Pineapples are exotic fruits that are available all year round in our supermarkets. The challenge of growing your own pineapple tree may seem unnecessary. However, eating your home-grown pineapple makes the fruit taste so much sweeter when you know it is down to your own hard work.
Pineapples will only grow successfully in the correct conditions. Pineapples are part of the bromeliad family, and have fleshy sword-like leaves. They are native to Paraguay and southern Brazil in South America, and naturally prefer a warm climate. However, as long as they are not exposed to frost or snow, pineapples will grow in many regions of the world.
It is important to grow your pineapple plants away from wet or boggy soil conditions. If your garden is prone to becoming waterlogged, you may find it better to grow your pineapple plants in pots or raised beds. While pineapples do not like to be sitting in water, they do need a certain amount of moisture. The soil or compost should be kept damp, and in very dry conditions, a daily misting is a good idea.
In Europe, with the cold winters that are often a feature of this region, pineapples are best grown inside glasshouses where they can be protected from frost and snow and where the temperature can be maintained at a constant level. Pineapples grow best in a temperature above 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 degrees centigrade. They will grow in full sun or light shade, as long as the temperature is consistent.
A good example of how to grow pineapples in the European climate can be found at Heligan Gardens in Cornwall, England. Heligan was constructed in the 1600s, but the garden which included a pineapple pit was designed and built in the 19th century. The Victorians loved to grow hot-house plants, and an ingenious heating system was devised at Heligan using two long trenches filled with fresh horse manure on either side of the plants. As the manure rotted it produced heat which kept the temperature in the glasshouse high enough for the pineapples to grow.
Although they do not have a very extensive root system, pineapple plants do produce significant leaf growth. If you are planting a pineapple in your garden, you should leave at least 3 feet (1m) of space between each plant. As the pineapple fruit emerges from the centre of the plant, you should leave adequate room around the plant for the fruit to be harvested.
The soil does not need to be particularly rich in natural nutrients, as pineapples gain much of their food from absorbing the nutrients through their leaves. However, for improved growth, the soil should include some well rotted compost or manure which will also help to maintain the slightly acid conditions that pineapples thrive in. Pineapple leaves can scorch badly if chemical fertilisers are applied directly on to them.
Growing pineapples is relatively easy for such a luxurious fruit. However you will also need a good dose of patience as each plant only produces one fruit at a time, which can take up to 24 months to develop.