Horticulture, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M
by Julian W. Sauls, Ph.D. Professor and Extension Horticulturist
Publication from Aggie Horticulture®
Home Fruit Production - Pineapple
Pineapple is probably native to Brazil but was present throughout
the American tropics when Columbus encountered the fruit on the island
of Guadeloupe in 1493 on his second voyage. Called "anana" by the
natives who grew it, "Pina de Indes" by Spanish explorers and King Pine
by European elite who could afford it, the pineapple is today one of
the best-known of all tropical fruits.
At the turn of the last
century, Florida was the leading producer of pineapples until the
industry was decimated by a presumed disease, which later was found to
be mealybugs, at which time Hawaii became the leading producer.
many fruit plants, pineapple is very well adapted to container
culture--and the fresh pineapples in the local supermarket have
everything you need to get started.
Climate and Soils
grows best under uniformly warm temperatures year-round. While plants
might survive 28 degrees, significant leaf damage would severely weaken
the plant. Because of the likelihood of winter cold, pineapple would
not be recommended for outdoor planting in Texas except in the Lower
Rio Grande Valley.
Soil and Site Selection
plants absolutely require soils with good internal drainage. Because
they grow and fruit best in soils which are mildly acidic, pineapples
can be problematic in the moderately alkaline soils in the Valley.
the small size of the plant, its sensitively to frost and its
preference for well-drained, acidic soils, pineapples can be grown in
4- or 5-gallon planters or containers anywhere in Texas--moving the
plants indoors next to a sunny window during the colder winter months.
Any good potting medium should be adequate for pineapple culture, as should any container having drainage holes at the bottom.
is a major processing variety that is also found fresh in Texas
supermarkets. Its lack of spines on the leaves is advantageous for a
container plant that must be moved indoors during cold weather. Fruit
of Smooth Cayenne will weigh 5 to 6 pounds under good culture.
is a major fresh market pineapple that is a little hardier than the
others. Its fruit will weigh 2 to 4 pounds and its leaves are spiny.
are varieties of pineapple with much better eating quality than Smooth
Cayenne or Red Spanish. However, those with better eating quality do
not ship very well, so they are not likely to be encountered in local
markets. Among the better pineapples, however, are Natal Queen,
weighing 2 to 3 pounds; Pernambuco (Eleuthera), weighing 2 to 4 pounds
and Abakka, weighing 3 to 6 pounds. All three of these have spiny
leaves. Having eaten all of these varieties at the peak of their
maturity, the sweet, melting flesh of Pernambuco is a personal
favorite. Sugarloaf is a name that is used for various varieties in
are four kinds of propagation material on pineapple plants: ratoon
suckers arise below ground, suckers originate in the leaf axils, slips
grow from the fruit itself or along the stalk below the fruit and
crowns are the leafy tops of the fruit. All four types work, although
slips and suckers are preferred in commerce. Fortunately, each
pineapple fruit in the supermarket comes with a crown which can be used
to start the plant which will develop slips and suckers for subsequent
Propagules should be cut from the mother plant and set aside
for a week or two to cure. In the case of crowns, any adhering flesh
should be cut away.
Planting and Care
initial planting, one-gallon pots are more than adequate, with transfer
to a larger container as the need arises. After curing, the lowest
leaves should be pulled off so that the base of the propagule can be
planted deeply enough that it won't topple over. Water thoroughly at
planting and then lightly a couple of times a week. For best results,
the plant should be in full sun and best establishment will occur
during the warmer months of the year.
Once the propagule begins to
put out new leaves, a complete, soluble fertilizer should be applied
monthly, according to directions which come with the fertilizer.
General houseplant fertilizer is sufficient. Because the propagule will
require several months to develop its root system, the water and the
soluble fertilizer should be poured or sprayed over the plant so that
some of it will collect in the leaf axils. After about six months,
however, the fertilizer solution should be poured into the soil and not
over the plant as the latter can result in damage to the developing bud.
time from planting to fruiting is dependent upon temperature, source
and size of propagation material. For example, plantings in early
spring will fruit in less time than those planted in early fall.
Moreover, suckers require less time than slips which require less time
than crowns. While part of this difference is because of differences in
the propagation material, a major difference is in the size of the
propagule, as larger propagation material generally becomes established
more readily, which reduces the time to fruiting.
times for fruiting in containers in Texas cannot be given, you can get
an idea from the time required under conditions in Hawaii. After early
spring planting, a sucker will take about 16 months, a slip about 24
months and a crown may take 28 months to flower. After flowering, the
developing fruit will require another 6 months, more or less, to
mature. Thus, you should expect to wait 21 to 34 months from planting
to enjoy your own home-grown pineapple.
Flowering will last
about two weeks, as the basal flowers on the small conelike fruit open
first. At flowering, a support stake and loose ties should be installed
to prevent the young fruit from being knocked over accidentally
quality is best when the fruit is allowed to develop its yellowish
orange rind color on the plant, as there is no improvement in quality
after the pineapple is harvested. Obviously, those in the supermarket
had to be harvested before they had achieved the best eating quality,
just like tomatoes, peaches and some other produce.
can be "forced" to flower in order to produce fruit sooner than it
would under natural conditions. If the plant is large and vigorous, the
fruit produced will be about as large as if it had flowered normally;
otherwise, fruit size and quality will be reduced by forcing.
you can find calcium carbide, perhaps in a hobby store, drop three or
four small pellets into a cup of ice water. When the solution stops
fizzing, pour it into the center of the rosette whorl of leaves.
acid (about 7 mg per cup of water) poured into the rosette will also
induce flowering. B-hydroxyethyl hydrazine (BOH) (5 ml per gallon) also
works, as do other products that generate either acetylene or ethylene
gas. The forcing treatment should be reapplied one week later.
pieces of apple fruit generate ethylene gas and can be used to hasten
ripening of bananas, it may be possible to induce flowering of
pineapple by placing pieces of an apple on the rosette and adjacent
leaf axils. I do not know if this will work, so I would be interested
to know of your experience if you try this method of forcing.
the pineapple mother plant is large and healthy, and if you leave one
or two suckers on it while the fruit is developing, additional fruit
will form and be ready for harvest about a year after the initial
fruit. With good care, most will continue to produce additional fruit
every year for several years. If the ratoon fruit is significantly
smaller than the original fruit, it is probably best to start over with
new suckers taken from the mother plant.
you don't have the patience to wait two to three years for a pineapple,
but would like to grow a miniature pineapple fruit as a novelty, it can
be done in about six to eight months. Using one-gallon containers and
crowns (or other propagules), grow as previously described until good
rooting has occurred, usually in about two or three months. Then force
flowering as previously described. In four months, more or less, from
forcing, you should have a miniature pineapple plant complete with a
miniature pineapple. This fruit is edible, but only barely so, as it is
of very poor quality and contains very little flesh relative to the
core and rind.
pineapples in containers subjects them to about the same problems that
afflict other container-grown plants. For example, too little light
results in poor growth, poor color, legginess and a failure to flower
without repeated forcing. Overwatering is also typical, causing root
damage that results in poor growth, yellowing and dying of leaves, and
poor to no fruiting. Typical houseplant insect pests may be
encountered, the most serious being mealybug.
Anyone experienced in growing houseplants should not encounter serious problems in growing pineapples in containers.
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