How to Grow Pineapple Plants from Pineapple Tops
Though the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus) is native to Brazil, it also grows well in the warm, coastal climates of Florida, California and Hawaii -- or U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. But because pineapple plants are low-maintenance and grow inside as successfully as they do outside, they are an ideal fruit plant for even a novice gardener living in any location. Get a head start by growing a new pineapple plant from the top, or crown, of a mature pineapple fruit instead of from seeds.
Pick a Pineapple
When choosing a pineapple to start the new plant, an organic fruit with bright, strong and vibrant leaves is best. Avoid pineapples with brown, spotted, wilted or dead leaves. Pick a plump pineapple that is evenly ripe -- more gold than green, with firm, fresh-looking skin -- keeping in mind that the size of the fruit does not necessarily dictate ripeness. The experts at Dole also suggest that even if the leaves can be removed easily by hand, the fruit may not be ripe .
Unripe pineapple fruits are poisonous and may cause throat irritation or an upset stomach if ingested. Avoid contact with sap from the leaves of unripe pineapples because it may irritate skin or cause severe mouth pain.
Cut the Crown
Slice off the top of the pineapple as close to the leaves as possible -- about half an inch below them -- and cut away any fleshy fruit that remains until the root buds (small, brown-colored bumps around the stem) are visible. Trim away a few of the smaller, lower leaves to expose at least an inch of the stem for planting. Place the freshly cut crown in a dark, dry place for one week until the end hardens.
Remove the crown from the pineapple by twisting it off instead of slicing it. Hold the bottom of the pineapple firmly in one hand and use the other to quickly twist off the top.
Pot the Top
A pineapple top grows best in a clay pot with holes in the bottom for good drainage. Add coarse gravel or lava rock to the bottom of an 8-inch pot before topping with light, fast-draining garden soil mixed with 30 percent well-composted organic matter. The crown will also grow well in cactus potting mix or a mixture of peat, sand and perlite. Bury the pineapple top in the soil up to the base of its leaves, usually about an inch deep, packing the soil firmly around the stem. Use a spray bottle to water the potted pineapple top lightly.
Commitment to Care
A pineapple plant is a relatively low-maintenance plant, but because it can take two years or more before it bears any new fruit it's a long-term project.
A newly potted pineapple crown begins to root in one to three months and should be repotted into a 10- to 12-inch pot once new leaves begin to grow in the center. Test the root strength before repotting by gently tugging on the leaves to see if roots are holding the soil. After one year, the plant can be potted one last time in a five-gallon planter or pot.
Watering and Fertilizing
Pineapple plants thrive when watered lightly about once a week. Check the soil every few days and water when it's dry. Avoid applying fertilizer when first potting the crown, but add any commercially available, water-soluble, time-release houseplant fertilizer around the base of the plant every three months afterward. Wash in solid plant food with an ample amount of water, per the manufacturer's directions, or pour liquid fertilizer on the base of the leaves and into the soil. Avoid pouring any liquid fertilizer on the center of the plant because it may harm the young leaves.
The Healthy Home Economist suggests fertilizing leaves with a diluted, liquid fish or seaweed emulsion. A pre-diluted fish or seaweed emulsion sprayed lightly on the leaves is the most user-friendly and least wasteful option. Concentrated fertilizers recommend a dilution ratio of 1/8 cup fertilizer to 1 gallon of water and must be used immediately because nutrients will evaporate if the diluted solution is kept too long.
Set the pineapple plant indoors in a sunny spot where it will receive six hours of bright sunshine. Move the pot outdoors during the summer but place it in a semi-shaded spot for a few days to avoid sun shock. Move it back indoors before the first frost in the fall.
A mother of three and graduate of the University of Texas, Mary Evett is the online pregnancy expert who contributes to AXS.com and CBS Local. Her passion for DIY projects is showcased monthly on the craft blog, My Crafty Spot. She is the author of the blog, Just Mom Matters.