(Photographs of a real pineapple our grandparents grew!)
Spring is here- but it seems like it’s almost been summer here in Wisconsin for the last few days. It’s supposed to cool down a bit, but it’s been warm enough to make me want to start gardening. I planted some radishes and peas to hopefully get a few early vegetables. They’re relatively cold-hardy and our garden is decently sheltered from a hard freeze, so I thought I’d take a chance.
If you are looking for a unique (and cheap!) plant project for this year- try growing a pineapple. Depending on your location, you may have to start this inside for now, but eventually you can put it outside to bask in the sunshine. I’ve had one growing for a while, and consistently take it inside over the winter, and it has persisted in our basement, with sufficient light, of course.
Pineapple plants don’t need a lot of water, and they’re fairly easy to take care of. All you need to start one is a pineapple top from a grocery store pineapple (yes, it’s that easy!). It just gets discarded otherwise, anyway. I’ve read a few different directions for starting a pineapple top, and can say that the easiest way is to simply twist the top from the pineapple. You can trim off a little bit of the fibrous pineapple core at the bottom if it is stuck to the top, but do not actually cut into the pineapple top “stem”. All you need to do is peel off a few of the bottom leaves until you see some brown rootlike buds close to the stem. These will eventually be your pineapple’s roots. Some directions will recommend specific types of soil, but I’ve had decent luck with basic potting soil.
Just push the top into the soil slightly, so the root buds can grow into the soil. Then just water and let it grow! Pineapple plants love sun. The pictures above show just how large a plant can get- this one was kept inside in a sunny spot. (It was nicknamed “Killer” due to its pointy leaves!) Once the plant is large enough, (this may take years) you can force the plant to grow your very own pineapple! It may flower of its own volition, but there are no guarantees. The easiest way to have it flower is to place two apples in the pot with the pineapple plant and seal the whole plant in a garbage bag for a week or so. The gas the apples give off as they ripen can make the plant flower. The flower stalk will then become your eventual pineapple. The fruit will be smaller than the one you originally purchased from the grocery store.
The growth of the flower stalk and pineapple may take a while longer, but you’ll never have a fresher pineapple. Make sure to give it enough time to ripen. It’s a fun project and easy to do, since pineapple tops are typically discarded anyway.
One potential problem is that the center of the stem may rot. If this happens, the center of the leaves (where new growth originates from) may turn brown. It is possible you may need to start over, but once when this happened, the plant started some new growth off to the side of the original plant.
Here are some pineapple-growing resources that I found useful.
When I lived in Florida, so many people planted pineapples with their children. It was an easy and fun project.
I agree- it would be a good planting project to do with kids.