Pineapple ( Ananas comosus )

Pineapple

Pineapples can easily grow outside here in Houston. After you’ve cut up a pineapple for serving, trim the remaining fruit away from the bottom of the leaves. Leave it sit on your counter a couple of days to dry. Otherwise the bit of fruit left on the bottom will mold or attract critters who will dig it up.

Then just stick it in the ground and wait. This one was planted about a month ago.

I’ve some locals tell me they get a fruit after a year, some have waited five years and still not gotten a fruit. So there is a bit of luck involved. Your pineapple should bloom and bear fruit its second or third year. If not you can help it along by covering the plant with a large clear plastic bag and placing an apple under the bag with the pineapple. Do this once the cool weather breaks in Feb. or Mar.

Once the plant fruits, it dies, new plants come from offshoots.

Plant it in the sunniest, warmest area of your garden. Pineapples are bromeliads so do not rely on the soil for nutrition. Don’t worry about planting them in bad dirt.

It will rot if the soil it is planted in is too damp, build a small mount to plant it on if necessary to keep it from sitting in water.

Something keeps stealing my pineapples. As quick as I plant them they are absconded with in the dark of night. I’ve taken to placing 4 short stakes about the plants and criss-crossing over the top with string to keep them in place until they get established.

Pineapples will not tolerate a freeze, they must be protected. They also don’t survive 100’F heat or drought.

So far I have not had much luck with pineapples but since they are free ( just just the top off a pineapple you bring home from the market and let it dry a few days before planting ) I will try again this year.

See also:
Pineapple growing in Florida

Blushing Bromeliad ( Neoregelia carolinae )

Blushing Bromeliad

We picked this up at a Mercer sale a couple of months ago. It is settling in just fine. We often find mosquito larvae in the water so a few grains of insecticide or drops of oil have to be added as needed.

It will not survive a frost so must be protected on cool nights or brought in if you have it in a pot. Ours did not winter over. You may want to pop it up and bring it inside when the weather cools down.

It will grow to about 18″ across and send out offsets to form children when happy.

They prefer light shade to full shade. When placed in sunnier locations they grow more spread out, in darker locations they grow more upright.

Tiny purple flowers form in the center where there is water now. You might also find an occasional small frog, toad or lizard hanging out and getting a drink.

Something kept digging this plant up I’m not sure why ?

Bromeliads are epiphytes, which means they do not get nutrients from the soil. The roots they grow are to anchor them in place. They will feed a bit through roots if they have them, but the main source of food is through scales on the leaves.

Carnivorous plants

All of the carnivorous plants I have grown love moist soil. Which is true of wild carnivorous plants in the wild. None have yet been found in arid areas. The flytraps, pitcher plants and sundews are all bog plants. Those I grow pots of clay with peat moss and soil. I put the clay pots in a saucer of water that I keep filled.

Do not fertilize carnivorous plants. In the wild they grow in bogs with poor dirt. The nutrients they need they get from the bugs they catch. When I have rain water available I use that to water them, otherwise I use tap water. Bottled water can be anything from anywhere, it’s just basically someone else’s tap water. Distilled water is totally lacking in anything.

My newest collections of carnivorous plants are planted in clear glass containers with tops. They are planted in sphagnum moss instead of dirt. They are thriving. Being bog or rain forest plants these plants all love humidity.

You can plant your carnivorous plants in sphagnum moss, peat moss, or a sand/dirt/peat mixture. Just be sure to avoid any potting soil at the nursery that has fertilizer as most of them now do.

I put the larger hanging Nepenthes outside in the summer under heavy shade and in the bathroom in the winter. It will not tolerate temperatures under 60’F. Most of the bog growing ones don’t mind an occasional frost or two.

The largest source of problems with carnivorous plants are caused by a lack of sufficient light. These plants love the sunshine and just can’t seem to get enough. If your plants are not doing well, try more light first.

The earliest known mention of carnivorous plants is in herb books of Europe in the late middle ages. Roger Bacon has several drawings of sundews in his yet to be deciphered ‘Voynic Code’ of the mid 1200s. At the time these plants were not known to be carnivorous.

The flytrap was the first plant discovered to be carnivorous by John Ellis. John Ellis named the fly trap ‘Dionaea muscipula’ ( Dionaea for the goddess Diana and muscipula means mousetrap ). The botanical world was amazed and a detailed paper by Ellis was sent far and wide throughout the community. Linnaeus, the father of biology, would not accept that a plant could be carnivorous, referring to Ellis’ work as ‘an offense against God’. So there the studies ended until Darwin’s time.

Darwin’s work with carnivorous plants began with sundews. Soon Joseph Hooker, then director of Kew Botanical Gardens, joined Darwin’s studies and they expanded them to cover other carnivorous plants. Darwin’s 400 page report in 1875 is still considered one of the main works on carnivorous plants. (Project Gutenberg has Darwin’s report available for free download )

Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon’s wife Josephine were both avid collectors of carnivorous plants.

Carnivorous plants attract prey, trap prey, and eat the prey by releasing enzymes that dissolve the prey. They then take the nutrients back up for use.

There are many plants that attract and trap the prey but only eat it with the help of a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. These are considered pre-carnivorous plants. Two bromeliads Brocchinia reducta and Catopsis bertermoniana in in this group. Even though they trap insects neither releases enzymes to dissolve the prey. Instead bacteria does that work for them. Also one of the tillandosioideaes, Catopsis Grisebach is considered to be pre-carnivorous. This plant grows on trees to which it attaches itself with roots. The leaves form an upright funnel in which it traps insects. Like the bromeliads it lacks its own enzymes to dissolve the insects.

Some plants, like Giant Dutchman’s Pipe, trap prey and release the prey after they have used the insect to spread pollen.

The plants attract prey by looking like flowers using colors including many ultra violet wavelengths which many insects can see. Some use scent often in the form of a sticky liquid.

Most of the carnivorous plants trap prey by letting the insect into the eating area but not out. A few like flytraps and sundews move and surround the insects. Some just use adhesives.

The enzymes used to breakdown the prey into dinner by the plants most commonly includes: Aamylase, chitinase, esterase, lipase, peroxidase, phosphatase, protease, and ribonuclease. Not all plants use all of the enzymes.

More Info:
Energetics and the evolution of carnivorous plants
International Carnivorous Plant Society
Carnivorous Plants, from Wayne’s World

If you want to see some truly amazing home grown carnivorous plants be sure to check out Varun’s photostream on flickr

Bromeliads

. . .Bromeliads are members of the plant family Bromeliaceae, containing more than 3,000 described species. The most well known bromeliad is one that you may find in your fruit salad – the pineapple. But this family includes others that look nothing like that fruit, such as Spanish moss (which incidentally is neither Spanish nor a moss).The more common bromeliads are terrestrial species, which means they are found growing in the ground, which is typical of most of our garden plants. . . .

Saxicolous species grow on rocks. . . .

The third species is epiphytic. These are found growing on other plants, usually trees, shrubs or cactus, but sometimes they can be found on telephone poles or even on the telephone lines themselves. This capability to take their nutrition and moisture from the atmosphere has earned these bromeliads the name air plants.”

. . .

This spiral arrangement ( of leaves ) causes the plant to grow in a flattened configuration with its leaves lined up in a single plane. In many, if not most, of the bromeliads the bases of the leaves overlap to form a water reservoir. Those with this central cup are often called tank bromeliads. They rely less heavily on their roots for nourishment than others. This tank is used to hold water and nutrients used by the plant.

. . . Bromeliads both beautiful, easy to grow

Bromeliads are highly tolerant of abuse, so they are a good choice of house plant for busy people.

These plants like a medium amount of sun, an east or west window sill works well. I have a couple that grow under table lamps and are quite happy to do so. If your plant is not flowering give it more sun. If it still doesn’t flower for you, place it in a clear plastic bag with a ripe apple for a few days. The ethylene from the apple will motivate the bromeliad to bloom. They may need more sun to get blooming going, but once blooming can do well in lesser lit places. If the leaves get long and floppy the plant probably wants more sun. But some varieties of bromeliad have floppy leaves naturally so it depends on what you have.

Water these plants by taking them to the kitchen sink or outdoors and spraying them with the hose. The leaves have tiny scales that absorb nutrients. Be sure to get all of the leaves wet. Allow the water to run down and puddle into the bucket of the plant. It will continue to absorb water and nutrients there. This does not have to be kept wet as some websites recommend. Remember this plant gets little, if potted nutrients from the soil, none if mounted. Spraying the leaves with water, or water with a little bit of fertilizer mixed into it is what it needs.

The flowers are actually quite tiny, it is colored leaves about the flower that make it appear larger. These leaves green up as they get larger. If the flower dies, the plant will die. Do not be too quick to toss it out. After the main plant dies off babies (pups) should begin to appear in the dirt around the original plant.

Since they are epiphytes they are not getting nutrients from the soil, pot them in a small pot and only re-pot when truly pot bound. You can also mount them instead of potting them. Just glue, tie or staple the plant to a piece of wood or put them in a shell or other interesting item. Do not use a hot glue gun. Goop or staples are the preferred method of attaching the plant to a mount.

Pineapples are the best known of this class of plants. They are easy to grow When you bring a pineapple home, slice off the top leaving about an inch of pineapple fruit attached to the leaves. Let this sit on your counter and dry. In about a week, or two it’ll be dry. Put this in a pot, putting the dried pineapple section under about an inch of dirt and leaving the leaves up in the air. Water when slightly dry until you see new growth, then water only when top inch of soil is dry.

We have some growing outside down here in Houston so some of the bromeliads can tolerate fairly cold nighttime temps. I put one outside here in Houston a few months back. Though it was not real happy about those 28′ nights and the two weeks of rain that followed it is holding its own. Check your specific variety for more information.

They do best if you rotate them outside occasionally as weather allows. Have a few plants for inside and a few for outside and rotate them weekly. They make great interior landscaping plants because they need little care and bloom for 2 to 8 months at a time.

These plants propagate by growing babies from the base of the mother plant except a few of them do so off the flower stems as a ‘spider plant’ does. When the babies reach 1/3 the size of the mother plant they can be separated from the mother. If the babies are on long stems, just cut the stem. If they are attached to the base of the mother plant use a sharp knife or razor to separate them from the mother plant. It does not matter if they have roots when you separate them, they are air plants. You can also just leave them attached to the mother plant if you prefer. Most varieties make very nice clusters of plants.

These plants are native only to Central and South America. One kind is found in Africa and is considered part of the proof of continental drift between South America and Africa.

If your plant begins to die, but you see baby bromeliads around the base of the plant this is just the normal life cycle. Your babies will grow up and replace the mother plant.

If your plant begins to die back and you do not see babies, this is likely from over watering. Bromeliads should be potted in a very small pot in a very light, loose soil. Add some mulch or orchid bark to the soil if you only have regular potting soil available.

Occasionally you might have a mealy bug problem with bromeliads.

More information:
Bromeliad Forum at The Garden Web
Bromeliad Society International
Bromeliads contribute to mosquito breeding in Miami