“How long should I keep my pineapple plant in water before planting?” Question from Daniel of Omaha, Nebraska
Answer: It is always fun to start your own pineapple plants from tops! And, if you give them the right care, they may even produce fruit for you–even more exciting! You will know that your top is ready to plant when it has developed roots that are 2 to 3 inches long or longer. To plant it correctly, follow these steps.
How to Plant and Grow a Pineapple
Prepare your pineapple top for planting after it has developed roots that are 2 to 3 inches long or longer.
Choose a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom and is at least 8 to 10 inches across.
Use a fast-draining planting mix suited for bromeliads, like pineapples. Black Gold Cactus Mix is a good choice.
Fill the pot with soil until there are 4 inches of headspace at the top. Place the pineapple top in and cover its roots–being sure to leave 2 inches of space at the top of the pot for watering.
Water your pineapple until water runs through the pot and fills the saucer at the bottom.
Place your pineapple in a sunny spot indoors. Water it every three days or so.
Pineapples grow best in warm rooms (65 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit) with good humidity. Occasionally spritzing the leaves with bottled spring water can be helpful. Once your plant begins to grow and fill out, it may take several months to a year before it sets fruit.
With decades of vegetable gardening experience under my belt, it’s easy to take the years of knowledge for granted. It’s like riding a bike. I garden on cruise control and react or learn quickly when faced with a new challenge. In turn, years of teaching new gardeners have kept me in touch with the challenges they face. Sound, step-by-step advice is invaluable–potentially averting years of mistakes and poor yields. Getting the big picture of a new garden venture from the start will set the wheelbarrow rolling in the right direction. The new vegetable gardener will be quickly rewarded if modest goals are established from the beginning and time is set aside for the project.
Start Clean: Remove all of the turf from your soon-to-be garden bed. That means manually skimming off the sod with a sharp spade or using an automated sod cutter, which can be rented. I recommend the latter if you have planned a large garden. The bed should be small enough for you to reach into from all sides or large enough to add a walkway for easy access. Square or rectangular beds are easiest to mow around and manage.
Raise and Cover: Tilling and adding lots of fresh organic material will loosen and lift your soil to enhance drainage and aeration for better root growth. To take it one step further, I always rake or hoe soil up into berms to maximize drainage and keep beds light for better root growth. Berming is especially helpful for root crops, like carrots, potatoes, and beets, and deep-rooted plants, like tomatoes. Finally, I add mulches appropriate for vegetable gardens, like seed-free straw, compost, mushroom soil, grass clippings, or leaf mulch, to keep weeds down. I generally put straw along walkways I’ve established in my garden and compost on the planting areas. Avoid bark mulch of any kind in vegetable gardens because it binds nitrogen, which is detrimental to heavy-feeding vegetables.
Fertilize: Good fertilizer formulated for vegetable growing is essential for bumper crops. Any all-purpose granular or slow-release vegetable fertilizer will do, though I recommend feeding tomatoes with a food specially formulated for their needs. Tomatoes are very heavy feeders that require a wide variety of nutrients to perform their best. Follow the product instructions to keep them well fed.
Choose Good Varieties: Don’t pick just any old tomato, pepper, or bean for your garden. Do your research and pick the best when it comes to yields, performance, and flavor. If you are not certain, always select award-winning plants, such as All America Selections Winners. These tend to be as full-proof as you can get. It is also wise to choose disease-resistant varieties, so keep a lookout for these as well. (Click on the links to discover our favorite sauce tomatoes, lettuce, green beans, mini vegetables, carrots, and fast-growing vegetables.)
Know Planting Times: It is essential to know when you can plant a vegetable, what temperature it likes best, and how long it will take to produce. Vegetables are broken down into cool-season and warm-season types, though some will grow well from spring to fall. Cool-season vegetables, like cabbage, lettuce, peas, and radishes, grow best in cool spring or fall weather, while warm-season crops, such as corn, okra, peppers, tomatoes, and squash, need the heat of summer to yield. Some grow very quickly, and others take months to produce. For example, radishes can be ready to harvest in as little as 20 days, but some pumpkins can take 120 days to produce fruit. So, knowing a crop’s days to harvest is important. Finally, you need to know your last frost date (click here for yours) to determine when it is safe to plant tender vegetables and fruits outdoors.
Know Plant Needs and Sizes: Identify each plant’s height and width to determine its garden footprint. You also need to know if supports, like tomato cages or bean and cucumber trellises, will be needed. One important tip for tomato growers is that bush (determinate) tomatoes only reach 1-3 feet and need small cages or stakes, but vining (indeterminate) tomatoes can reach 6-8-feet high and wide, so tall, strong cages are required. Follow spacing guidelines to give your vegetable the space they need to blossom.
Know When to Harvest: When is it ripe? Tomatoes and peppers will be fully colored when ready to pick. Beans should be plump and reach the advertised length. Zucchini and summer squash are best harvested small but firm. And, you will know when beets, carrots, and radishes are ready to harvest when their bulbous tops become visible along the soil surface. If you are not sure when to harvest a crop, ask us through our free horticultural advice service, Ask a Garden Expert.
Keep It Clean: Weed, weed, and weed some more. Even when you mulch your beds, they will arise. Weeds compete with vegetables for resources and can quickly overwhelm a garden if ignored. They may also harbor diseases and attract pests. Pull or hoe weeds as you see them. Even if you weed every few days or even every week, you will have few to no weed problems, which will give you more time to focus on plant care and harvest. Investing in good weeding tools makes the task lighter. I am never without my weeding knife (Hori Hori), strong hoe (Prohoes are the best), and Korean hand plow (Ho-Mi).
Reach out to friends, family, books, and online references when you have gardening questions. There’s always more to learn and new plants to discover. And, if you can’t find an answer, ask us a gardening question for free at Ask a Garden Expert. You can also search the hundreds of questions we have already answered. It’s our goal to help gardeners succeed.