Perhaps some of the most exotic and colorful plant families in the world are the Bromeliads, of our planet’s jungles and tropical zones. Distantly related to pineapples that we eat (look at the whorl of leaves on top of the fruit), they range in size from creeping little mats only a couple of inches high, to large Agave-like (think Century Plant) structures that are up to 3’ all the way around. In nature, they are often found growing on limbs up in the forest canopy, along with orchids, ferns, and epiphytic cactus- adorning the branches in such a fantastic way that it looks like a Disney fantasy! Even the draping “Spanish Moss” of our southeastern bayous and swamps is distantly related to the Bromeliads.
Well, we may not have tropical jungles here, but these resilient plants find themselves right at home in our gardens in the small and narrow spots against walls and between sidewalks, and shaded corners at doors and entry ways. These are usually difficult environments in which to find colorful plants. But the Bromeliads bring color “over-the-top,” in our selection of brilliant foliage, to tuck into just these spots!
Bromeliads like some morning or afternoon sun (just eliminating the hottest part of the day), or filtered light (under edges of tree shadows). If your location is very coastal, then most varieties will even do well all day in full sun. Too much shade can cause them to lose their color.
They do appreciate some fertilizer, but it must be applied in a mild, liquid form. Best way to achieve this is to purchase any house-plant fertilizer that is meant to be mixed or diluted with water. Simply pour the fertilizer-water solution right on top of, and over, the entire plant- filling up the “cup” shape in the center of the leaves. Do this about every 2-3 months.
Watering Your Bromeliads
Bromeliads like water when it’s available, but you’d be surprised how long of a vacation you could go on, and the kid you hired to take care of the plants forgot, and they would still be fine when you came home (easily a couple of months with no water)! Watering however goes like this… make sure that watering is from an overhead modality (sprinkler, misters, hose, etc.). NOT drip. You see, Bromeliads actually capture, and “cup” the water in the crown of their rosettes, and absorb it into the plant body that way. So when you water, fill the “cups” and wash off the foliage. This can easily be done as little as once every week to 10 days in the hottest part of the summer, even less during cooler seasons. It doesn’t take a lot of water, as you are mainly watering the foliage, and rather shallowly, the surface of the soil underneath.
Bromeliad Soil Care
Any kind of well draining soil is fine, or almost no soil at all! You can even glue, tack, or affix right on to rocks, walls, or branches and driftwood. By the way, if you’re ever inclined to create a “succulent wall”, you might want to consider using largely Bromeliads, as they are much better for the situation, easier to maintain, and a far better bet for success, than most actual “succulent wall” situations… especially for shade.
We like to combine the Epidendrum orchids (“Poor Man’s”, or “Crayon” orchids) as well as some shade loving succulents like Graptopetalum, Sedum morganianum (Donkey Tail), and some epiphytic cacti like “Christmas Cactus”, Rhipsalidopsis, and Hatiora. Tuck sphagnum moss in and among the planting, and you have for yourself “instant jungle”, and exotic plants- “on a stick!”
Click here to see the many varieties of Bromeliad we offer at Waterwise Botanicals.