Were you unable to resist one of those pineapple plants (Ananas comosus) with a mini fruit at the local plant store? Or have you managed to successfully grow a pineapple from a top? Good news: caring for a pineapple plant is pretty easy and you can grow a pineapple indoors!
Keep reading for everything you need to know about caring for a pineapple plant, fruiting, propagation and more.
|Name(s) (common, scientific)
|Pineapple plant, Ananas comosus
|Keep lightly moist
Pineapple plant natural habitat
Ananas comosus, or pineapple plants, are a type of Bromeliad naturally found in tropical regions in South America. The plant has been cultivated for so long, though, that it’s actually no longer entirely clear where it’s from!
According to Hassan, Othman & Siripanich (2011), the natural range of this species probably stretches from central-south Brazil down to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Here, they are naturally pollinated by hummingbirds and bats.
Did you know? By the time Columbus arrived, native South Americans had long domesticated pineapple plants for their fruits. Their cultivation likely dates back thousands of years, so we should be able to grow one as a houseplant!
Types of pineapple plants
The amount of different Ananas comosus cultivars out there is huge, with plenty of variety in fruit shape, taste, size and color. The plant’s foliage can also differ. The majority of pineapples is of the ‘Smooth Cayenne’ cultivar, but there’s also ‘Red Spanish’, ‘Kona Sugarloaf’, the miniature ‘Queen Victoria’ and many more. If you grow a pineapple at home from a top, there’s a good chance it’s one of these.
In terms of houseplants, you’ll usually find ornamental dwarf varieties in your local plant store. They often have a tiny fruit attached to make them extra attractive to buyers. Don’t try to harvest and eat these mini pineapples, though: they taste pretty rank! That being said, they’re perfect for propagation, as we’ll discuss later.
Popular ornamental pineapple varieties that are not for eating include Ananas comosus ‘Champaca’, ‘Bracteatus’, ‘Erectifolius’ and more. There’s even a variegated pineapple!
Did you know? Some ornamental pineapple varieties are even used in the flower trade. Their tiny fruits on long stems look great as cut flowers in a bouquet.Costa, Souza, Costa, Pereira & Souza, 2016
A note on ornamental pineapple plant care
If you’re a houseplant enthusiast, you’ll have noticed that small ornamental pineapples have popped up everywhere over the course of the past few years. Unsurprising, they’re really fun to see with their tiny fruit!
I want to stress one important thing about these dwarf cultivars meant for indoor growing: they will die. Possibly soon. As mentioned earlier, pineapples are Bromeliads, which means they have a limited life cycle and die off after flowering. A pineapple can produce 2-3 fruits and then that’s it for this plant.
So should you avoid these pretty ornamental varieties? Nope, no need. Bromeliads produce offsets when their end is near, and you can also use the crown of the fruit to grow a new plant. A bit of work, and you’ll lose the fruit soon, but it’ll allow you to keep growing pineapple plants forever. Scroll down to the section on propagation for more.
Caring for a pineapple plant: Light & temperature
If you’ve ever seen a pineapple field, you’ll notice one thing: there’s nothing to protect these Bromeliads from the harsh tropical sun. That’s because they love it! Your pineapple plant will love the sunniest spot you can offer in your home, feeling at ease with your high-light succulents and cacti.
You can grow your pineapple plant outdoors during the summer months or year-round if your climate allows it (see the section below). With proper acclimation, you don’t need to protect your plant from the sun. They can take anything you can throw at it even in harsher climates.
You’d probably guessed it by now: a native tropical like this one really doesn’t like the cold. Pineapples cultivated for their fruits are carefully kept above 16 °C (61 °F). Anything below this can start to affect the quality of the fruit. The optimum temperature range is actually around 23-24 °C (73-75 °F).
Of course, when caring for a pineapple plant indoors, we don’t grow our plant for the fruit. Still, your pineapple plant won’t show much growth if it gets below 16 °C (61 °F), so it’s a good idea to keep it nice and toasty. Room temperature is great!
Ananas comosus doesn’t tolerate freezing temps, so take yours back indoors well before the first frost to keep it happy.
Caring for a pineapple plant: Soil & planting
Pineapple growers keep their plants in soil with a pH between 4.5-5.5, which is on the acidic side. Although I personally don’t pay much attention to the pH of my pineapple plant’s soil and it grows fine, you could try a lightly acidic mixture for optimum growth! This especially applies if you’d like your pineapple to fruit.
A well-draining soil mixture is important for a happy pineapple plant. They hate excess water and soggy soil! You can mix potting soil with a good few handfuls of perlite or bark (maybe around 30%) or go for a pre-made, potting soil-based cactus mix.
When planting a pineapple plant, you should again keep drainage in mind. Always go for a container with a drainage hole to allow excess water to escape! A plastic nursery planter or simple terracotta pot is fine.
Ornamental dwarf pineapple varieties may not have to be repotted. As mentioned earlier, they usually already carry fruit, which means they likely won’t live too much longer.
Regular cultivars are a bit more demanding: they grow incredibly quickly with the right lighting. It can be handy to purposely stunt your plant a bit by putting off repotting, but if you’d like it to grow to its full indoor potential (they can get to over 1m/3.3 ft in width), you’ll have to provide a larger pot at least yearly and maybe even more often.
Did you know? If you’re growing a non-ornamental pineapple for its fruit, it’s a good idea to go for a large planter. A small container will stunt the size of the plant and its fruit, so a few gallons at least is handy.
Caring for a pineapple plant: Watering
Although pineapple plants are similar to cacti and succulents in terms of their light and soil needs, they differ a bit when it comes to watering. Although they hate being in standing water and can rot, they do like a bit of moisture.
It’s impossible to tell you exactly with what frequency to water a plant, as this depends entirely on factors like light, soil and humidity. You’ll have to figure it out yourself by monitoring the soil. A pineapple plant likes to be kept lightly moist during the summer growing months and dry about halfway or even entirely in winter.
As for air humidity, they do appreciate at least 50%. If your home is significantly drier than that, you might want to consider running a humidifier.
Caring for a pineapple plant: Fertilizer
If your pineapple plant is growing well, it’ll appreciate a bit of fertilizer. They’re so prolific they tend to use up the nutrients in their soil pretty quickly, after all. A diluted regular Bromeliad fertilizer should work well. Apply it while watering every other week or so.
Stop fertilizing at the end of the growing season when winter rolls around. Your plant likely won’t be actively growing and the excess nutrients can actually damage the roots.
Propagating a pineapple plant
As discussed earlier, pineapple plants die off at some point after flowering. There’s no telling when yours will go, just that it will: some produce just a single fruit, others up to three.
In any case, propagation is an important part of the pineapple plant life cycle and something you should do if you’d like to keep enjoying this species in your home. Fear not: it’s very easy and you’re actually likely to end up with a growing army of plants.
Propagation is also a great option if you’re looking to obtain your first pineapple plant. Ananas comosus can be grown from the crown of a fruit, making your houseplant absolutely free if you were going to eat a pineapple anyway!
Growing a pineapple from the top
Let’s begin at the start of the life cycle. All you need to obtain your very own pineapple plant without having to pay extra for it is a pineapple. Any type works, as long as the crown looks alive and healthy. I’ve grown pineapple plants from both mini pineapples (likely ‘Queen Victoria’ cultivar) and normal ones (likely ‘Smooth Cayenne’).
It’s really easy! Houseplant Central actually has a full guide, so if you’d like to know more, head over to the article on growing a pineapple from the top.
Did you know? You can also grow a pineapple plant from seed, although it’s a lot more work than just planting a top. It’s also not suitable for those looking for a fruit-producing plant: you never know what’s going to come out. The fruit might not be very nice. If you want a plant to stay true to its parent cultivar, you gotta propagate!
Propagating a pineapple plant from offsets
Okay, so let’s say you followed the instructions for growing a pineapple from the top. A few years have passed. With some luck, your pineapple will actually have fruited. Or alternatively, you bought an ornamental pineapple plant that already had a fruit. Now death looms for your beloved Bromeliad houseplant.
Luckily, your pineapple plant should solve this problem for you all by itself. Quite conveniently, it’ll start producing offsets (or ‘pups’/’suckers’) at its base. These are tiny copies of the mother plant, ready to separate and plant. They might even already have their own root system.
To propagate a pineapple plant, you just sever an offset’s connection to the mother plant using a sharp knife. Leave the offset to dry for a day or so and then pot it up in the same soil mixture that you used for your original plant. Give it a drink and voilà! You’ll know your propagation attempt has been successful once you see new leaf growth.
Did you know? Sometimes pineapple plants don’t produce their offsets at the ground level from their base, but higher up. A bit of a strange move, but the same principle applies.
Can a pineapple plant fruit indoors?
Yes, it can. Assuming your pineapple plant is a normal cultivar and not an ornamental one, it is actually possible to have it produce edible fruits.
They might be significantly smaller than the parent pineapple, but I’ve actually heard from growers whose indoor pineapple plant produced seriously tasty fruit! This is because commercial pineapples are harvested too early to ripen properly, while yours can ripen to deliciousness on the plant.
So how do you make a pineapple plant fruit?
- First of all, be patient. A pineapple plant needs to be around two years of age to flower.
- Keep in mind that light is your friend. Your plant will have to be happy and healthy, so place it in the lightest spot you can offer! Outdoors during the summer months is great. Some extra artificial lighting during winter will also be appreciated.
- A flower cluster might pop up by itself at some point around the two year mark. These clusters are reddish-pink and will actually convert into a fruit. Don’t pollinate the flowers, as this will promote seed production.
- If your pineapple plant still hasn’t flowered around the three year mark, some sources say you can bag the plant and place an apple in the bag. The apple produces ethylene, which encourages fruiting. Placing the plant on its side is also said to help.
- It can take months for a flower to end up as a full-sized pineapple, so be patient.
Buying a pineapple plant
As mentioned throughout this article, you don’t actually have to buy a pineapple plant if you’d like to own one. You just have to buy a pineapple!
Pineapple plants propagated from a fruit do become quite large, so you could consider going for an ornamental dwarf variety instead if you’re short on space.
Is a pineapple plant toxic to cats & dogs?
Pineapple plants contain bromelain, a compound that can be irritating. That being said, I wouldn’t label this plant as toxic. Your furry friend can chew on the leaves with no issue!
I would keep pineapple plants away from very young kids as the leaves are pretty spiky on some cultivars and can deliver a bit of a prick.
Costa, D. S., Souza, E. H. D., Costa, M. A. P. D. C., Pereira, M. E. C., & Souza, F. V. D. (2016). Clonal evaluation of new ornamental pineapple hybrids to use as cut flowers. Acta Scientiarum. Agronomy, 38, 475-483.