A popular summer fruit to eat in the UK, they may not be top of the list to grow. If you want a pineapple paradise, you’ll need plenty of patience, but the sweet taste of Ananas comosus is worth the wait.
Pineapples in the past
Back in the 17th Century, people tried to grow pineapples in England, with efforts to grow in orangeries and by adding furnaces inside glasshouses.
At the Lost Gardens of Heligan, there is an original Victorian pineapple pit that was renovated in 1993 and is still a working structure. In 1997 the first pineapple was harvested, and the second was donated to Queen Elizabeth II.
The pineapple pits are made up off three trenches, covered in glass and use manure to create high temperatures to help them grow.
If you like piña coladas
Try growing something new as a challenge by getting hold of a pineapple and using it to start your journey. In the UK, you can buy pineapple plants pre-grown at specialist nurseries, or you can easily grow them yourselves from supermarket grown fruit.
Bear in mind that growing them from bought fruits doesn’t guarantee a huge harvest of pineapples. However, you can increase the likelihood by using these tips and having plenty of patience. Stick with it, because it can take around 3 years for a plant to develop fruits.
Start off by picking a pineapple that has a healthy-looking rosette of leaves on the top. Before tucking into the fruit, cut off the top of the rosette, leaving about 2cm of the top of the fruit intact.
After enjoying the sweet, tangy fruit, remove the surrounding flesh from the base of the rosette. This will leave the central core and the leaves, then the leaves at the bottom of the rosette can be gently peeled away so you can see the tiny brown buds along the stem. Next, use a clean, sharp knife to trim the base of the stem to remove the white tissue.
Fill a pot with peat-free all-purpose compost mixed with some horticultural grit to aid drainage and place the rosette in the centre, before firming it into place and watering well.
Caring for pineapples
Once planted up, the pot can be positioned in a heated propagator or in a bright, warm spot inside. Around 6 hours of bright light per day is ideal for growth. Soon, roots will develop, and new leaves will begin to emerge.
Eventually roots will start to protrude from the bottom of the pot, so it’s time to repot the plant into a bigger container.
Water when necessary, leaving the compost to dry out slightly before watering again. Pineapples originate from South America so are used to tropical environments, growing in hot, dry weather. As well as watering, a humidity level of about 70% should be maintained for the best chances of growth.
When growing pineapples, it’s important to have patience. It can take around 2 years for the plant to flower, then even after this point, they still need to fruit.
Flowering will occur when the plant reaches the optimum size. So, keep the plants at a nice, warm temperature for quicker harvests.
One of the best ways of keeping temperatures and humidity high is growing in a polytunnel. Growing with protection will help them to be shielded from wind, frosts, and rain.
However, bear in mind that the time they take to grow means they will be taking up floor space in your garden. In addition, pineapples grow along the ground, with leaves spreading from the thick stem, so they need ample space to thrive too.
Harvest pineapples by cutting the pineapple at the base. Be sure to keep the rosette of leaves so you can start the process again and grow more pineapples.
Not only do they taste great, but you can benefit from their great nutritional benefits too. Low calorie but packed with nutrients and antioxidants, they are a great addition to your diet.
Rich in vitamin C, eating the fruit can help you to keep a healthy immune system and help the absorption of iron from your diet. A good source of antioxidants, eating them may reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Next time you go to the supermarket, rather than picking up tinned pineapple, buy the fresh fruit and set the challenge of growing your own. With the right conditions and patience, you may be rewarded with delicious fruit.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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