Common Names: pineapple, commercial pineapple
Family: Bromeliaceae (bromeliad or pineapple Family)
The pineapple is a bromeliad, like Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) and ball moss (T. recurvata), but pineapple is a terrestrial bromeliad, growing on the ground, rather than an epiphytic bromeliad that grows on a tree. The pineapple plant grows as a rosette of evergreen, stiff, spiny edged dark green leaves about 3 ft (1 m) long. In summer it sends up a 12 in (30 cm) cone shaped cluster of little purple flowers in yellowish bracts. These give rise to the well known pineapple fruit, a delicious, fleshy, juicy, swollen stemlike structure (called a syncarp), usually red or yellowish in color. The pineapple “fruit” is actually composed of 100-200 fused berry like fruits. It is about a foot (30 cm) long and may weigh up to 14 lbs (6.3 kg). The fruit is topped with a rosette of small leaves, that forms a new, smaller pineapple plant. ‘Red Spanish’ is the most common cultivar grown in the West Indies, and ‘Smooth Cayenne’ is grown in Hawaii. ‘Variegatus’ and ‘Porteanus’ are ornamental cultivars with white, pink or yellow striped leaves.
The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is grown in tropical climates throughout the world, but is thought to have been first discovered in Brazil. They were formerly grown commercially in South Florida, but most production for the American market nowadays is in Hawaii.
Pineapple should be grown in full sun if you expect to get fruit. Pineapples tolerate the reduced light of partial shade, and for the foliage effect, that amount of light may actually be better than full sun.
Pineapple likes a moderate humidity but needs regular watering when in growth and flower. Reduce watering and allow the soil to dry out between waterings when not in flower.
The pineapple of commerce is a seedless cultigen and can only be propagated vegetatively. Pineapples, like other bromeliads, produce little offsets that can be removed from the mother plant and planted out. Also, the stem that remains after the fruit is harvested can be stripped of its leaves, and cut into pieces, each of which can be planted. And, the crown of leaves that grows above the fruit can be planted (see below).
In warm climates, pineapple plants make attractive border plantings in full sun. They are grown in rock gardens and as curiosity specimens. Although they usually are grown for the foliage, the fruits, every 2-3 years, make a nice bonus. Pineapples can be grown as containerized houseplants in a bright location.
Next time you buy a whole pineapple at the grocery store, let the kids try this fun method of propagation: Carefully slice off the small rosette of leaves at the top of the pineapple, including about an inch (2.5 cm) of the fruit. Let this “crown” dry for a day or two, then set it on some slightly moist fast draining sandy potting mix. Keep it around 70 F (21 C) in indirect light and it should grow into a new pineapple plant in a few weeks. It may take 2-3 years to get an edible fruit, but the plant is a striking ornamental even without fruit.
There are about a half dozen species in the genus Ananas, all from South America. Red or wild pineapple (A. bracteatus) is similar but the edible portion is not as juicy. A. nanus looks like a miniature pineapple, with a fruit just 4 in (10 cm) long.