Pineapple and citrus have a lot in common, but are they actually related?

Like citrus fruits, a pineapple is sweet, juicy, tangy, full of vitamin C, and grown in tropical climates, but the similarities end there. These two types of fruit couldn’t be more different, botanically speaking. A side-by-side comparison makes it pretty clear. Unlike oranges, lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits, pineapples do not grow on trees. They are bromeliads, a family of plants that grow in soil, typically have stiff, brightly colored leaves, and sometimes produce flowers or fruit.

Bromeliads range from delicate Spanish moss (yes, the stuff that hangs from oak trees all over the South), to alien-looking tillandsia (air plants), to guzmania, a spiky-leaved perennial with flowers that bloom in vibrant shades of pink, yellow, and red. The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is the only type of bromeliad that produces edible fruit.

There are many varieties of pineapple plants, all have long spiky foliage and a bud in the center of the leaves that flowers, then matures into a single fruit. It takes 14 to 18 months for the pineapple to fully ripen so that it can be harvested.

Pineapples on Yellow Background
Credit: Antonis Achilleos; Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Pineapples contain little black or dark brown seeds inside the fruit, you'll find them close to the skin. But unlike other types of fruit, like citrus, they aren’t typically grown from seed. The best and easiest way to grow a pineapple is to cut off the leafy green top (called the crown) and plant it. Before you do that, it’s a good idea to let the crown dry out for a few days to prevent it from rotting. Once it has dried out a bit, you can place the crown in a cup of water and let the roots grow before you transplant it to soil. Or you can place the crown directly in soil either in a container or in the ground.