How Do Pineapples Grow, Exactly? Tips to Germinate the Tropical Fruit

Pineapples are a versatile fruit that can be used as an ingredient in salads, desserts and even as a controversial pizza topping.

Sadly for those longing for a taste of the tropical, this fruit is notoriously difficult to grow. Gardeners who want to attempt the Herculean task may require some expert knowledge before diving in.

There many different types of pineapples out there, with the four main classes specified by New York Botanical Garden's Plant Information Service (NYBG's PIS) as: 'Smooth Cayenne,' 'Red Spanish,' 'Queen' and 'Abacaxi.'

With that being said, there are many more species of pineapple which are grown all over the world, with Costa Rica, Brazil and the Philippines providing much of the world's fruit.

Technically, it is possible to grow the exotic fruit at home, but it a challenge for a beginner, or even an experienced gardener. For the best chance of success, Newsweek consulted experts for tips and tricks on how to grow pineapples.

Can I Grow Pineapples At Home?

When growing pineapples at home, getting the conditions right can be challenging.

Generally, the issue with growing pineapples is getting the climate just right and knowing when they should be harvested.

The Right Soil Acidity

The correct soil acidity is a crucial element to cultivating pineapples.

When asked about specific equipment required for growing pineapples, a representative from the NYBG's PIS told Newsweek: "Mainly, providing the best soil for pineapple culture is a well-drained, sandy loam with a high content of organic matter and it should be friable for a depth of at least 2 ft (60 cm), and pH should be within a range of 4.5 to 6.5."

"Soils that are not sufficiently acidic are treated with sulfur to achieve the desired level."

To do this, you may need to take a sample and have it tested to see what your soil needs. Sulfur to treat your soil can be purchased at a gardening store.

How To Plant Pineapples

After you know what soil you've got, you need to work out exactly how to plant the fruit. Pineapples are shallow-rooted plants, so this should be taken into consideration, as well as the distance between plants.

A pineapple growing in a garden
A file photo of a pineapple growing in a garden. Getty Images

A pineapple crown should be set at a depth of two inches, the NYBG's PIS said. If you are planting from the slips or suckets, set these at three and a half or four inches, or lay butts end-to-end in furrows covered in four inches of soil.

These elements need to be trimmed and dried for several days before they are planted.

The representative added: "The land should be well prepared at the outset because the pineapple is shallow-rooted and easily damaged by post-planting cultivation. Fumigation of the soil contributes to high quality and high yields."

Tripp and Carmen Eldridge, who manage a residential 'agrihood' in Florida, explained it is also important to remember when to plant and consider what type you are planting before beginning.

They told Newsweek: "Pineapples are usually planted in the summer. The time from planting to harvest ranges between 18 to 24 months, depending on the cultivar, cultural practices, and temperature. They prefer well-drained, slightly acidic soil and plenty of sunlight."

The NYBG's PSI said the best states to grow tropical fruit are those with hotter temperatures generally, such as Florida or California.

What Type Of Pineapple Should I Plant?

The Smooth Cayenne class of pineapple is the best for home gardens, while the Queen class have a high tolerance to disease and cold temperatures, Tripp and Eldridge said.

They continued: "If you are looking for a delicate, sweet pineapple, Abacaxi pineapples are delicious and popular to grow, especially since they are hard to find in stores. Queen pineapples are small and best eaten fresh. They are great for gardeners because of their tolerance to disease and cold temperatures."

"Red Spanish pineapples are another hardy variety that is often grown in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean... Smooth Cayenne pineapples are the main type of pineapple grown in Hawaii. It's the variety you will most commonly find at your grocery store. They are also the best variety for home gardens if you are looking to bring this tropical fruit to your backyard."

Pineapple chopping on a board
A file photo of a pineapple chopping on a board. Getty Images

How To Harvest Pineapples

If planting pineapples didn't sound tricky enough, knowing when to harvest is something which comes with experience.

As the Eldridges mentioned, the harvest ranges between 18-24 months, but the season also affects how quickly fruits mature and getting it slightly wrong can make the difference between a sweet or sour pineapple.

The NYGB's PIS said: "Size and color change alone are not fully reliable indicators. Conversion of starch into sugars takes place rapidly in just a few days before full maturity."

"In general, for the fresh fruit market, the summer crop is harvested when the eye shows a light pale green color. At this season, sugar content and volatile flavors develop early and steadily over several weeks."

Pineapple growing in a glass
A file photo of a pineapple growing in a glass. Getty Images

Winter fruits, however, take 30 days more to mature, and these have a lower sugar level than summer fruit.

If you intend to can your pineapple, you can afford to pick your pineapples when they are almost overripe, as they can be preserved in this way.

Tropical Fruit to Grow At Home

If you live in a colder state, or one with more adverse weather conditions, growing pineapples may not be the thing for you.

Other options include lemon or mango trees, the former of which can be kept inside.

The Eldridges added: "If pineapples are too daunting, the best place to start when growing tropical fruits is with mangoes. Mango trees thrive with high heat and moisture, and don't require much maintenance once planted, perfect for the beginner gardener."

"These trees need plenty of space to themselves, as they can exceed 10-15 feet tall."

Luckily, there are plenty of options for gardeners of all levels, and those lucky enough to have the space and correct climate for pineapples can enjoy them fresh from the yard.