Jun
25
2009
4

Starting pineapple plants

As a junior in high school I had the privilege of going on a mission trip/choir tour to Costa Rica with my church.  We stayed at a Methodist mission camp there, which was surrounded by pineapple farms.  I had never seen a pineapple grow before, and not even thought about how they might grow.  If you had asked me, I probably would have guessed that they grew on a tree similar to a coconut.  But I would have been wrong.

Pineapples are actually the fruit of a bromeliad (Ananas bracteatus).  You know, bromeliads are those short, spiky plants that tree frogs like to sit in.  Most of them have beautiful blooms of bright red, pink, purple, orange or yellow.

Common Bromeliad plant - photo courtesy flickr member Jofel Tobias

Common Bromeliad plant - photo courtesy flickr member Jofel Tobias

I remember going to the Myriad Gardens in Oklahoma City on a school field trip when I was younger and we were told about the rain forest and about how many bromeliads grow up in the trees (epiphytes) and the center of the plant holds water, where the tree frogs would lay their eggs.  Now that I am a plant and aquarium fanatic I know that bromeliads are the staple plant for terrariums/paludariums/vivariums for people who keep tree frogs.

Bromeliads (in general) are fairly easy to care for.  They prefer humid environments and like to stay wet in the middle but don’t require a lot of light.  You can just check on them every once in a while and pour some water into their center if they have become dry.

Want a free bromeliad?  Well, it’s not entirely free…  If you ever buy a pineapple at the store, save the crown.  You might notice that the crown itself looks a lot like a bromeliad.  It is!

I’m not sure how you normally pick out your pineapples at the store, but if you plan to start a plant from one, you will want to get one with a nice looking top.  (The leaves at the top of the pineapple are the only ones you will see for several months.)

Starting a pineapple bromeliad

The first step is to remove the crown from the pineapple – like so.

Pineapple top with some fruit attached

Step 1: Lop off top of pineapple, leaving a little bit of fruit attached

Next, cut away ALL of the fruit, even with the bottom of the leaves.  True, you could just do this in one cut, but I usually don’t prepare the pineapple top when I cut the pineapple for eating.  I usually leave some fruit attached to the top for several hours – maybe even a day or two – moving to step 2.  It is important to remove all of the fruit.  The fruit can cause the rest of the pineapple top to rot, if left attached.

Step 2: Carefully remove all fruit from pineapple top, cutting just below the lowest leaves.

Step 2: Carefully remove all fruit from pineapple top, cutting just below the lowest leaves.

Next, peel away several layers of the bottom leaves, exposing the stem.  I would suggest at least 4 layers of leaves all the way around.  You really can’t pull away too many leaves.  Now you will notice some little root starts.  If your pineapple sat for very long before you prepared it, these roots might be as much as a 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch long.  Otherwise, they are probably just little nubs.

Step 3: Peel away several layers of leaves, leaving a bit of stem exposed from the sides and some root nubs showing at the bottom.

Step 3: Peel away several layers of leaves, leaving a bit of stem exposed from the sides and some root nubs showing at the bottom. In this case, the root starts are very small.

Place the crown in a plastic cup or glass.  The remaining leaves should hold the pineapple crown in place.  Fill the cup with water until the exposed stem is in the water, but the leaves are more or less above the water level.  The crown should not be placed in full sun while it is rooting.  I actually stuck mine on top of the refrigerator, which is pretty dark except when the kitchen light is on.  Light is not really necessary at this stage.

About once a week I would replace the water, as it will get stinky if you don’t.  When you’re changing the water, check to see if any of the lower leaves are starting to turn brown and rot.  If so, just peel them away.  This will help prevent the rest of the plant from rotting.  Within a couple of weeks you should see real roots growing to several inches in length.

Roots beginning to form from pineapple base

Roots beginning to form from pineapple base

In some cases, the pineapple might be reluctant to put out many roots while in water.  If yours has been in water for over a month and you have little to no root growth, you might want to go ahead and plant the pineapple head.  However, if roots have not formed and the head has turned mushy, you need to just throw that one away and try again with a new pineapple.

Many bromeliads are planted in peat moss only.  I potted my pineapple plant in a rich potting soil with some vermiculite added in.  I water it about as frequently as my other tropicals and it been happy for about three years, growing long leaves out of the top.

Established pineapple plant with significant new growth

Established pineapple plant with significant new growth

I think it is pretty rare to have a potted pineapple plant produce fruit in temperate climates, but it doesn’t keep me from growing one.  Who knows, maybe one day it will surprise me!


 

Dec
29
2008
1

Trip Report: Myriad Gardens continued

Last week I posted a new photo album containing over 200 pictures of the Myriad Botanical Gardens in Oklahoma City.  I posted the album in pre-Christmas haste, without labeling any of them.  But now I have labeled the majority of the pictures.  So, if you haven’t seen them yet, or you already looked and want to know an ID of one of the plants, you can check them out here.

Last week in my Myriad Gardens post I just wrote about a couple of the highlights.  I wanted to give a little more information about the Gardens today.

The Myriad Botanical Gardens is a 17 acre colorfully landscaped plot in downtown Oklahoma City.  In the center is the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory, which is a big tropical rainforest inside a cylindrical greenhouse on it’s side.  The big greenhouse hovers over a pond, giving it the name “The Crystal Bridge.”

The outdoor gardens are nice, but the real action is inside.  About 2/3 of the inside space is dedicated to a tropical rainforest collection, while the remaining 1/3 is dedicated to a dry tropical zone.  There is no physical boundary between the two collections, so I am partly surprised they coexist so well, sharing the same humid air with one another.  The dry zone is watered less frequently the entire year and is watered sparsely if at all during a certain dormant period of the year.

While many of the plants at the Myriad Gardens are those you would expect to see in a rain forest recreation, the Myriad Gardens has focused on a couple of specific plant groups.

Aroids

This is not one of the collections noted on the official website, but being an Aroid collector, I couldn’t help but notice how many plants were present from this family.  Maybe the website needs a little update.

The collection of Aroids from the genus Anthurium was astounding.  There are two types of Anthurium (in my mind): those with the very colorful blooms and ordinary foliage, and those with the really cool foliage but discrete blooms.  The Myriad Gardens had several color varieties of the first category.  I had never seen a pale purple Anthurium before and unfortunately I didn’t get a very good picture of it.

Pale purple Anthurium sp. at Myriad Gardens

Pale purple Anthurium sp. at Myriad Gardens

They also have a number of the unique foliage species of Anthuriums, including the King Anthurium (Anthurium veitchii).  Notice the size of the guard rail in comparison.

King Anthurium - Anthurium veitchii

King Anthurium – Anthurium veitchii

I also saw a cool shingler Aroid that I had never seen before.  This little climber was so appressed to the rock wall that the leaves were conforming to the contours of the rocks.

Rhaphidophora cryptantha - an Aroid shingler - at the Myriad Gardens

Rhaphidophora cryptantha – an Aroid shingler – at the Myriad Gardens

Really there were tons more Aroids that I noticed (and photographed) but I won’t waste any more space here.  If you’re interested, go to my photo album to see them.

Marantaceae (Prayer Plants)

This category was also not mentioned on the official website, but I noticed quite a few unique species from this family that I had never seen before, and several that I had.  Two particular varieties from the same species caught my attention.  I had seen the Stromanthe ‘Triostar’ before, but never this large.

Stromanthe sanguinea Triostar at the Myriad Gardens

Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Triostar’ at the Myriad Gardens

I have not quite identified the other variety, but I think it is also from Stromanthe sanguinea.

Stromanthe sanguinea? at the Myriad Gardens

Stromanthe sanguinea? at the Myriad Gardens

Of course, there were also several very large Zebra Plants (Calathea zebrina), of which I have a small one of my own at home.  It was fun to see these plants waist high or higher.

Palms

According to their website, there are supposedly 100 species of palms in the Myriad Gardens.  If I had to count, I would probably tell you there were about 10.  The only palm I could correctly identify was the Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera).  They also have the palm species which has some of the largest leaves in the world – the Bismarckia nobilis.

One of the palms in the Myriad Gardens

One of the palms in the Myriad Gardens

Cycads

The Myriad Gardens also has a nice collection of cycads scattered throughout their rainforest collection.  Cycads are pretty much the oldest plants on the planet, having shared time with dinosaurs.  They are often mistaken as palms and have similar characteristics, but are usually shorter.  I don’t know that I got any good pictures of the Cycads.

Gingers

Ah, one of my favorites!  The collection of gingers may just seem large, but not very diverse, whenever the plants are out of bloom.  But when they are in bloom, it is easier to see that the Myriad Gardens has a number of different species of Gingers.  These are beautiful, tall plants with very colorful blooms.  I am still waiting for my own personal shell ginger to bloom.  Maybe next summer.

A variegated shell ginger - Alpinia zerumbet variegata

A variegated shell ginger – Alpinia zerumbet ‘variegata’ – at the Myriad Gardens

An unknown ginger at the Myriad Gardens

An unknown ginger at the Myriad Gardens

One closely related plant to the family of gingers is the genus Heliconia.  Heliconias are commonly called “False Bird of Paradise” because of their resemblance to the Bird of Paradise inflorescence.  The Myriad Gardens had a couple of different Heliconias in their collection.

False Bird of Paradise - Heliconia lankesteria

False Bird of Paradise – Heliconia lankesteria

Bromeliads

No one would call this collection of bromeliads small.  And it seems they are always in bloom.  The botanical family Bromeliaceae contains the genera Aechmea (the most common Bromeliad), Ananas (which includes the Pineapple plant), Billbergia, Bromelia, Cryptanthus, Tillandsia (commonly called “Air plant”) and more than 50 others.  Many of the Bromeliads (Aechmeas, Ananas) are planted in the ground, while others (Tillandsia) are growing attached to trees or rock.  I didn’t take too many pictures of the bromeliads, but there are several in my photo album.

One of my favorite Bromeliads on the left (striped purple and green).

One of my favorite Bromeliads on the left (striped purple and green).

And here is a picture of just one of the many bromeliads in bloom.

One of the many bromeliads in bloom

One of the many bromeliads in bloom

Orchids

The Myriad Gardens actually has a fantastic display of orchids.  At one location there is a concentrated wall of orchids.  But elsewhere in the rain forest collection you can see them attached to trees and rocks and walls.  It is simply amazing how many orchids are in bloom at any one time.  More than 1200 of the orchids in the collection were bequeathed to the Gardens in 2002 by a local collector named Fred Strothmann.  My photo album has quite a few pictures of the orchid collection.  Even though I have had some experience raising orchids, I didn’t try to tackle identifying any of them.  I could tell a couple of the genera, but nothing beyond that.

An unknown orchid at the Myriad Gardens

An unknown orchid at the Myriad Gardens

Begonias

To be honest, I only noticed 3 or 4 begonias in the Gardens, but the website states that there are over 100 species present.  I’m not denying that they were there, because I was kind of being overstimulated by the place.  If I worked there everyday it would probably take a good month before my head stopped spinning each time I walked in the Gardens.  One particular (large) begonia did catch my eye, the Begonia ‘Black Taffeta.’

Begonia Black Taffeta and my beautiful wife

Begonia ‘Black Taffeta’ and my beautiful wife

Euphorbias

Euphorbias are a bit of mystery to me.  Why?  Well, because the most common Euphorbia I know is Euphorbia pulcherrima – The Poinsettia.  Most of the other Euphorbias with which I am familiar all have spines and are what I would call in a very general sense – cacti.  Now I know that technically Euphorbias are not cacti, and I’m okay with that.  But what I don’t understand is what is the Poinsettia doing in the same genus as Euphorbia lactea?

Euphorbia lactea Cristata

Euphorbia lactea ‘Cristata’

The Myriad Gardens collection of Euphorbias resides in the dry tropical zone.  Do you know the difference between a cactus and a Euphorbia?  Euphorbias grow in the Eastern Hemisphere while cacti grown in the Western Hemisphere.  Both plant groupings are filled with succulent plants with thick stems that store a milky sap and require very little moisture in their natural environments.  The Myriad Gardens collection of Euphorbias contains 40 species and if I had to guess, I would have told you it contained more than that.  There are quite a few pictures of Euphorbias in my photo album.

My favorite Euphorbia in the building was probably Euphorbia punicea – The Jamaican Poinsettia tree.  Here is one picture and there are a couple more pictures in my photo album.

Euphorbia punicea - The Jamaican Poinsettia Tree

Euphorbia punicea – The Jamaican Poinsettia Tree


The Myriad Gardens are a really great place to visit, with a small admission for the time that you can spend inside (if you’re a plant lover).  If you haven’t yet clicked on any of the dozens of links I provided to my photo album, I suggest you do so now.  You can get a better feel for the wonderful collection on hand.

Nov
05
2008
0

The Pee-Wee Effect

I have been hesitant to write on my plant blog about my bad experiences or flat out failures in raising plants.  I felt that someone who has a plant blog needs to appear to know what they are doing.  But I guess we are all experimenting and I don’t think PETP (People for the Ethical Treatment of Plants) will come after me if I share some of my more trying moments with my friend, Kingdom Plantae.

I live in zone 7A.  This region can get pretty cold during the winter – dropping to around 0 degrees Fahrenheit on occasion.  Needless to say, tropical plants must be brought indoors.  Unfortunately, I don’t (yet) have a greenhouse and my house is not well-suited to keeping hoards of plants over the winter.  My window space is limited and I have some beautiful large trees in my yard which pretty effectively scatter a lot of sunlight before it can make it in the window.  So, I’m limited on where I can put plants in the house over the winter.  It’s a bit of a struggle to keep everything alive until it gets warm again and I can put all my plants back out for some fresh air, circulation, real rain and warm sunshine.  I really should experiment with artificial lighting, but I only this year put most of my plants in one concentrated place where this would be effective.

Anyway, in this little house of mine, live myself, my wife, 2 aquariums with plants and fish, approximately a hundred plants – and 2 dogs.  Those last 2 inhabitants add yet another restriction to where I can place my plants indoors (and outside as well).

I was reading a blog post about Zamioculcas zamiifolia today at Plants are the Strangest People.  [PATSP is an excellent and entertaining blog, so you should check it out.]  In the post, the writer says that ‘ZZ plants’ rarely do anything and they don’t require any grooming since dead leaves are so rare.  I was just thinking about how this plant is nearly indestructible – and yet, I have a couple of dead leaves on my plant.  I felt kind of embarrassed at first, thinking I might be the only person in history who has had trouble keeping a ‘ZZ plant’ – although I’m sure that’s not true.  Then I remembered why my ‘ZZ plant’ has its brown leaves.

And that, my friends, leads us to “the Pee-Wee effect.”  My two canine daughters are a 70ish pound Boxer named Pippa and a 15ish pound Boston Terrier named Pee-Wee.

Pups at play

Pippa and Pee-Wee playing when Pee-Wee was a newborn puppy

Both of our pups been known to chomp a leaf from time to time, but Pippa is usually more trust-worthy than the younger, hyper and erratic Pee-Wee.  My wife and I affectionately refer to Pee-Wee as “the pig” [really it is affection], because of her little round, pink belly and her common snorting noises.  Most of Pippa’s attacks came when she was younger and less mature.

ZZ destruction

My ZZ plant’s browning leaves were most likely brought on by an assault by Pee-Wee.  There are some little perforations in the affected leaves that could only have been made by the little pig.  If it had been Pippa, there wouldn’t be a plant left.  She destroys all evidence.

Anyway, the “effect” of Pee-Wee’s random plant chewing is almost always that I lose the affected leaves.  I usually don’t do anything after she has messed with one of my plants, hoping that the plant will remain healthy and just have some new features.  I probably should just immediately snip off the affected leaves, though.

Pippa

Pippa in front of the Christmas tree

Pee-Wee

Pee-Wee driving the boat

Incapable pig

Pee-Wee pretending to be incapable of any wrongdoing

Aglaonema 'Maria'

Other plants that Pee-Wee has attacked include my Aglaonema ‘Maria’, a bromeliad, a pineapple plant (which is also a bromeliad), a coconut palm, and a gerbera daisy.  She actually managed to eat the bromeliad and pineapple plant, but she only damaged a couple of leaves on the other plants.  This summer, the pig ripped a leaf (with attached stem) off of my Monstera deliciosa ‘Borsigiana’ and left it lying on the back porch.  I stuck the leaf in water (about 4 inches across with a 10 inch stem) and was surprised to see two fleshy roots appear within a week or so.  So, in one case (and one case only) Pee-Wee has actually helped me propagate a plant.

propagated Monstera deliciosa 'Borsigiana'

This year, I have managed to move all plants out of their reach.  I built a small shelf in the extra bathroom in the house where some more plants can get some bright, indirect light.  And I bought a shelf to put in the laundry room, loaded it down with plants and put a baby gate in front of everything on the floor.  The main bathroom in the house, however, has a number of reachable plants on the floor.  So I have to make sure to keep that door closed whenever I leave the house.  Otherwise, I will be sure to come home to some disappointment.

© Copyright 2008-2012 Zach DuFran - all text and images unless otherwise noted.