Bromeliaceae is a very large family of tropical and subtropical plants occurring natively in the Americas, primarily in South America, with Brazil having the most. They vary in form from the PINEAPPLE (Ananas Comosus), the most commercially significant, to SPANISH MOSS (Tillandsia usneoides), the most abundant and wide ranging. The dominant plant form is a many-leaved rosette with a central inflorescence. The foliage and flower coloring are unequaled in the plant world for brilliance and uniqueness.
The three classifications of Bromeliads as to habitation are Epiphytic, (growing attached to trees), Terrestrial (growing on the ground), and Saxicolous (growing on rocks). Most Bromeliads are Epiphytes, so their care is somewhat different from other ornamental plants. The potting medium must be well drained and should be allowed to dry out between waterings. Always keep water in the upper leaf structure of the plants.
Species of Bromeliads occur from altitudes of several thousand feet to sea level, in rain forest and field, in semi arid dessert and areas of heavy rainfall. To maintain a varied collection of Bromeliads in good condition one must know and provide for each particular species an approximation of the environment to which it has adapted itself in its native habitat The requirements of some are impossible to duplicate, but of the amenable kinds there are more than enough to keep a fancier occupied and happy.
In the North Bromeliads must be kept indoors in the winter. They must have adequate light, ventilation and humidity. Plants must be watered sparingly where conditions are dark, chilly or crowded. Greenhouses must have adequate ventilation and provisions for shade against the late winter sun. Plants should be moved outdoors in the spring because they much prefer nature’s rain to our treated tap water and they enjoy outdoor light and air.
SOME OF THE MORE POPULAR BROMELIADS
AECHMEAS (pronounced eck-me'a or eck'me-a). This group is probably the most widely grown of all Bromeliads. They are characterized by spiny- edged leaves that may be soft or rigid, glossy or armed with scales. They may be plain green, maroon, rose or purplish brown. They can also be solid or bicolored, barred, striped, mottled or a combination of all. They are also noted for their berry type fruit. They prefer filtered sunlight, and warm temperatures with adequate moisture and humidity. Aechmeas grow well in a well drained soilless potting mix. They can also be grown mounted on driftwood etc..
ANANAS. Ananas Comosus is the commercial pineapple although there are many other forms. The leaves are usually very spiny with the fruit arising from the middle on a stout stock. They grow well in the mix used for Aechmeas.
BILBERGIAS (pronounced bill-berj'ea). They are easily grown and easily propagated and are more hardy than Aechmeas. Billbergias are considered Epiphytes and often form clumps on tree limbs in their native habitat Usually they have fewer leaves than other Bromeliads and are tall and tubular. The foliage is often marked with cross bands and can be dotted or mottled. Very often the flower heads bend. The flowers are short lived. They can be potted or mounted the same as Aechmeas.
CRYPTANTHUS (pronounced cript-anth'us). These plants will tolerate a wide variety of environmental conditions in their native habitat. They flourish in sun and in shade, in moist and in dry areas. They are always seen growing in the ground. Most species are low spreading stemless rosettes. The leaves are often crinkled, mottled, and striped. Leaf color variation may include silver, rose, gray, copper, pink, brown, green, white, red or combinations of these. Usually Cryptanthus have white flowers that emerge from the center of the plant Pups are produced between the leaves or by stolen. Potting mix should be a soil type mix which is kept damp.
DYCKIA (pronounced dick'e-ah). These plants are very adaptable to most growing conditions. Natively they grow in warm sunny areas or in crevices in rocks. The Dyckias have stiff, spine, edge succulent leaves arranged in a rosette fashion. Many species have green leaves on the upper surface and silvery scales arranged in regular rows on the under surface. The flower color ranges from yellow to orange.
GUZMANIA (pronounced guz-main'e-ah). They are closely related to Vrieseas and Tillandsias but are not as numerous. They are Epiphytes but a few have acquired a terrestrial habit. Guzmanias like shade and moisture. This genus is characterized by having smooth-edged, glossy leaves. Longitudinal brown or maroon lines are evident on many species. Some have horizontal cross bands. Use a well drained soilless potting mix.
NEOREGELIA (pronounced nee'-o-re-j'ee'lee-a). This genera is characterized by medium sized compact growing plants. The flowers are formed on a compound head in the center of the plant. Some Neoregelias have red tipped leaves. Others have hearts that turn red, rose, or purple when flowering time approaches. The leaves may vary from green, silver green, maroon, banded, striped, spotted, or marbled. Use a well drained soilless potting mix.
NIDULARIUM (pronounced nid-u-lair'i-um). The Nidulariums are often confused with the Neoregelias in that the flower head stays close to the center of the plant The foliage is often glossy, soft and finely toothed. The color variation ranges from green to purple and could be striped or spotted. Use a well drained soilless potting mix.
TILLANDSIA (pronounced til-lan'see-ah). This is the largest group and the species have the greatest range of any of the other genera. The popular Spanish moss that adorns trees in the South is a Bromeliad in this genera. The Tillandsias are widely variable, ranging in size from inches to over fourteen feet. Some species grow in a moist humid environment while others grow in very arid conditions. The foliage may be soft or stiff. Most are covered with grayish scales that absorb moisture and collect nutrients plus prevent the plant from drying out. Most plants in this genera are considered Epiphytes. These plants are often mounted on wood..
VRIESIAS (pronounced vree'she-ah). Their ability to adapt to artificial conditions has made them desirable as house plants. These plants prefer filtered sunlight and good air circulation. They perform best in warm environments with a high humidity. While most Vriesias are epiphytic, some are found growing as terrestrials. For the most part these plants are medium sized plants with smooth edged green leaves. The long lasting flower bracts range in color from yellow, red, green, to purple, while the flowers vary from white, yellow, to green. Use a well drained soil less potting mix.