The Fascinating World of Pineapple Growth

The Fascinating World of Pineapple Growth

When pineapples ripen on the plant, they develop taste and sweetness far beyond what you can find in grocery store pineapples.

In the regions with freezing winters, pineapples are often encountered only in grocery store produce displays. This tropical fruit is so different from what grows in temperate zones that it can appear mysterious. There have even been debates about whether pineapple fruits grow on trees or underground like turnips. The truth is neither. Let’s delve into the fascinating story of how pineapples grow.

The pineapple plant belongs to the bromeliad family, along with Spanish Moss and several “air plants” sold as houseplants. Similar to aloe or yucca plants, pineapples grow as a crown of long, straight leaves emerging from a central point. Typically, a pineapple plant stands at knee height.

The Birth of a Pineapple

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The Fascinating World of Pineapple Growth

When a pineapple plant is ready to bear fruit, it sends up a flower stalk from the central point. The flower cluster resembles a baby pineapple with tiny purple tubes protruding from its sides. As the months pass, the stalk grows taller, extends beyond the leaves, and the purple flowers drop off. Eventually, the structure swells into a green pineapple. After about five months, the fruit changes from green to yellow/orange, indicating ripeness for harvesting and consumption.

Commercial growers who transport fruit over long distances often harvest pineapples while they are still green. This allows time for shipping and sitting on store shelves. Although these green-harvested fruits will ripen, they lack the full sweetness and flavor of those left on the plant until they start to ripen. To truly savor the exquisite taste of a pineapple, consider growing your own and letting it ripen on the plant or finding a direct-to-consumer supplier who offers already-ripening pineapples.

Harvesting Tips and Tricks

The Fascinating World of Pineapple Growth

In my experience, the best time to harvest pineapples when grown outdoors is when the first hint of yellow color appears at the base of the fruit. After this color shift occurs, the fruit releases a delicious fruity aroma that attracts critters who share our love for pineapples. Leaving a fruit on the plant until it turns fully yellow often results in unpleasant surprises like holes chewed into your precious harvest. However, once the pineapple starts changing color even slightly, it is just a few days away from complete ripeness. You can then pick it and allow it to ripen fully indoors, losing only a few days on the plant compared to the several weeks that commercially grown pineapples spend in transit.

The Pineapple’s Second Act

The Fascinating World of Pineapple Growth

Many people wonder if a pineapple plant bears fruit only once and what happens to the plant afterward. After years of observation, I can now provide a clear answer.

When a pineapple plant sends up a fruit-bearing stalk, it usually produces side shoots along the stalk. These can emerge from anywhere on the stalk, from right beneath the fruit to the very base. The larger side shoots that form lower down on the stalk are called “suckers,” while the smaller ones higher up are referred to as “slips.”

If you leave a pineapple plant in place after harvesting the fruit, the slips, which form higher up on the stalk, will eventually fall off and dry up if not planted in the ground. Midway up the stalk, side shoots tend to remain attached and can sometimes produce smaller fruits. However, if side shoots form near soil level, they can grow their own roots and develop into full-sized plants, yielding another round of pineapple fruits.

For commercial pineapple varieties, only a percentage of plants produce side shoots that can root themselves. In my experience, more than half of the plants in a patch only produce side shoots that emerge too high to develop roots. Even when the plants successfully regenerate with low-growing side shoots, they often fail to produce more low-growing shoots after the new crown has fruited.

A Hidden Secret: Pineapple Seeds

The Fascinating World of Pineapple Growth

You may be wondering about pineapple seeds. Before human intervention, pineapple plants reproduced through seeds. Even today, modern commercial pineapple varieties can produce seed-filled fruits. However, these seeds only develop when a pineapple plant’s flowers are pollinated by a hummingbird carrying pollen from a different pineapple variety that blooms simultaneously. Without this pollination, pineapples remain seedless, which occurs around 99.9% of the time. When planting a bed of pineapples, growers typically use the same variety, resulting in genetically identical plants. However, planting different varieties in close proximity and relying on hummingbirds to transfer pollen between them can result in pineapples with small seeds dispersed throughout the flesh. Although hardly noticeable while eating the fruit, these seeds can reduce the visual appeal. For this reason, Hawaii prohibits the importation of hummingbirds to prevent commercial crops from containing seeds.

The Circle of Life

Since pineapple plants live for more than one year but not indefinitely, they are considered short-lived perennials. Other bromeliad species excel at renewing themselves by producing “suckers” at ground level, allowing new crowns to grow their own roots and facilitating unlimited growth. It raises questions about whether ancestral pineapples possessed this characteristic, which may have been bred out of commercial varieties. Alternatively, the trait may never have existed in Ananas comosus. If it were possible to reintroduce or discover pineapple varieties with a more perennial growth habit, true perennial pineapples could become a reality. If you have any insights or knowledge about this topic, please leave a comment.

Pineapples are truly remarkable plants, both in their growth patterns and their delicious fruits. Growing your own pineapple offers a unique opportunity to savor the true essence of this tropical delight. So, why not embark on a pineapple-growing adventure? For more expert tips and advice on tree planting, visit Tips Tree Planting.

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