Pineapples have to be one of my most favorite fruits to grow in my backyard food forest in Hawai’i.  They practically grow themselves!!

Not only do they grow well in the tropics, but you can grow a pineapple almost anywhere in the world.  That’s because they grow really well in pots, allowing them to be grown indoors.  

And believe me, the ones you grow yourself will be some of the best tasting pineapples you’ve ever sunk your teeth into.

It really is the perfect fruit to grow if you are new to gardening or just lazy like I am.  But before you go out there and plant your pineapple, there are a few things to go over to ensure that you’ll have low maintenance pineapples healthily growing for decades.

Related: You’ve mastered growing Pineapples, but what about harvesting them? You need a Japanese grass sickle, the best tool for harvesting pineapple and so much more. Get it today on Amazon.


How To Plant a Pineapple in Hawai’i

Pineapples like to grow in acidic, well draining, almost rocky soil, but do grow better in soil with higher fertility. In fact, prepare your pineapple bed with animal manure one month prior to planting and your pineapples will take off!

They can grow almost anywhere in the islands below the 2800ft elevation.  Higher than that and you will need a greenhouse or sunny window in your home.

In Hawai’i, pineapples tend to flower in December and be ready for harvest 6-8 months later.  However, growers have learned ways to induce fruiting anytime of the year.  You can learn more from Ctahr Hawai’i.

Rather than grow from seed, pineapples are propagated by suckers and by planting the crown of the fruit.  We will go over those processes below.

How to Grow Pineapples By their Tops

This is the way most home gardeners will start out when beginning a pineapple patch.  The best thing to start off doing is eat lots of pineapple.  That’s right.  The more you eat, the more you’ll have to plant.

Go to the farmers market or even pick up a couple from the grocery store, chop their tops off and save them for planting.  I prefer the Kona Sugarloaf variety or white pineapple.  They’re so sweet and juicy, not sour like the yellow pineapple, but that’s up to you.

I have had success by literally tossing the tops out into the garden and have them grow, rind and all.  The rind just rots away and the top just keeps on growing.

If you’re going for best practice to plant a pineapple by its top, follow the steps below.

  1. Remove the residual rind from the fruit
  2. Peel the bottom 2-3 leaves from the top. 
  3. Leave it out to dry for a day or two. 
  4. Plant the pineapple top 1-3ft apart, directly into a prepared bed
  5. Apply Deep Mulch, either wood chips or grass clippings
  6. Keep soil moist & water the leaves until new growth emerges
  7. Apply Foliar Spray 2x’s/year
  8. Wait…then enjoy!

It’s that easy.  Now let’s see how else we can plant pineapples in our tropical, Hawaiian garden.

Related: How To Grow Fig Trees In The Tropics

Growing Pineapple By Sucker or Slip

Now that you have your pineapple garden started and you’ve finally begun to harvest fruit, you may have noticed little baby plants growing off the side of the parent plant.  These are called suckers, keiki (in Hawai’i) or slips.  This is when your pineapple garden kicks into overdrive.

A healthy pineapple plant can have as many as 5-10 suckers available for planting the following season.  It’s easy for your pineapple beds to exponentially grow in size in a few short years, from just a couple of pineapple tops you bought at the store a few years earlier.

These keiki fruit much faster than when pineapples are planted by their tops, cutting as much as 6 months off the wait time!

The process for planting pineapples by slip or sucker is similar to planting a pineapple top.

  1. With a sharp knife, carefully cut the keiki or slips off from the parent plant that has recently fruited.  Discard the parent plant, it has served its purpose.
  2. Leave the slips out for a day or two for the base to have a chance to callous over.
  3. Plant the pineapple top 1-3ft apart, directly into a prepared bed
  4. Apply Deep Mulch, either wood chips or grass clippings
  5. Keep soil moist & water the leaves until new growth emerges
  6. Apply Foliar Spray 2x’s/year
  7. Wait…then enjoy!

How to Grow Pineapples in a Pot in Colder Climates

Pineapples just happen to be one of the few tropical plants that are suitable for planting into pots and still produce fruit.  It’s for this reason that allows pineapple to be grown almost anywhere in the world.

In order to have success with this method, it is important to start off with a good potting mix.  That mix will include:

  1. Organic Potting Mix
  2. Compost
  3. Sand, perlite or small to medium lava cinder.

A 12” clay or concrete pot is ideal, but a 3-5 gallon pot would work as well.  Just make sure the base is heavy, therefore the clay pot.  When it gets to fruiting size it can easily tip over.

Plant the Pineapple into your pot by following the steps above.  Place the pineapple plant in a warm south facing window that gets at least 6 hrs of sunlight.  The plants may not get as big as ones planted in the ground, but you should still be able to harvest a nice sized tropical fruit in the comfort of your own home.

How much Space do Pineapples Need?

Pineapples are shallow rooted plants requiring little space, but the leaves can get enormous.  Plus, the leaves are super spiky and a real eye poker when it comes to weeding time. 

I like to space my pineapple plants about 1’ to 2’ apart.  This allows the plant to have room to grow, but keeps it dense enough to discourage weeds.  For larger fruits, a spacing of 2’-3’ is recommended.

I have my pineapple located along a pathway in my food forest.  It covers an area about 10’ x 10’ and I get about 20-30 pineapples a year.  The closest planting to the pathway was planted about 3’ from the edge of the path so that the pineapple would not over grow the path and cause poking hazards.

How Much Water Do Pineapples Need?

Pineapples are pretty tolerant to the amount of water they receive.  The worst thing for the plant, however, are waterlogged soils and prolong periods between watering.

Generally speaking, pineapples require 1 inch of water per week.  I live in an area that gets about 3” per week of rainfall, or 150” of rain per year and pineapples grow great here.  My soil is pretty rocky and drains super quick though.

A friend of mine on the dry side of Hawai’i Island in Waikoloa also has amazing pineapples growing in their yard, but they supplement the plants water needs through irrigation.

When in doubt, just make sure it gets watered at least once a week.

Related: Off Grid Water Harvesting: How To Install A Rainwater Catchment System

Pests that LOVE Pineapples in Hawai’i

Pineapples are remarkably pest free for such a juicy fruit.  It must be because of its armor plated skin.  But there are some pests that make their mark and it’s best to be prepared.

  • Scales 
  • Thrips, vectors of yellow spot virus 
  • Mites
  • Mealybugs 
  • Ants, associated with mealybugs
  • Chickens
  • Wild Boar

I like to take care of any insect pests the old fashioned way, by hand.  Either just spray the leaves off with a hose, or if the infestation is really strong, wipe the leaves with a rag. 

Attacks by insects can usually be attributed to an unhealthy plant.  Long term, try feeding your pineapple plant so that it can build its own defenses against insect attack.

As for chickens and wild boar, you can either fence off your crop or accept the loss of a couple plants.  Chickens don’t really do too much damage.  I have a couple dozen wild chickens roaming my property everyday and I might get one or two plants pecked out. 

If a wild boar comes by, forget it, they just might uproot your whole crop.  Better to break out the bow or rifle and have pineapple fed wild boar instead.

Pineapple Cultivars that are grown in Hawaii

There are 2 main cultivars that are grown in Hawai’i, with a few local adaptations based on the two main varieties.

Smooth Cayenne – The most popular of all the pineapple varieties.  This is the one grown commercially and most recognized by the average consumer.  They grow to about 5-6lbs and have yellow flesh inside of a greenish/yellow skin.  They have a high sugar content as well as high acidity.

Kona Sugarloaf – This is my favorite.  A sweet delicious pineapple with white flesh.  They grow about 5-6lbs, with a greenish/white skin.  It’s a wonder why these are not produced commercially.  By far the best tasting pineapple out there.  

How To Feed Your Pineapple Plants

Pineapples will pretty much grow anywhere, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t like to be fed from time to time.

Since pineapples have a shallow root system and don’t get much of their nutrients from the soil, it is important to actually feed the leaves of your pineapple plant. 

You can tell your pineapple plant could use a little nutrition if you begin to notice purple striping on the leaves of the plant.  The leaves want to be green.  When I notice this discoloration, I have a few ways that I use to feed my plants.

  • Foliar Spray Fish Emulsion – When I have Fish Emulsion available, (I make my own from scrap fishheads) I will water it down and spray the leaves of the pineapple plant, making sure the liquid has a chance to collect in the base of the leaf.  This is where the feeding happens.  Think of that area as the pineapples mouth.
  • Urea Spray – If fish emulsion is not available, I’ll go with the next best thing, urea aka urine or pee.  That’s right, your very own urine is rich in nitrogen, just like fish emulsion.  By diluting it 10:1 you have a nice foliar fertilizer that pineapples love.  Just be sure you don’t spray your plant right before you harvest, for obvious reasons.

How Long Do Pineapples Take to Grow?

The rumors are true.  From the time you plant your pineapple keiki to the time you harvest  can take a LONG time.  Two years in some instances!

The general rule of thumb is, Pineapples grown from the tops take 24 months to harvest, the suckers take about 18 months and the slips can take as little as a year!  Pineapples typically begin flowering during the lower light months and are ready for harvest 6 to 8 months later.

Professional growers have found ways to induce fruiting quicker.  One home method would be to wrap a rotting apple in plastic with the pineapple plant, usually potted.  The apple gives off a gas that induces fruiting in the pineapple 45 days later.  I prefer to wait.

When to Harvest A Pineapple

You’ve been waiting two years.  Your pineapple looks big and ready.  But are you sure?  Sometimes the fruit will look ready but still need more time to achieve peak flavor.  My search for the perfect pineapple in Hawai’i begins in June and ends in August.

Get close to the fruit, smell it.  Does it smell sweet?  Does it smell like a pineapple?  Then it’s ready.  If you pick too soon, the pineapple may not get the chance to ever fully ripen.  It is best to leave the fruit on the plant for as long as possible.

Take a knife and carefully cut the base of the pineapple off of the parent plant.  Slice it up and enjoy.

Do Pineapples Keep Producing Fruit?

At long last, your pineapple has fruited and it has been harvested.  Will it produce another one?

Technically speaking, once a pineapple plant has fruited it will not fruit again.  However, if a slip or sucker is left intact on the parent plant it may continue growing and produce another pineapple the next season.

This is totally fine.  It’s a lot easier than having to propagate the slips and suckers yourself.  But there are some downsides.  Eventually your pineapple patch will get unruly and the fruits will start to get smaller.

Do yourself a favor, eliminate these problems by replanting the slips and suckers and removing last year’s growth that already fruited.  The future of your pineapple patch will thank you for it.

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