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FACTS & PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON BROMELIADS
Bromeliads are one
of the best kept secrets in the plant world. They are diverse, fascinating,
and relatively easy to grow.
As of May 2006, there are 56 genera and 3,056 species of
identified bromeliads throughout the world.
They have been hybridized extensively and many
new striking plants have resulted with both bloom and foliage that offer more
color than any other plant I am aware of. Because bromeliads are
"different" looking than traditional plants and most people consider
them exotic, therefore perceived as hard to grow, bromeliads have not caught
on among plant enthusiasts nearly as much as they deserve to. Newly discovered
or hybridized plants often sell to collectors for big bucks, but in a matter
of years become affordable to most people as they are reproduced asexually by
dividing "pups" from the developed plants. Most plant nurseries
don't offer bromeliads in wide varieties so the really nice and choice plants
most likely will need to be purchased from specialty growers. Bromeliads in
their native habitats (unique to the Americas) grow in such diverse places as
13,000 ft elevations to sea level, rain forests to deserts, and even as far
north as the Virginia coast and as far south as southern Argentina.. Some are true "air plants" while others
are terrestrial . Most are epiphytic deriving their nutrients from their
cupped shape. The
optimum temperatures for bromeliads range from 70 to 90 in daytime to 45 - 60
at night F. Most bromeliads like good air circulation and 50 - 75%
humidity. Studying the various genera and their cultural requirements can
help anyone successfully grow these plants. The purpose of this page is to
introduce you to the wonderful world of bromeliads and try to let you know
what you are missing if they are not part of your plant collection.
You can use the
following chart on Bromeliad Culture as a general guide and introduction to
Special Thanks to Don
Garrison, Houston Bromeliad Society for editing this reference chart
The following characteristics of each
genera are species specific. INFLORESENCES can be cupped, bracted, branched,
single spiked, or insignificant. FOLIAGE can be smooth edged (Tillandsias),
spined, or succulent. BLOOM PERIODS range from less than one week (Billbergias)
to greater than a month (Vrieseas). RELATIVE SIZES can range from less than
one inch to greater than three feet wide and tall. These variances can occur
within the same genera of bromeliads depending on the particular species.
on Growing and Enjoying Bromeliads
epiphytic (non-terrestrial) varieties, we grow bromeliads in small pine
bark as a soil base. This provides excellent aeration and circulation for
the roots that form, and provides sufficient support for the plant. For
terrestrials, use a loose and light organic soil mixture. For small
epiphytic tillandsias, mounting them on driftwood or cork is an excellent
and healthy way to display them.
is everything! Since different bromeliads prefer different levels of
light, they will let you know how to please them. If the foliage becomes
bleached or burned, reduce the light. If the plant isn't producing the
color you know it should have, increase the light. Finding the right level
of light makes all the difference in bringing out the colorful qualities
of these plants. Good air circulation is a common and vital need to all
genera of bromeliads.
should not be fertilized regularly unless you are trying to increase pup
production. There are some exceptions. Tillandsias and Cryptanthus respond
well to regular fertilization. Fertilization will reduce the coloration in
most bromeliad hybrids that are noted for their color., e.g. Neoregelias
and Billbergias. When fertilizing, use a liquid soluble 20/20/20
fertilizer at half the recommended strength. Never use urea based
nitrogen fertilizer. Avod mineral salts of any kind. Most city
water supplies are fine for bromeliads. Never mount bromeliads on
chemically treated lumber. Water with pH of 5.5-6.5 is
preferred (avoid alkaline water).
to display bromeliads is always a good question. Some suggestions follow.
We grow ours in large hanging baskets with three plants average per
basket. We group the plants by commonality, e.g. Neoregelias in one
basket, Aechmeas in another, or mixed genera that share the same light
requirements. Other ways are to display them on single poles with pot loops in spiral
form. Yet another way would be to incorporate them into a ground level
display by digging out a hole, placing a one gallon nursery container in
the hole, and inserting an 8" plastic pot into the nursery container
with the plant potted in small pine bark. This gives the appearance they
are terrestrial without them ever touching the soil. As long as the basic
cultural requirements are met, bromeliads can be displayed in a number of
other imaginative ways. They can also be attached to trees to resemble
their natural habitat. However, collector or rare plants might best be
grown as individual plants for greenhouse or other special display.
the plant flowers, it will produce "pups" or young plants then
die. The young pups will take over the next generation. Pups should not be
removed until visible root structures can be seen at their base or they
are at least 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the mother plant. Make sure the pups
are cut off with a solid base. Some bromeliads reproduce so
abundantly, you'll be sharing them with friends. Dead flower stalks
can be cut off if unattractive until the mother plant dies.
IN THE HOUSTON GULF COAST AREA, COME
JOIN THE BROMELIAD SOCIETY OF
IF IN THE AUSTIN
AREA, COME JOIN THE AUSTIN BROMELIAD
Sites and Resources
An excellent and inexpensive 37 page
full color booklet entitled "Bromeliads, A Cultural Manual",
2003, is available
through the Bromeliad Society International. You can contact them for a copy.
Also check out "Blooming Bromeliads" on our Recommended
Society International : This is the site for the Bromeliad Society
International with many informative links
Council of Bromeliad Societies: This site is a wealth of information
about bromeliads and has a wonderful photo gallery.Tropiflora
and Birdrock are
commercial bromeliad online catalogs that contains information of
educational value and excellent bromeliad photos.
Society of Houston: This site has wonderful information about the
various genera of bromeliads and how to care for them properly.
Neoregelia x 'Kathleen' - developed by David Meade, a Houston area bromeliad
grower and specialist.
Aechmea fasciata albo marginata in bloom