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Starting Pineapple Plants

Q. I enjoy growing plants from cuttings and seeds. What is the procedure for starting a pineapple plant at home?

A. Both adults and children will have fun growing pineapple plants at home. After purchasing the freshest pineapple you can find, cut off the top spray of leaves with as little pineapple attached as possible. Remove the lower leaves from this crown until you have exposed 1 inch of the inner cream-colored stalk. Hang the crown upside down in a cool, dry room for one week until the exposed stalk has hardened. Before planting the stalk in a clay pot with good drainage, spread 1 inch of gravel in the bottom of the pot. Fill the pot with potting soil, leaving enough room to plant the stalk firmly in the soil without covering any of the leaves. Water the soil, not the leaves, about once a week and fertilize with a balanced houseplant fertilizer once every two months. The best environment for growing a healthy pineapple plant is a sunny, warm, humid room away from cold drafts or heating vents.

Your pineapple plant will enjoy spending a hot and humid Chicago summer outside as soon as the weather permits. It can take up to two years before flowering starts. A dark pink bud will form in the middle of the leaf spray, followed by a red cone typical of many bromeliad plants. At this point, fertilize every other week until fruit has formed. After the tiny blue flowers disappear, the fruit will begin to develop. Although prolonged cold spells or rapid temperature changes might prevent fruit production, the plant’s spiky blue-green foliage is sure to add a dramatic and tropical accent to indoor as well as outdoor container gardens.