A good pine takes time.

Sooo…you stopped by the ARTfarm and bought some pineapple slips, or a pineapple fruit with its spiny top, and you’d like to grow your own pineapple. Hooray!! Here is the ARTfarm step by step guide to becoming a blissful pineapple farmer. We’ve also made a short video version of most of this information, with more details on preparing the slips for planting!

1The first thing you will need is patience. A pineapple plant with optimal conditions can fruit in a year but could take three years. Usually it will take up to 18 months for a slip (one of several shoots or runners that sprout from right below the mature fruit) to form a pineapple fruit. If your plant material comes from the fruit’s top (the ‘crown’) it can take two to three years to form the fruit.

A young pineapple at ARTfarm on St. Croix, USVI is showing its purple blooms, and the development of healthy young clone plants on the stalk under the fruit.

2Obtain your plant material. You can keep it simple and purchase pineapple slips at ARTfarm or from another local farm. You can save the top from your pineapple fruit. You can also purchase tissue culture cloned pineapple starts grown in a lab. We’ve tried all these methods and invite you to research different varieties! In our experience, our freshly harvested unpeeled Sugarloaf pineapple slips can sit for a week or even up to a month, in a protected area with partial shade but without water, prior to planting. No worries. Pineapples are drought tolerant, slow growing plants, so don’t fuss over them like they were lettuce.

Unpeeled ARTfarm pineapple slips are priced according to size. From four dollars for the very largest down to one dollar for the smallest slips. These slips, unpeeled, can be stored dry with partial sun for several weeks before planting. They are quite tough and hardy.

3Prepare and strip your slip. If your slip has a bulge at the end, like a mini-fruit with dark rough skin, remove that (cut it off). You’ll see some short leaves at the bulb of the end. The emerging roots of the pineapple plant are hidden inside those short leaves. To give your pineapple slip a little head start on root development, and prevent rot, peel off a few layers of the leaves (about half an inch along the bulb) and reveal some of those tiny roots. If you are a visual learner, check out our YouTube video linked below that contains a demonstration of the trimming and peeling techniques for the slips.

4Age and dry the slip. After removing those lower leaves to reveal the root buds, let the slip injury heal for two to three days in a dry shady location. Plant within the week.

5Choose your planting site. Pineapple plants are not terribly picky about their location but they have a few requirements:

  • Full sun will help your plant grow fastest and assure it will fruit.
  • They DO like good drainage, even slightly acidic soil (loose gravelly soil is good) and don’t tolerate waterlogging.
  • Pineapples do NOT like caliche (kuh-LEE-chee) soil* (whitish color, limestone deposits, high pH, alkaline).
  • If growing in a pot, use a minimum of a 3 gallon pot (with loose soil and good drainage) so you won’t have to repot it before harvesting.
  • In the garden, Farmer Luca likes to plant pineapples on raised beds (or on a slope) so they aren’t subject to flooding or standing water.
  • Keep the crowns clean: if mud or loose soil gets into the crown of your pineapple plant, it will rot and die. So keep your digging animals (particularly dogs and chickens) away from your pineapple patch!
  • Remember pineapples are somewhat spiny plants and will get fairly large, so space multiple pineapples at least 12 inches apart and not in high traffic areas.

6Plant your slips about two inches deep in the soil. Just deep enough to keep the slip from flopping over, but not so deep that soil can get into the heart of the slip.

7Don’t overwater your pineapple. Mulching is highly recommended to prevent water loss and prevent the need for weeding. Drip irrigation is effective and conserves water. Water a pineapple plant once or twice a week at most.

8Protect your baby. In terms of pests, the biggest issue we’ve seen is rodents eating the ripening fruits. Surprisingly young unripe pineapples can be eaten by mice and rats. Set traps, or get your pets to help out.

Our adopted border collies, Ginger and Spice, vigilantly patrol the pineapple gardens at this time of year to discourage rats. We’ve seen these athletic dogs leap all the way over the row of spiny plants during the hunt. This is a viable and much more entertaining alternative to poisons for controlling crop pests on an organic farm. During dry times there is increased pressure from all pests on farm crops and resources.

9Harvest! Keep an eye on your pineapple fruits, and as soon as the green of the fruit turns a slightly different color and the scent becomes tantalizing, harvest it and bring it inside! It will continue to ripen off the plant as long as the fruit is full-sized, and some ripening has started before harvesting. This timing of the harvest is a tricky thing to learn… through trial and error.

ARTfarm pineapples are ridiculously sweet, especially when we experience dry weather. May/June seems to be our pineapple season! In the tray on top, a small pineapple still has its suckers at the base of the plant. We typically only keep slips from the largest fruits for planting, however.

* “Caliche is calcium-carbonate cemented soil that is formed in semi-arid climates. Calcium carbonate is derived by the dissolution of [coral reefs,] shells and shell fragments … especially during the Ice Age when the sea level was much lower and the beaches were more extensive. Rain is a weak acid, formed by reactions between water vapor and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and it is this acid that dissolves the shell fragments … [Caliche forms in] a semi-arid climate; …when it rains, the volume of water is too small to carry dissolved materials away from the area, and they remain in the topsoil. …Groundwater dissolves the calcium carbonate from [coral and] shells in the surface layer and re-precipitates it a little lower in the surface profile, where it will act as a cement, binding the soil material into a hard substance that is called ‘caliche’, or ‘calcrete’, or ‘hardpan’.” From NPS information about the Channel Islands, CA. Some plants in the Virgin Islands prefer caliche soil (avocado trees) but most crop plants find it difficult to secure nutrients out of the calcium-rich caliche.