Growing plants in the pineapple family can appear to be challenging. Once you understand them, you will realize that they are really easy to grow.
Plants in the bromeliaceae are considered epiphytes, which are non-parasitic plants that depend on other plants for support. Most of these plants in this family live in trees but the pineapple is a terrestrial type.
Pineapple-This bromeliad has a unique history on land and on our kitchen table. Christopher Columbus is noted as the individual that brought the pineapple from South America to Europe. Later sailors brought the pineapple to New England where a fresh pineapple on the porch indicated that the sailor had been to a foreign land and was welcoming visitors to his home. Later on, the pineapple was equated to wealth and could be found on the banquet tables of the rich.
Today, the pineapple can be found as a produce staple but did you know that you can grow your own. Well, you can and the process is not as difficult as you may believe. Keep in mind though, that there are several different ways to start your own pineapple but the process described is just a general description.
To begin this process, one needs to pick a fruit that is healthy. First, it should not be too green nor should it be over ripe. To tell if it is ripe, pull on the leaves of the pineapple. If you can easily pull out the leaves the fruit is ripe. Once you have your fruit selected, examine the foliage. What you are looking for are insects, which is not an indication that the fruit is bad but just a sign that there does exist a pest problem. If your fruit’s leaves have insects, select a new fruit and take it home. Once you get it home, you can begin to start your pineapple.
At this point, there does exist two schools of thought. One states that you should twist off the top while the other believes that you should just cut the top off. Regardless of which you choose, make sure there is no fruit left on the “stem.” After the top has been removed and the fruit has been cut off, remove the first bottom layer of leaves and place the pineapple top in a dark place for one week. Next, clean and sterilize an 8-inch clay pot. To do this, place the pot in a container of warm water with a capful of bleach. Rinse off and place in the sun to dry. Add drainage material to the dried pot and place a layer of coarse gravel. Top with a layer of an all-purpose potting soil mix that is at least 30 percent compost. If there is not enough compost in the mix, add your own. After the pot is filled with the soil, plant the pineapple top and water in. Feed your pineapple every 3 months. Place your pineapple outside during the summer and bring back in when the temperatures dip down to the 50s.
When your plant is about a year old, it starts producing a red pinecone shaped structure. This will become your pineapple. If your plant has not produced this cone by 14 months, it is time to persuade it. To do this, place the pot and plant inside a plastic bag. Add to this plastic bag a fresh pineapple. Tie off the bag and place in a shady location. Leave in this bag for three days and after that time, remove the plant and the fruit. Place the plant in a sunny location. In about eight to nine weeks, you should see a red cone appear. The next stage of this process is the production of little blue flowers along the red cone. Once the last flower petal wilts, the fruit will begin to form. In about 6 months, the fruit will be ready to pick.
Guzmania-This plant looks wonderful on a tabletop due to its height. The leaves radiate from the cup and are emerald green slender blades. The flower bract is large, showy and comes in an assortment of colors in the summer.
When you get your plant home, it will probably be blooming. Place in a room that receives indirect sunlight or moderate shade and is kept at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Watering should occur only in the “cup” and not in the soil except occasionally in the winter. To water this plant, gather rain water and pour into the “cup.” Avoid using tap water due to the chlorine and other chemicals added to treat the water. These elements can cause buildup in the “cup.” Watering should be done once a week but do not just pour water into the “cup.” If the “cup” still has water in it, pour it out and replace with fresh water. During the winter months, occasionally pour off the water in the “cup” and add a little water to the soil.
Once the flower stalk dies back, cut it off at the “cup.” Soon after the mother plant will die but plantlets will begin to appear to replace her. After the plantlets are a few inches tall, you will need to cut back the mother plant to the ground. At this point, you can leave the plantlets alone to grow into a large clump or you can separate into individual pots. If you choose to transplant your plantlets, make sure to start with a small pot and then move up in size when the plantlets become more mature. Also, keep in mind that this plant gets moisture and nutrients from the air and only use their roots to hold them in place. In doing so, make sure that the plantlets and mature plants are secure in heavy pots. Doing this simple step will prevent you from coming home to a plant laying on the table.
Silver Vase Plant-Is another plant whose leaves radiate from the “cup.” But unlike other bromeliaceae, the leaves are green and silver in color. Also, this plant takes up to 5 years to bloom but when it blooms it can last up to 6 months. This flower bract appears first as a bright pink spike that later is covered in tiny blue flowers.
Once you get your plant home, place it in a room that is kept between 59 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, make sure it is located in the room so that it only receives indirect sunlight. When it comes to watering, make sure that the “cup” is constantly filled with non-tap water. Every few months, pour the water off and refill with fresh water. While you need to keep the “cup” filled with water, you will also need to make sure that the soil stays evenly moist at all time but not wet. Transplanting should only occur if the plant has not flowered and this should occur in the spring. Once the plant’s flower bracket begins to decline, the mother plant is not too far behind. After the plant declines, you can remove the plantlets from around the base of the plant. When plantlets are removed keep as many roots as possible attached. Replant in a small pot.