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blooming plant of the month
 
bromeliads

Hyacinth - Blooming Plant(printable PDF)
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BOTANICAL NAME
Aechmea spp. (ek-ME-uh)
Ananas spp. (uh-NAN-us)
Billbergia spp. (bill-BUR-jee-uh)
Cryptanthus spp. (krip-TAN-thus)
Guzmania spp. (gooz-MAY-nee-uh)
Neoregelia spp. (nee-oh-ruh-JEE-lee-uh)
Tillandsia spp. (til-LAND-zee-uh)
Vriesea spp. (VREE-zee-uh)

COMMON NAMES

Aechmea: Air pine, Living vase, Silver vase, Urn plant
Ananas: Pineapple
Billbergia: Vase plant, Queen’s tears, Friendship plant, Fool-proof plant, Rainbow plant
Cryptanthus: Earth star, Starfish plant, Silver star, Zebra plant
Guzmania: Scarlet star, Flaming torch
Neoregelia: Blushing bromeliad, Heart-of-flame, Crimson cup, Fingernail plant, Cartwheel plant, Marble plant
Tillandsia: Air plant, Spanish moss
Vriesea: Flaming sword, Painted feathers, Lobster claws, Bromeliad king, Zebra bromeliad

DESCRIPTION
Bromeliads, from the family Bromeliaceae (bro-mel-ee-AY-see-ay), are a large and diverse group of plants known for their exotic blooms and ornamental foliage. They come in a range of sizes from miniatures to giants.

COLORS
Bloom colors vary depending on genus but include red, pink, burgundy, yellow, green and violet. Leaves can be light green to dark green; gray-green; green with ivory edges or stripes; or red, pink and green striped.

DECORATIVE LIFE
Bromeliad blooms can last for several weeks to several months, depending on plant type and the care and handling the plants receive. However, after bromeliad blooms fade, the plants start to die, often producing offsets (pups) at their bases (see “Reblooming/Propagation,” below).

AVAILABILITY
Bromeliads are available year-round.


in-store and consumer care

LIGHT

Most bromeliads do best in bright locations but out of direct sunlight, which can burn foliage and blooms. Ananas and Cryptanthus, however, can thrive in full sun, as long as they’re introduced to it slowly. Other types—those with “soft” leaves—can tolerate lower-light conditions. Remember it this way: Soft leaves, soft light; stiff leaves, bright light.

WATER
Bromeliads’ water requirements vary by genus, but most don’t need much. With bromeliads that have a center “cup,” or “vase,” formed by a rosette of leaves, let the potting medium dry out completely between waterings, then saturate it, and enable the water to drain quickly. Use distilled water or rainwater. In addition, always keep a small amount of distilled water or rainwater in the central cup, emptying it and adding fresh water every 10 to 30 days. Too much water in the cup can cause the base of a flower spike to rot.

With “noncup” types of bromeliads, keep the potting medium more consistently moist but not wet; be careful to not overwater. Air plants (Tillandsias) require no watering at all—except in dry, arid environments, where only an occasional misting is required.

TEMPERATURE
Indoors, bromeliads do best in temperate environments (65 F to 75 F). Never subject them to temperatures below 60 F for extended periods. Guzmanias and Vrieseas dislike temperatures above 80 F, but Ananases and Tillandsias thrive in higher temperatures. Temperatures of 75 F and higher are required for bromeliads to produce blooms.

FERTILIZER
Bromeliads grow better when fed regularly in the summer. Fertilize plants with a liquid, all-purpose plant food diluted to half the regular strength. Spray the plant food onto the leaves, pour a bit into the cup and dribble a small amount into the soil. Using too much plant food can damage these plants because most contain high levels of salts.

POTTING MEDIUM
Bromeliads require a light, quickly draining soil mixture, such as a mixture of peat moss, sand or perlite, and chopped and decomposed tree bark or pine needles. You also can use an orchid or cactus potting mix.

REPOTTING
This is rarely necessary because bromeliads have small root systems, and most grow best when kept in small pots. When planting offsets (see “Reblooming/ Propagation,” next), use the correct potting medium (see “Potting Medium,” above), and do not plant them too deeply.

REBLOOMING/PROPAGATION
Most bromeliads flower only once in indoor home/office conditions. After flowering, however, they may produce offsets (pups) at their bases. When the offsets are at least six months old and one-third to one-half the size of the parent plant, they can be cut, with a sterile knife, from the parent plant and potted into a lightly moist sand/peat-moss mixture or an orchid or cactus soil mix. If environmental conditions are right, you can induce the offsets to flower by exposing them to ethylene gas: Place each plant into a clear plastic bag, with one or two apples; seal the bag; and let it stand for two to four days at room temperature. You may have to wait six weeks or so to find out if the treatment worked.

ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY
Ethylene gas is not detrimental to bromeliads; in fact, it is required to stimulate flowering.

challenges

PESTS

Mealybugs and scale insects are occasional problems. Scale insects cause brown discs on leaves. Mealybugs cause white cottony-looking patches on leaves.

FALLING AND YELLOWING LEAVES
Plants are too dry; too much sunlight.

BROWN LEAF TIPS
Insufficient humidity; repeated drying out: too-high temperatures; no water in cup; use of hard water.

BROWN SPOTS ON LEAVES
Sunburn due to exposure to direct sunlight.

FLOWER SPIKES ROT AT BASE
Too much water in cup.

PLANTS DIE OR ROT AT BASE WITHOUT BLOOMING
Overwatering; insufficient air circulation.

ROOT ROT
Overwatering; insufficient humidity.

PLANTS DO NOT BLOOM
Insufficient light; too young. Most bromeliads do not bloom until they are at least three years old.

OFFSETS DIE WITHOUT ROOTING
Offsets taken from parent plant and planted when too young; insufficient humidity.
 

  fun facts  
 

WHAT’S IN A NAME Most bromeliads are native to the tropical regions of Central America and South America—particularly the rain forests. The majority of types are indigenous to Brazil.

UP IN THE AIR Most bromeliads are classified as “epiphytes,” meaning they grow on trees or elevated supports, obtaining water and nutrients from the air through their leaves, cups and roots; they do not damage the support plant. Others are “terrestrial,” sinking their roots into the forest floor, and still others are “saxicolous,” meaning they grow on rocks, with their roots penetrating cracks and fissures to locate moisture and nutrients.

COMING OF AGE Most bromeliads do not bloom until they are at least three years old.

 

Some information provided by:

Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Bromeliad Society International, http://bsi.org
Chain of Life Network® , www.chainoflife.org
Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, The, by Barbara Pleasant
House Plant Expert, The, by Dr. D.G. Hessayon
Society of American Florists’ Flower & Plant Care manual

Photos: The John Henry Company
 

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