This week I would like to talk about a topic that is fun to do and has a delicious ending. Why not try growing your own pineapples?
The pineapple is one of the world's most exotic and unique fruits. If you recall in the early history of our area, especially Jensen Beach, pineapple plantations were an abundant commodity. The fruits that you grow yourself will probably not be as large as the ones you buy in the store but they are fun to grow and sweet when they finally ripen. You can grow your pineapple plants in pots for your porch or patio or even directly in the ground. Pineapple plants planted directly in the ground will yield a larger fruit.
The pineapple is actually a member of the bromeliad family. You may have seen or own some of these interesting, colorful ornamental plants. One of the unique features of these plants is that they absorb water and nutrients from water that is caught in the "reservoir" in the center of the plant. The pineapple differs in the fact that it absorbs its nutrients more like a regular houseplant through the root system. Pineapple plants require bright light in order to thrive.
One of the most rewarding ways to grow your plants is by growing it from scratch. If you prefer a shortcut, many nurseries carry pineapple plants already started and ready for planting. Your first step is to find the pineapple to use for your project. Look for fruit that looks healthy and has nice green leaves. This will help to produce a better plant.
Many people simply cut off the tops of the fruit and try to plant them in the ground flesh and all. This usually will not work well as the fleshy parts will rot and this will lead to rotting of the roots as well. The best way is to grasp the leafy part of the plant and twist (hard) and it should come out with a part of the center. If you use the method of cutting off the tops, you must cut away the fleshy areas of the pineapple so only the core remains.
The next step is quite simple. Remove some of the lower leaves as you would if you were trimming a shrub. Set aside for a day or so before planting to help prevent root-rot.
The next thing you need to do is to get the roots of the plant started enough so that it will "take" when it is planted in the soil. Simply place the core is some water (a shallow bowl will do) for a couple of weeks or until you see visible signs of root development. Change the water occasionally to prevent it from stagnating.
Once you see some root development, it's time for the fun part. Choose a 12-inch or larger pot (clay is the best) and also purchase a good quality potting mix that features good drainage. Cactus soil will work great as well as Jiffy Mix or a compatible brand of seed starting soil. It is wise to place a 2-inch layer of stones at the bottom of the container to help keep water that drains from contacting the roots.
Finally, plant the crown as you would any houseplant in the soil and water well. Keep the plant evenly moist for best results. Do not over water or allow the plant to become bone dry. As the plant grows, bear in mind that many of the original leaves will drop and new growth will begin to take their place. This does not mean the plant is dying, it is a natural process. As the plant grows, you can repot it into a larger container if you desire, or even plant it outdoors.
Remember that it can take three years for the plant to produce fruit so you may want to plant several plants at different times to help keep a more steady supply of fruit coming. Also remember that these plants will not tolerate very cold temperatures so be sure to protect them during periods of colder winter temperatures. You may occasionally fertilize with a liquid soluble fertilizer such as Miracle Gro but be sure not to overdo it.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site www.hometowngarden.com.