They are diverse, fascinating, and relatively easy to grow. There are 54 genera and 3,168 species of identified bromeliads throughout the world. They have been hybridized extensively and many new striking plants have resulted with both bloom and foliage that offer more color than any other plant I am aware of. Because bromeliads are “different” looking than traditional plants and most people consider them exotic, therefore perceived as hard to grow, bromeliads have not caught on among plant enthusiasts nearly as much as they deserve to. Newly discovered or hybridized plants often sell to collectors for big bucks, but in a matter of years become affordable to most people as they are reproduced asexually by dividing “pups” from the developed plants. Most plant nurseries don’t offer bromeliads in wide varieties so the really nice and choice plants most likely will need to be purchased from specialty growers.
- For epiphytic (non-terrestrial) varieties, we grow bromeliads in small pine bark as a soil base. This provides excellent aeration and circulation for the roots that form, and provides sufficient support for the plant. For terrestrials, use a loose and light organic soil mixture. For small epiphytic tillandsias, mounting them on driftwood or cork is an excellent and healthy way to display them.
- • Location is everything! Since different bromeliads prefer different levels of light, they will let you know how to please them. If the foliage becomes bleached or burned, reduce the light. If the plant isn’t producing the color you know it should have, increase the light. Finding the right level of light makes all the difference in bringing out the colorful qualities of these plants. Good air circulation is a common and vital need to all genera of bromeliads.
- • Bromeliads should not be fertilized regularly unless you are trying to increase pup production. There are some exceptions. Tillandsias and Cryptanthus respond well to regular fertilization. Fertilization will reduce the coloration in most bromeliad hybrids that are noted for their color., e.g. Neoregelias and Billbergias. When fertilizing, use a liquid soluble 20/20/20 fertilizer at half the recommended strength. Never use urea based nitrogen fertilizer. Avoid mineral salts of any kind. Most city water supplies are fine for bromeliads. Never mount bromeliads on chemically treated lumber. Water with pH of 5.5-6.5 is preferred (avoid alkaline water).
- • How to display bromeliads is always a good question. Some suggestions follow. They can be grown in large hanging baskets with three plants average per basket. We group the plants by commonality, e.g. Neoregelias in one basket, Aechmeas in another, or mixed genera that share the same light requirements. Other ways are to display them on single poles with pot loops in spiral form. Yet another way would be to incorporate them into a ground level display by digging out a hole, placing a one gallon nursery container in the hole, and inserting an 8″ plastic pot into the nursery container with the plant potted in small pine bark. This gives the appearance they are terrestrial without them ever touching the soil. As long as the basic cultural requirements are met, bromeliads can be displayed in a number of other imaginative ways. They can also be attached to trees to resemble their natural habitat. However, collector or rare plants might best be grown as individual plants for greenhouse or other special display.