Bromeliads are an unusual family of plants. They can be grown for their foliage, which may be either coarse & dull or fragile, shiny, and colorful, with or without sharp-toothed edges. Some gardeners like the flowers, which are spectacular, often bizarre, in strangely startling colors and shapes. Bromeliads are becoming popular house plants because of their ability to survive neglect and adverse growing conditions.
Bromeliad plants grow in many forms. The most common form is the vase or bowl shape where the leaves form a rosette with a small cup in the center that collects water. In the tropics, debris, insects, and even tiny animals fall into this cup and eventually die, providing nutrients to the plant as they decay. New leaves grow from the center of the plant, keeping the vase intact. Another common form of growth is a tubular one; some billbergias grow in this manner.
Most bromeliads are epiphytes — plants that receive moisture and nourishment from the air and from debris that falls into the plant. In the wild, these plants grow on rocks or trees. A few other bromeliads are terrestrials — plants that grow in soil. Some bromeliads can adapt themselves to either situation.
Growing Requirements for Bromeliad Plants
Most bromeliads prefer a temperature range between 50๐ F and 70๐ F, while some species can tolerate temperatures ranging from 130๐ F down to zero.
These plants will produce their best bloom and leaf color when grown in good and diffused light. Hot sunlight can burn the tender leaves.
Since bromeliads grow naturally in areas where the air circulates freely, they prefer good ventilation.
# Containers and Soil Mixes
Clay pots are the best containers, since they are heavy; bromeliads grown in a plastic pot tend to get top-heavy. Because their root systems are so small, a 4-5 inch pot will be large enough. Since most bromeliads are epiphytes, they have very small, shallow root systems. They can even be grown on slabs of bark or on driftwood. A porous, well-drained soil is best.
# Watering and Fertilizing
The bromeliads that grow in the vase form need to have their cups filled with water to prevent wilting. To fill the cups, sprinkle with a hose or hand mist sprayer once or twice a week. Water the potting mix thoroughly around the roots when the soil is dry to the touch. Some species — such as guzmanias, nidulariums, and neoregelias — should never be allowed to dry out.
Fertilize bromeliads regularly with a commercial liquid plant food diluted to half the strength recommended by the manufacturer. The cups or vases can be filled occasionally with this diluted fertilizer mixture.
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