Plant Profile: Pineapple

Oh, the pineapple! What a delightful, summery fruit. My first encounter with the plant probably came in the form of a sugary ring from a tin, sandwiched between a slab of beetroot, also from a tin, and cardboard meat on the other side. Hmm. Ok, it was the 80s and we lived in the country…. No talk of burgers with heirloom beetroot relish with organic fennel seeds back then.

Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing the first pineapples out from South America to Europe in the late 1400s. Apparently it got its name as it looks like an oversized pinecone. The humble fruit soon became a sign of wealth – and special hot houses were built throughout Europe to aid their growth. The most astounding one of these is located in a place not usually known for its tropical vibes – Scotland. In 1761 John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore, built a pinery (this is what they called greenhouses to grow pineapples. Cute, huh?) with a huge 14 meter tall stone pineapple as the centrepiece. What a guy!

Since those heady early days, pineapples have maintained a steady pop culture presence and seem to be regularly wheeled out to adorn t-shirts, as earrings, door stops, and cocktails.

Gorman Pineapple T-Shirt

Botanical Name: Ananas comosus
Plant Family: Bromeliaceae

Origin: Pineapples have been in cultivation for hundreds of years and folks don’t seem to know exactly where they first originated but it seems to be somewhere around Brasil and Paraguay.

Cultivation: Pineapple plants grow to around 1-1.5 meters tall and the same width wide. They’ve got thick, long leaves with small spikes running down the sides. They love warm, tropical climates and will grow in many areas of tropical and sub-tropical Australia. If you live in the cooler climes consider building a pinery, like the guy in Scotland. Or try growing one indoors, for a more cost effective solution.

Likes: Sun and great drainage! Drainage isn’t a problem if you’re planting in a pot with potting mix, but if planting in ground, plant the pineapple into a raised mound of soil, in a sunny spot.

Dislikes: Wet feet – this ties into the note above regarding planting – make sure your pineapple plant isn’t sitting in moist, poorly drained soil for too long. It’ll get cranky and maybe die.

The best thing about pineapples is that you can grow them yourself from one you’ve just eaten! Chop the top off the pineapple fruit, eat the sweet goodness and then leave the chopped off top in a sunny place for a week to heal the cut, then plant in a pot. Place in a warm, sunny spot and BOOM, a pineapple plant.

Be warned, however, that your plant will take a few years to flower and fruit. Patience is a virtue.

The Pinery at Dunmore, Scotland. Image via Wikipedia Commons.