Jennifer Schultz Nelson
Extension Educator, Horticulture
Grow a Pineapple!
I've always been one to experiment with plants, trying to see what I can grow, the more exotic the better. I had tried growing pineapple as a child, but the plant always ended up a soggy rotten mess. I didn't realize that while it is true you can grow a pineapple plant from the green leafy top of a pineapple fruit, any fruit left on the top of the plant will promote rots, likely killing the plant.
It wasn't until graduate school at the U of I that I learned how to successfully propagate pineapple from Dr. Bob Skirvin. There are two basic ways to propagate pineapple, starting with the green top that has been either cut off with a sharp knife or twisted from the top of the fruit.
The lower leaves should be removed. The top should be allowed to dry for a few days up to a week to lessen the chance that decay will set in. New roots will form if the top is placed in either a glass of water or planted directly into a well-draining potting soil.
When I started my plant, I read that a mature plant can be three to four feet in diameter. I didn't believe what I read, until my plant began to grow vigorously that summer outdoors on my balcony. When I brought it indoors in the fall, it was way too big for my apartment. It now lives at my friend's house, and yes, it is about three feet in diameter, the leaf margins bearing harsh spines.
After about three years of vegetative growth, my plant is ready to flower. I can induce flowering by placing the plant in a plastic bag with an apple or two. The apples produce ethylene, a chemical emitted by ripening fruit which can trigger plants to flower. With luck, the plant will produce a stalk with clustered flowers, which will produce a new pineapple. Hopefully I'll have good news to report after I try this method this summer.