Pineapples were first planted on Oahu in the 1880s and since then have become synonymous with Hawaii. Large plantations on the islands of Lanai, Maui, and Oahu produced over 80 percent of the world’s pineapples in the 1950s, mostly for canning and juice. Today, Hawaii produces about two percent of the global total, but backyard gardeners continue to preserve favorite strains. There are four major varieties of pineapple grown in Hawaii, each with several different strains.
Almost all commercially produced pineapples in Hawaii are "Cayenne” varieties. Cayennes are the most suitable for agriculture because their leaf margins do not have spines, thus they are called smooth varieties. The cultivar “Smooth Cayenne” bears large, juicy seedless fruit with yellow flesh. The fresh fruit of this variety is thin skinned and does not transport well, but is commonly canned or made into juice. Cayenne pineapples need full sun, rich, well-drained soil and moderate moisture. Like all pineapples, they benefit from regular fertilization and applications of iron sulfate to compensate for low levels of magnesium in Hawaii’s soils.
“Hawaiian King” is another smooth-leaved cultivar with large, slightly thicker skinned fruit that is also widely grown commercially.
“Hilo” is a smooth Cayenne strain with medium-sized, deep yellow-fleshed fruit. This variety is a small, compact, deep-rooted plant with some degree of resistance to root knot nematodes.
These choice plants are spiny and less often found in cultivation. In Hawaii, they are often grown by backyard gardeners because they produce exceptional fruit. These pineapples grow best in partial shade, as the fruit can be burned by direct sun.
“Pernambuco” produces large, juicy fruit with light fragrant yellow to white flesh. Long roots give this cultivar good resistance to root knot nematodes.
“Suagarloaf” is a smaller relative of “Pernambuco” and has extraordinarily sweet, juicy white flesh. The fruit is very tender and will not transport or store well.
Queen varieties bear small, crisp fruits which contain little juice but can be transported easily. They require full sun, rich, well-drained soil and regular feedings of balanced fertilizer. Because of their compact size, these cultivars are ideal for small backyard gardens.
The "Queen” cultivar, also called “Common rough,” is the commercial pineapple of choice in South Africa, Australia and the Philippines. It is most often sold fresh because it transports well and its conical shape is not ideal for canning.
“Natal Queen” is a compact dwarf cultivar with small, non-fibrous fruits with deep yellow flesh.
The Spanish varieties are very spiny plants which produce large fruits that transport well. Spanish cultivars require less irrigation than other pineapples and are generally disease resistant. These varieties make up the bulk of commercial production in Puerto Rico and Venezuela and are often grown in home gardens in Hawaii.
“Red Spanish” bears medium-sized, fibrous, tart-tasting fruit with light yellow flesh and thick, reddish skin. This variety tolerates shipping well and has good resistance to disease and pests. These large, spiny plants require ample space, full sun and consistent moisture.
“Cabezona” is another Spanish type, with large, yellow-orange, thin-skinned fruit. This variety is usually grown for fresh consumption and is occasionally found in Hawaiian gardens.