The other pineapple – the ornamental pineapple – a landscape jewel!
Are all pineapples edible? Technically, I suppose so, but in reality, there is a whole line of pineapples grown just for their looks – ornamental pineapples! Like all pineapples, they are a type of bromeliad like Spanish moss, and originated in tropical America and the Caribbean. Over the centuries, explorers have moved the pineapple to all tropical parts of the world. The rest is history as the edible pineapple is a standard fruit appreciated worldwide. It’s prettier relative, the ornamental pineapple, is a true landscape jewel often underutilized, but always appreciated!
Pineapple plants, even if they never produced any fruit at all, are attractive subjects for the landscape all by themselves. A whorl of sword-like leaves forms the actual pineapple plant which may grow several feet wide. Once the pineapple plant produces a certain number of leaves, a flower is produced. Cool weather and short days naturally help induce a pineapple to flower. The flower is another very ornamental sight manifested as a compressed reddish oval of flower buds emerging from the center of the plant. The individual flower is comprised of white and violet colored florets that open as the pineapple fruit forms. The fruit develops because of a fusion of smaller individual fruitlets into one fruit.
There are numerous varieties of ornamental pineapples. One called ‘Champaca’ is the most commonly available mini-pineapple often seen in garden centers. Another popular cultivar is ‘Variegatus’, a variegated pineapple grown for its gorgeous green and creamy-white stripped foliage and pinkish-variegated fruit. Another, different species of pineapple, Ananas bracteatus or Red Pineapple has a stunning red ornamental fruit.
Ornamental pineapples can easily be grown here in Charlotte County. Either purchase a started plant, or find a friend or neighbor with a vegetative part to share. To start ornamental pineapples, you first need either a crown from the fruit, slips, hapas, or suckers. The crown from the fruit is of course the pineapple top. A slip is a sprout that comes from below the fruit on the fruit stalk. Hapas are like slips but develop below the base of the fruit. Suckers form at the base of the leaves of the old mother plant. Don’t be too quick to remove slips, hapas, or suckers from the mother plant. The bigger and more developed that all these propagation materials are, the quicker they will develop into a new plant. Whichever plantlet type you use, detach it from the mother plant and let it dry in a shaded location for about two days. Pot these plantlets up in clean potting medium to start new plants. Set rooted plants out in full sun to part-shade locations situated in planting beds enriched with compost about 36 inches apart to help develop vigorous plants. Pineapples are also well suited to small space gardening and can be easily grown in containers suitable for a deck or patio. Ornamental pineapple also make quite the impression when mass planted for maximum showiness. Applying an organic mulch will also help maintain moisture and suppress weeds.
Not known for their fruit, but their unique beauty, the ”prettier” pineapple may have a spot in your landscape! For more information on growing all types of landscapes jewels, or to ask a question, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteMGLifeline/ . Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gilman, E. F., Klein, R. W. & Hansen, G. (2018) Ananas comosus ‘Variegatus’ Variegated Pineapple’. UF/IFAS Extension
Kinsey, T. B. (2021) Hawaiian Plants and Tropical Flowers – Ananas bracteatus – Red Pineapple.
Crane, J.H. (2019) Pineapple Growing in the Florida Home Landscape. UF/IFAS Extension
Ananas comosus ‘Champaca’ (Ornamental Pineapple) (2021) World of Flowering Plants. https://worldoffloweringplants.com/ananas-comosus-champaca-ornamental-pineapple/ .
Grant, B. L. (2021) Growing Variegated Pineapples: How To Care For Variegated Pineapple Plant. Gardening Know How.