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Bromeliads

Bromeliaceae is one of the most diverse, beautiful and exotic family of plants that can be grown indoors or in a warm greenhouse. It counts over 2000 members, most of them being tropical epiphytes growing naturally on tree branches and rock faces, while others are terrestrial, growing in the earth. Almost all bromeliads are rosette-forming, with strikingly colored or variegated foliage and with flamboyant blooms.
The epiphytes members of this family are clinging by means of anchorage roots and obtain moisture and nutrients via their leaves directly from the atmosphere. For better display of this type of bromeliads it is best to attach them to a section of tree or branch, simulating the way they grow in the wild. This method of displaying also help to avoid the risk of rot which may occur if you grow them in compost. When you attach the plant to a piece of wood start from the bottom of the root ball, move upwards, gradually firming moss around the roots and keeping in position with wire, string or raffia.
 
Some of the epiphytes, particularly those with colored foliage, may be grown as pot plants, as long as you use the right compost mixture. The compost mixture must be extremely open, porous, high in humus and almost lime-free. You can use a mixture of half coarse sand or perlite and half peat or peat substitute. To make sure that any extra moisture drains away you can add pieces of partly composed tree bark to the potting mix. They prefer a place in bright filtered light during summer and bright light with several hours of direct sunlight in winter and spring to keep their leaf color and encourage flowering.
Terrestrial bromeliads may be grown in pots, indoors but they prefer a larger space if possible outdoors in a border if you live in an are where temperatures don’t fall under 7-10 Celsius degrees (45-50 F), or in a greenhouse or conservatory border. They prefer bright light throughout the year to keep them in maximum shape.
 
In order to thrive most of bromeliads need warm, humid conditions, with temperatures that will not go under 10 Celsius degrees (50 F).
The best known bromeliad is the pineapple.

In and Out Bromeliads

Growing Bromeliads indoors

Bromeliads are excellent indoor plants because of their colorful, long-lasting flowers and colorful foliage. Bromeliads adapt readily to the unfavorable growing conditions from our homes. Although many bromeliads are epiphytic, living on branches and trunks of trees or on rocks in their native habitat, most can be grown in containers.

You can grow them in clay or plastic pots, but if the plants are large and heavier, then clay pots are more stable. Because plastic pots retain moisture longer than clay pots, plants grown in plastic pots require less frequently watering than those in clay pots. Epiphytic bromeliads can also be grown in perforated plastic baskets and clay pots like those used for other epiphytic plants such as orchids.

Because bromeliads rarely have extensive roots, relatively small pots are adequate for most of them. Larger varieties can usually be brought to flowering into 13-18 cm pots. Terrestrial plants don’t need to be moved into larger pots until their roots completely fill the current container. Move young epiphytes into pots one size larger every spring until the maximum convenient pot size has been reached.

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Propagate Bromeliads

Bromeliads may be propagated by vegetative methods or by seeds. Most of the epiphytes will produce offsets the may be removed and grown on separately. The stoloniferous terrestrial kinds may be divided at the start of the growing season.

Many epiphytic bromeliads will only flower once and then will die, but before they flower they will form offsets around the base of mature rosette. Left them in place until they reach one third the size of the parent rosette, then remove them by hand or with a sharp knife and plant them separately. You can replant the parent rosette so that it can produce more offsets. Plant the offsets in a mixture of one part peat, one part well-rotted leaf mould and one part sharp, gritty sand and keep the young plants slightly shaded and at a temperature of about 21 Celsius degrees (70 F). Lightly mist-spray them daily with tepid water.

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Common Bromeliads

There are more than 50 genera of bromeliads, and many can be grown successfully as houseplants. The most commonly cultivated genera include the following.

Aechmea. Most of the Aechmea species are epiphytic. They have deep cups to hold water and outstanding foliage all year long. They have broadly bowl-shaped rosettes with arching leaves. The leaves are leathery, strap-like and may be solid, spotted, striped or banded, but all have spiny edges. The cylindrical, cone-like upright or pendant inflorescences have large, colorful bracts that remain in color for weeks or even months. They spectacular inflorescences are often red, pink or orange, with blue, yellow or black flowers. Fleshy, bright red or blue berries often follow the flowers. Most of Aechmea species are easy to grow, but they need bright light in order to develop well. Aechmea fasciata, one of the most popular bromeliads of this genus, is often called the urn or living vase plant because it appears to have provided a vase for its predominately pink inflorescence.

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