6 Pineapple Growth Stages – Explained

Though pineapples are heavily associated with the islands of Hawai’i, this tropical fruit comes from South America. The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a member of the large bromeliad family and shares many things in common with bromeliads commonly grown as ornamental houseplants.

Pineapples are grown commercially in massive fields, usually in places like the Hawaiian Islands, Costa Rica, and similar climates. The harvested fruit is then shipped worldwide, where it’s sold in grocery stores and turned into things like delicious cocktails. You can also grow your own.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the pineapple growth stages and provide tips for growing this tropical delicacy at home.

Conditions for Growing Pineapples

Pineapples are, unsurprisingly, quite fond of the heat. According to North Carolina State University, temperatures between 68 and 86°F are best. Temperatures outside of 60 to 90°F can interfere with growth. They will grow outdoors in USDA Zone 11 or 12. Gardeners in cooler climates must keep their pineapple plants indoors during the cooler months.

Sunlight is another key requirement for growing pineapples. The plants need at least 6 hours daily, but 8 hours is ideal. 

Things like adequate moisture and warm temperatures help support vigorous, healthy growth. Pineapples are fairly drought-tolerant, needing just 20 inches of rain annually. Watering is only really necessary during times of drought. 

Many of the pineapple’s cousins are epiphytes or air plants. Pineapples, however, grow in soil. You can grow a pineapple in a container — some people keep them as houseplants — or in the ground if you live in a warm climate. If planting in a container, I recommend using soil formulated for succulents and cacti.

Since pineapple plants can get quite big, plan to leave 3 to 5 feet between plants. Initially, it might seem like a lot of space, but that extra elbow room will quickly disappear as the plants grow.

According to the University of Florida, pineapple plants should be fed a balanced NPK fertilizer every eight weeks during the growing season. Supplementing with micronutrients like zinc, manganese, and iron can help prevent health issues such as crookneck.

Pineapple Growth Rate

A young pineapple can grow at least 6 to 8 inches per year and grow to be between 3 and 6 feet tall. In most cases, it takes at least two years for the plant to reach maturity (but this doesn’t necessarily mean it will reach its full size in just two years). 

Pineapple Growth Stages

Pineapples don’t grow overnight. On average, a pineapple plant takes at least 24 months to begin flowering. After that, it takes 180 to 275 days for the fruit to develop and ripen.

There are dozens of pineapple cultivars, but all are grouped into five basic categories. These include:

  • Cayenne
  • Spanish
  • Queen
  • Maipure
  • Abacaxi

Nearly all pineapples sold and grown in the United States belong to the Cayenne group. If you live in a different part of the world, then the most common group in your area might differ.

The above categories are mostly defined by fruit texture, flavor, and recommended usage. They don’t have much of an impact on a pineapple plant’s life cycle or overall growth rate.

1. Seed Germination

Cultivated pineapples are most commonly grown vegetatively using stem cuttings. This method is much faster and helps preserve plant genetics (pineapples grown from seed can produce wildly different fruit from the parents).

With that said, pineapples can and do grow from seeds. This is how the plants grow in nature, and seeds are still commonly used in breeding programs to create new cultivars.

The time it takes a pineapple seed to germinate can vary wildly. Super fresh and healthy seeds may sprout in as little as 30 to 60 days. Some sources, however, report that it can take up to 180 days for the seeds to germinate!

Temperature plays a big role in all seed germination. The average recommended soil temperature for pineapple germination is 77°F.

Moisture is another vital part of this growth stage. Seeds imbibe (absorb) moisture through their seed coats. This moisture accumulation then triggers cell division, followed by the rest of the germination process.

Speaking of the germination process, most of it takes place inside the seed. We only know that germination is successful when the radicle (primary root), hypocotyl (primary stem), and cotyledon (embryonic leaf) emerge from the seed.

2. Seedling

Some seedlings look nothing like their adult counterparts when they first sprout. That isn’t the case for pineapples. A pineapple seedling more or less just looks like a tiny pineapple plant!

I mentioned earlier that pineapples belong to the bromeliad family. Bromeliads are classified as monocots containing grasses, palm trees, and more. There are several similarities between the appearance of a pineapple seedling and something like a young grass plant.

Your pineapple seedling may only have one leaf when it pokes through the soil. New leaves grow from the center of the plant, creating a rosette pattern with the oldest leaves along the outside.

3. Vegetative Growth

A young pineapple should have 2 to 3 leaves about 60 days after planting. After 90 days, the plant should have up to 6 leaves atop a short stem. New foliage will continue growing throughout the plant’s lifetime.

Vegetative Growth

Roots

Each pineapple plant starts life with a primary root. This root supports the plant practically alone for the first 60 days. At that point, the pineapple starts forming adventitious roots. These roots typically take over, replacing the primary root, about 90 days after germination begins.

Suckers or Pups

As your pineapple plant matures, you might notice offshoots or pups growing from between the leaves. These small vegetative clones can be severed from the parent plant and potted on their own. Pineapples grown from suckers will be genetic replicas of the original plant.

4. Flowering

Pineapple flowers form on tall, central stems. Each plant develops one inflorescence at a time. 

A single inflorescence contains between 50 and 200 individual flowers and is topped by a ‘crown’ of small leaves. If you think this inflorescence resembles a small, pink pineapple, you’re not seeing things.

pineapple Flowering

While a pineapple plant needs to reach a certain level of maturity before it will flower, this isn’t the only requirement. Pineapples flower in response to cool (below 60°F) temperatures. Pineapple farmers often use this mechanism to ‘force’ flowers during a certain time of year.

Once the bloom cycle begins, it typically lasts for about 14 days. 

5. Pollination

In nature, most pineapples are pollinated by hummingbirds, insects, and even some bat species. However, most pineapple varieties are considered parthenocarpic.

What does ‘parthenocarpic’ mean? The flowers don’t need to be pollinated to produce fruit. Pollination may interfere with fruit quality.

Popular pineapple cultivars are also self-sterile, so pollen from one flower can’t fertilize flowers of the same plant. Successful pollination and fertilization are only possible between two different varieties.

6. Fruit Development

Time to hurry up and wait! Pineapple fruit takes about 165 to 185 days to mature after flowering. 

Pineapples are multiple or collective fruits. All the flowers (up to 200) in an inflorescence morph to produce a single fruit. 

A mature pineapple fruit consists of many so-called ‘fruitlets’ — each resulting from a different flower in the inflorescence — attached to a central edible stem. (This stem is the tough middle segment in your typical pineapple.) 

Fruit Development

If the flowers are successfully pollinated, each fertilized fruitlet contains seeds. This is pretty rare, though, as explained in the previous section, all about pollination.

When to Harvest Pineapples

Aside from counting down the days since your pineapple flowered, there are a few more ways to tell whether your fruit is ready to harvest. 

Color is a good indicator of ripeness in almost any fruit. Pineapples start green and gradually turn yellow as they ripen. A pineapple whose bottom three-fourths are yellow is considered mature but not yet 100% ripe. Wait until the fruit is completely yellow.

Some growers swear by sniffing their pineapples to check for ripeness. A sweet, tropical scent indicates that the pineapple is likely ready to harvest.

Another surprisingly easy way to check a pineapple’s ripeness is to thump on the rind. A dull, solid sound is a good sign. A hollow thud is not.

Once you’ve determined your pineapple is ready, the best way to harvest it is by slicing the fruiting stem with a knife or pair of sharp garden shears. Cut directly below the fruit, or you may damage the pineapple plant. 

If you have enjoyed this article, here’s a link to Dragon Fruit Growth Stages and another for Banana Plant Growth Stages that you may also find interesting.

FAQ Pineapple Plant Stages

How quickly do pineapples grow?

There are several ways to grow a pineapple plant, but they all require 2 to 3 years to reach maturity and produce flowers and fruit. Proper care and maintenance is the best way to grow a pineapple quickly.

When are pineapples in season?

In most parts of the world where pineapples grow, the peak season is spring to early summer or March to July. Pineapples picked and eaten around this time will have superior flavour.

How many pineapples does one plant produce?

Pineapple plants typically produce only one fruit in a lifetime. After flowering and fruiting, the plant may continue producing new foliage and suckers or offshoots. 

What is a ratoon pineapple?

After harvesting the fruit from a pineapple plant, you can let a single sucker or offshoot grow in the original place. Such offshoots commonly produce their fruit, albeit smaller than the fruit of the first harvest.

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.