produce baby plants (offsets) at its base. Simply sever them from the mother plant with a clean, sharp knife, making sure you cut any roots away with each one, then pot each offset into a small pot and grow on.
You can also grow a pineapple from the fruit itself – just cut off the spiky top, remove the lower leaves to reveal a stem, and allow this to dry out for a day or so. Then place it in a pot of compost and water in well.
Growing a pineapple plant: problem solving
If your pineapple plant is dying back after it has fruited, this is normal. However look out for new baby plants at the base.
Plant not producing a flower spike or fruit? Be patient – a pineapple plant flowers when it's around two years old and will produce a fruit around six months after that.
Yellow leaves and blackening at the base are due to overwatering. This can kill plants, but it's worth trying to save it. Take the plant out of its container, removing any affected roots, and pot it up in fresh compost. Don't over water from then on – the soil needs to be moist but not soggy.
You may notice fungus gnats (sciarid flies) around the base of the plant. They're attracted to moist soil, so let the compost dry out between watering.
Advice on buying a pineapple plant
- Pineapple plants are popular and mainly exported from south America. Availability can vary
- Look out for plants in the house plant section of your local supermarket or garden centre, or buy from a specialist retailer online
- Your plant will probably be sold with a small fruit already forming. If it hasn't yet formed a fruit, be patient – it will form a flower that will in turn become a fruit
- Remember that your plant will die back once the fruit drops off. However it should produce new baby plants at the base which can be potted up and grown on as new plants
Where to buy a pineapple plant online
Varieties of pineapple to grow
- Ananas comosus var. variegatus – dark green leaves up to 1m long, with a broad cream stripe and spiny edges. In summer it produces cone-like clusters of purple flowers, with reddish-yellow bracts, followed by an attractive but bitter red fruit. Height x Spread: 60cm x 90cm
- Ananas comosus 'Champaca' – an evergreen perennial forming rosettes of deep green, spiny, lance-shaped leaves. Dense spikes of tubular purple flowers with reddish bracts in summer are followed by small, ornamental fruit. H x S: 50cm x 50cm
- Ananas comosus 'Corona' – a pygmy or dwarf pineapple that hails from Brazil. It has silver foliage and miniature, inedible fruits. H x S: 40cm x 40cm
- Ananas comos 'Amigo' – another pygmy or dwarf pineapple with fresh green foliage and small, inedible fruits. H x S: 40cm x 40cm
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