Florida Landscape Doctor

Growing The Florida Pineapple

Who would’ve thought in the little backwoods town of Interlachen, Florida you could grow the delightful fruit known as the pineapple. Until recently I thought that all pineapples came from Hawaii. Well now I know Marlene Crabtree can grow more than fresh peas from her garden.

The pineapple botanical name “Ananas comosus” is actually from the Bromiliad family. It is related to Spanish moss, tillandsia as well as the bromeliad family. Who would’ve thought of eating something that is related to moss which hangs in the Oak trees.

The Pineapples’ origin is Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. Pineapples are not grown commercially in Florida but are apparently common door yard plants grown in warm locations throughout the State.

The first recorded introduction of pineapple into Florida was in 1860. The pineapple produces 50 to 200 flowers from the stem. The first flowers open 50 or so days after flower induction, and flowering continues for 20 to 40 days. Usually 1 to 10 flowers open daily beginning around midnight and close the following evening.

Based on an article from The University of Florida pineapple plants are self-incompatible, meaning pollen from the same variety will not result in seed production and seedy fruit. However, growing several varieties next to each other that flower simultaneously may result in seedy fruit. To prevent seed formation, only one variety should be grown or flower induction should be done at different times.

The most common variety of pineapple grown is the ‘Smooth Cayenne’. The pineapple plants do not tolerate freezing temperatures so it is best to grow them in a controlled climate. Potting the plants will enable you to bring them indoors when an expected freeze is to come.

The soil needs to be of a sandy loam base, slightly on the acid side of the pH scale. The optimum temperature for them to grow will be 68 to 86 degrees. They are tolerant of dry soil, however, plant growth and fruit production will be reduced in a drought climate. Too much water for a long period of time could cause root rot. Just like St. Augustine sod, when a drought begins the sod will turn a gray green. The pineapple plant will begin to wilt and the leaf color changes to a gray green, then yellow. At some point it will be hard to change the cycle back to a healthy fruit producing mode.

When you buy a pineapple from the grocery store you cut off the top. People discarded the top and ate the pineapple. Don’t discard the top, plant it. Try it out next time you buy a pineapple. Find an old pot, dig up some sandy soil in the back yard, strip off some of the lower leaves, exposing about one inch of the base of the crown and plant it just low enough in the soil not to topple over and keep it slightly moist, not too wet or too dry as to promote new root growth. After about 8 weeks the plant should be taking hold in the soil.

You need to have patience. Fruit will not be available next month. As a matter of fact it will take approximately 2 years to produce fruit. The beauty of the flowers will be first. Around 20 months you should start seeing flowers.
I am not a grower, however it seems like a sweet project if you have the patience. Read up on the pineapple plant. Try it out next time you buy a pineapple from the store and see if you can produce some sweet results, Marlene Crabtree did and I benefited from the results.

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