Ananas comosus



Pineapples belong to the Bromeliad family of plants and are the only one that is edible. It originates from Central and South America and today's pineapple is thought to be the descendant of a smaller, spinier fruit which has improved over the centuries due to selective breeding.   

Pineapples are evergreen herbaceous perennials which grow to about 1 to 1.5m tall.  They have a rosette cluster of stiff leaves with spiny tips. They flower and develop fruits on stalks rising from the centre of the rosette. The fruit itself is formed from a group of many flowers which are fused together.


The fruits are ready to harvest when the outside turns the familiar golden brown colour. Green pineapples are immature and are toxic if consumed. 

The main nutritional benefit of pineapples is their high vitamin C and manganese content. They also contain bromelain which in powdered form is used as a meat tenderizer, and is said to have some mild anti-inflammatory properties.  

Pineapples are commonly sliced or diced and eaten in Asian cooking, on pizzas, or served with gammon steaks where their flavour makes a wonderful contrast with the sharp, salty taste of the meat. Pineapple makes a useful ingredient in cakes and biscuits. They are also crushed as a topping, eaten in deserts, or juiced in drinks. 


Pineapple plants prefer well-drained but moist organic soil, but they are quite adaptable and will grow in most soil types. It is often planted in raised beds on sloping ground. Like bananas, pineapples prefer humidity and full sun, but they will survive in part shade. Once again, don't let the roots sit in soggy soil or they will rot. Pineapples are usually planted in summer so the fruit which takes about 2 years to mature can be harvested in summer.

Plants can be grown in a warm, sunny sheltered spot in the garden. They don't grow in colder temperatures and will not withstand frost. 

It's important to control weeds around young plants to prevent competition for nutrients in the soil. If you want to grow among companion plants try growing some deep-rooted plants nearby (e.g. Apiaceae family plants such as carrots and parsley) which don't compete with the pineapple's shallow roots.

Irrigate plants in dry weather, but avoid waterlogged soils. Regular feeding is needed for good results. Traditionally, plants are fed with shell grit and bone meal. They don't like really strong fertilisers and like bananas you should avoid getting fertiliser on the leaves. They are sometimes prone to problems absorbing trace elements. To counter these, place 5g of Epsom salts and a few rusty nails at the base of each plant a few weeks after planting. Apply 30 to 50g of a general fertiliser to each plant annually. 

Fruit will mature about 2 years after flowering. In cooler areas it may take up to 4 or 5 years to produce a mature pineapple. When the plant flowers the fruits produce suckers. You'll need to cut these off and compost them if you don't intend to propagate from them. 



You can propagate pineapples by suckers or crowns. Crowns are easy to start by simply planting the spiny top cut from a pineapple fruit. Do this by removing the top close to the fruit. Remove the bottom leaves then hang it upside down for several days to partly dry out before planting. Alternatively, remove suckers from pineapple fruits and use them to propagate with. New plants grown from these suckers will produce fruit a lot faster, taking only about 15 months!


There are two different pineapples:

A. comosus (syn. A. sativus) - the Pineapple, growing to 0.7m tall with blue-green foliage.
A. comosus 'Variegatus' - this has yellow variegation on leaves. It is cultivated as an ornamental, often used in containers or baskets.

A number of cultivars exist. The 'Smooth Cayenne' variety, so-called because of its smooth leaves, is widely grown and is ideal for home gardens. 'Natal Queen' has spiny leaves but the flesh of the fruit has a crisp texture and smooth flavor which tastes great fresh.

Plant Health

The main pests of pineapples are root knot nematodes and beetle grubs in the soil, and red mites on above ground plant parts. These should be treated before they become an infestation.

Diseases are not particularly serious. Rots are the biggest problem and these can largely be avoided through good cultural practices like avoiding overly wet soils and over-fertilising. Yellow spot virus may sometimes affect plants and this is identified as diamond shaped spots on leaves and stems which dry and cause collapse of stems. Affected plants must be removed and destroyed.      

More info

Records would seem to suggest that the pineapple made its way to Europe in the 1400s to 1500s during Christopher Columbus's travels to South America.

In Australia the first plantations were established in Nundah, Brisbane in the 1840s. The smooth cayenne variety was introduced a decade or more later. Today, commercial plantations are found from Brisbane up to Cooktown with a few in northern New South Wales.     

Because they have relatively shallow root systems they can easily be grown in containers so are a good choice if you don't have too much ground space. Terracotta pots and troughs are advisable since they are permeable and won't remain saturated after watering. Pineapples can be grown fairly closely together, e.g. 50cm, but because of their spiny leaves you may wish to space them out more so that you can easily access the fruits without getting stabbed.


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