Fruit Facts from
California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
© Copyright 1996, California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
Pineapple, Ananas, Nanas, Pina.
Species: Pina de Playon (Ananas bracteatus).
affinity: Pingwing (Aechmea
magdalenae), Pinguin (Bromelia
pinguin), Pinuela (Karatas
The pineapple is native to southern Brazil and Paraguay where wild
relatives occur. It was spread by the Indians up through South and
Central America to the West Indies before Columbus arrived. In 1493
Columbus found the fruit on the island of Guadaloupe and carried it
back to Spain and it was spread around the world on sailing ships that
carried it for protection against scurvy. The Spanish introduced it
into the Philippines and may have taken it to Hawaii and Guam early in
the 16th Century. The pineapple reached England in 1660 and began to be
grown in greenhouses for its fruit around 1720.
The pineapples is a tropical or near-tropical plant, but will usually
tolerate brief exposures to 28° F. Prolonged cold above
freezing retards growth, delays maturity and causes the fruit to be
more acid. Pineapples are drought-tolerant and will produce fruit under
yearly precipitation rates ranging from 25 - 150 in., depending on
cultivar and location and degree of atmospheric humidity. They are
successfully grown in southern Florida and coastal areas of southern
California. The small plant adapts well to container and greenhouse
culture and makes an interesting potted plant.
The pineapple plant is a herbaceous perennial, 2-1/2 to 5 ft. high with
a spread of 3 to 4 ft. It is essentially a short, stout stem with a
rosette of waxy, straplike leaves.
The long-pointed leaves are 20 - 72 in. in length, usually needle
tipped and generally bearing sharp, upcurved spines on the margins.
They may be all green or variously striped with red, yellow or ivory
down the middle or near the margins. As the stem continues to grow, it
acquires at its apex a compact tuft of stiff, short leaves called the
crown or top. Occasionally a plant may bear 2 or more heads instead of
the normal one.
At blooming time, the stem elongates and enlarges near the apex and
puts forth an inflorescence of small purple or red flowers. The flowers
are pollinated by humming-birds, and these flowers usually develop
small, hard seeds. Seeds are generally not found in commercially grown
The oval to cylindrical-shaped, compound fruit develops from many small
fruits fused together. It is both juicy and fleshy with the stem
serving as the fibrous core. The tough, waxy rind may be dark green,
yellow, orange-yellow or reddish when the fruit is ripe. The flesh
ranges from nearly white to yellow. In size the fruits are up to 12 in.
long and weigh 1 to 10 pounds or more.
Pineapples should be planted where the temperature remains warmest,
such as the south side of a home, or in a sunny portion of the garden.
The best soil for the pineapple is a friable, well-drained sandy loam
with a high organic content. The pH should be within a range of 4.5 to
6.5. Soils that are not sufficiently acid can be treated with sulfur to
achieve the desired level. The plant cannot stand waterlogging and if
there is an impervious subsoil, drainage needs to be improved.
The plant is surprisingly drought tolerant, but adequate soil moisture
is necessary for good fruit production.
Nitrogen is essential to increase fruit size and total yield, which
should be added every four months. Spraying with a urea solution is
another way to supply nitrogen. Fruit weight has also been increased by
the addition of magnesium. Of the minor elements, iron is the most
important, particularly in high pH soils. Iron may be supplied by
foliar sprays of ferrous sulfate.
Protection: Pineapple plants require a frost-free
environment. They are small enough to be easily covered when frost
threatens, but cold weather adversely affects the fruit quality.
Pineapples are propagated by new vegetative growth. There are four
general types: slips that arise from the stalk below the fruit, suckers
that originate at the axils or leaves, crowns that grow from the top of
the fruits, and ratoons that come out from the under-ground portions of
Although slips and suckers are preferred, crowns are the main planting
material of home gardeners. These are obtained from store-bought fruit
and are removed from the fruit by twisting the crown until it comes
free. Although the crown may be quartered to produce four slips, in
California's marginal conditions it is best not to cut or divide the
crown. The bottom leaves are removed and the crown is left to dry for
two days, then planted or started in water.
Pineapples are planted outside during the summer months. A ground cover
of black plastic works very well for pineapples, both as protection
from weeds and for the extra heat it seems to absorb. It also helps to
conserve moisture. Traditionally, plants are spaced 12 inches apart.
Set crowns about 2 inches deep; suckers and slips 3 to 4 inches deep.
Pests and diseases: Mealybugs spread by ants can be a problem.
Controlling the ants will control the mealybugs. In most commercial
growing areas, nematodes, mites and beetles can also be damaging, but
these have not been a problem in California.
It is difficult to tell when the pineapple is ready to be harvested.
Some people judge ripeness and quality by snapping a finger against the
side of the fruit. A good, ripe fruit has a dull, solid sound.
Immaturity and poor quality are indicated by a hollow thud. The fruit
should be stored at 45° F or above, but should be stored for no
longer than 4 - 6 weeks.
Fruiting can be forced when the plant is mature by using acetylene gas
or a spray of calcium carbide solution (30 gms to 1 gal. water), which
produces acetylene. Or calcium carbide (10 -12 grains) can be deposited
in the crown of the plant to be dissolved by rain. A safer and more
practical method for home growers is a foliar spray of
a-naphthaleneacetic acid (1 gm in 10 gal water) or B-hydroxyethyl
hydrazine. The latter is more effective. The plants usually produce for
about four years, but they may last longer in California since the life
cycle is slowed down by cooler weather.
A compact 2-3 lb. Hawaiian variant of the Smooth Cayenne. The fruit is
more cylindrical and produces many suckers but no slips.
5-6 lbs, white flesh with no woodiness in the center. Cylindrical in
shape, it has a high sugar content but no acid. An incredibly delicious
2-3 lbs, golden yellow flesh, crisp texture and delicate mild flavor.
Well adapted to fresh consumption. Keeps well after ripening. Leaves
2-4 lbs with pale yellow to white flesh. Sweet, melting and excellent
for eating fresh. Poorly adapted for shipping. Leaves spiny.
2-4 lbs, pale yellow flesh with pleasant aroma; squarish in shape. Well
adapted for shipping as fresh fruit to distant markets. Leaves spiny.
5-6 lbs, pale yellow to yellow flesh. Cylindrical in shape and with
high sugar and acid content. Well adapted to canning and processing.
Leaves without spines. This is the variety from Hawaii, and the most
easily obtainable in U. S. grocery stores.
Morton, Julia F. Fruits of Warm Climates. Creative Resources Systems,
Inc. 1987. pp. 18-28.
Maxwell, Lewis S. and Betty M. Maxwell. Florida Fruit. Lewis S.
Maxwell, Publisher. 1984. pp. 12-14.
Samson, J. A. Tropical Fruits. 2nd ed. Longman Scientific and
Technical. 1986. pp. 190-215.