By: Marlene Affeld ~
If you are looking for low-maintenance houseplants that offer ease of care, brilliant color, a wide variety of sizes, shapes and flower and foliage color, few plants can surpass bromeliads. Bromeliads vary from just a few inches tall to over 35 feet at maturity. The majority of commercially cultivated species are about two to four feet tall.
There are 51 different genera of bromeliads and more than 2,700 unique species with all but one native to North, Central, or South America. Bromeliads are quite diverse, in that a few thrive in desert-type conditions while the majority flourishes in equatorial tropical rain forests. The most commonly cultivated genera include Aechmea, Ananas, Billbergia, Cryptanthus, Dyckia, Guzmania, Neoregilia, Nidularium, Tillandsia, and Vriesea.
These spectacular plants present brightly colored flowers in a diverse array of colors ranging from pale pink, red, purple, orange and blue. Flowers typically grace the plant for 6 to 12 weeks. Even species of a single genus often differ dramatically in appearance.
Spiky, leathery leaves protruding from a central stalk distinguish most bromeliad species. The overlapping leaves create funnels that trap moisture. In the wild, bromeliads provide homes for snails, tree frogs, and salamanders. One of the most common bromeliads is the sweet and flavorful pineapple.
While bromeliads are often dependent on other plants for support to lift them to the light, they do not derive nutrition from the host plant. Root systems of these unusual plants vary according to plant type. Saxicolous bromeliads grow by anchoring themselves to rocks or boulder faces. Terrestrial bromeliads species produce complex root systems that serve to gather moisture and nutrients from the soil, while epiphyte bromeliads produce hard, tough and wiry roots that attach the plant to stumps and tree trunks. Epiphytes are plants that have liberated themselves from the soil and have evolved to grow on other plants or artificial growing supports. Approximately half of all the Bromeliad species are epiphytes.
Many bromeliad species adapt well to growing conditions found indoors and make excellent interior plants for the home. Because they draw moisture from the air, they are especially well adapted for areas of high humidity, doing well in spas, bathrooms, and sunny kitchen windows. Hardier varieties of the genera can also be used as exterior landscape plants in temperate areas.
Prices vary dependent on the rarity of the species, size and maturity of the plant. It takes from one to several years for the majority of bromeliads to reach blooming size, dependent on the species. In the meantime, bromeliad foliage is visually attractive, interesting and colorful in its own right; flowering a delightful surprise.
Offering more than 400 species, Tillandsia is the largest, most diverse and widely distributed genus in the entire bromeliad family. The majorities are epiphytic, except for a few saxicolous species that grow on rocks. Tillandsia species vary in size from little to large. Some species have leaves that are tough and string-like; others have soft, thin, strap-like narrow leaves. In still others, the lower part of the leaf is spoon shaped. Sometimes the leaves are covered with a fine gray fuzz or silvery scales. The inflorescence is spectacular in some species usually consisting of blue flowers with brilliantly colored bracts.
With more than 200 species, Vriesea is the second largest but most hybridized and cultivated genus in the spectacular bromeliad family. Typically, Vriesea are small to medium sized, epiphytic plants with grey-green but often spotted, blotched, striped or distinctly marked leaves. The long-lasting inflorescences have white or pale yellow flowers and brightly multi-colored bracts. The inflorescences may be upright, twisted, pendulous or curved. Plants in this genus are especially susceptible to injury from cold temperatures and when grown indoors should be protected from cold drafts.
When you purchase a bromeliad, you get an unexpected bonus. Each bromeliad is capable of producing several pups you will eventually have a host of offspring. Pups can be separated from the mother plant when they have grown to about a third of the size of the parent plant. This can be done at any time before the mother plant becomes unattractive or starts to die.
If your bromeliad is growing in an established cluster when you purchase it, you can let the pups continue to grow attached to the parent plant and simply cut out the main plant when it dies off. Otherwise, separate the pups as desired, keeping them in a moist growing medium until they have a chance to become independently established. Forgiving and adaptable, bromeliads are the ideal houseplant.
By: Marlene Affeld ~