With names like Fudge Ripple, Groovy and Hallelujah, you just have to bring a bromeliad home with you. One of the most common bromeliad seen at nurseries, the urn plant, has grayish green foliage that produces pink bracts with purple flowers. A lovely addition to any indoor environment.
There are so many to choose from, like the Blushing Bromeliad, Flaming Sword, and Pink Quill. In fact there are over 2,000 different species of bromeliads in all types of color, shapes and sizes, each displaying its own beauty. Despite their exotic nature, the enchantment with these plants is plain to see. The rainforest echoes deeply in their leaves and brings a small but significant connection back to us from our vital ecosystem, the rainforest.
Bromeliads belong to the tropical New World we call North and South America, with one species native to West Africa. One particular species bears a favorite fruit, the pineapple, so if you thought you have never encountered this wonderful little plant, think again.
Many species simply live on tree branches, rotting trunks or cacti and gain their nutrients from air-borne particles and decaying plant and animal life. Tiny scales on their leaves called trichomes make an efficient absorption system through their leaves and prevent water loss. Their roots absorb moisture as well from the humid air of the forests. Others set roots in the ground and grow in rocks or soil. Some bromeliads have leaves that spiral and form a rosette cup that collects water.
Most bromeliads produce a flower stock (called bracts) from the center of the rosette, some are long and some are quite short with a single flower or many individual ones.
Before a bromeliad flowers, it stops producing leaves. The one-time flowering stage might bloom for a long time, but the plant sadly dies one to two years after this stage. It does produce new plant-lets near its base called “offsets” or “pups.” Feeding off the mother plant, these little pups grow until they are large enough (around 5 months and 6″ tall) to set roots of their own to survive as a separate plant and can gently be cut-away from the mother. The pineapple’s pup sits atop the fruit and can be removed and planted to start a new plant.
Caring for a Bromeliad
It might seem that bromeliads need a lot of care. Actually they are fun, easy to care for and provide spectacular ornamental foliage with brilliant blooms. Everyone should have at least one in their home or office to allow the graceful aesthetics from these plants spread through the rooms. Bromeliads do best in shallow pots with low soil mediums that contain a blend of bark, sphagnum moss and other organic amendments. Orchid mix is one such soil mix you can use.
To water, fill the cup formed at the base of the leaves with water. Remove the water that collects in the container once a week. Also, set the container in a saucer of gravel and fill it with water to provide a moist atmosphere for the plant. Do not let the roots sit in the water which could lead it to rot.
Tillandsia or air plants grow well nested into moss, pieces of wood or other non-soil organic items. They are beautiful hanging from a wall or shaded patio tree. Note: These bromeliads are watered differently. The roots need to be kept moist and it is best to mist the whole plant once a week. If the roots dry out, the plant will probably die.
Getting Them to Bloom
Sometimes a bromeliad is reluctant to bloom, probably because it isn’t getting enough light. Move the plant to a bright location to stimulate it to bloom.
If this doesn’t work, there is an easy way to encourage it. A ripe apple or apple cores placed together with the plant enclosed in a clear plastic bag for a week or two out of direct sunlight should do the trick. The apple gives off ethylene gas and promotes blooming.