Thefamily – Bromeliaceae – originated in the American continent and the Caribbean islands. The family is of purely decorative interest, although only recently recognized as being particularly suitable for use as house plants. They are surprisingly hardy plants, capable of surviving low temperatures, and many of them are extremely spectacular which makes them a very welcome addition to a list of easily grown house plants.
They are said to withstand frost, but it is wiser not to put this to the test. Thecultivated as house plants, are epiphytes in their native state, growing along the branches of trees, or occasionally on rocks.
The typical form of most bromeliads is a rosette of which will grow best if left attached to the original plant as long as possible, then potted on into a mixture of one third mould [oak or birch if possible), one third Sphagnum moss, one third peat.with an empty cup-like space in the centre. This is referred to as the vase and should be kept full of water, preferably rain water. Once a has flowered the central rosette dies, leaving a number of off-shoots
Once established the plants can be moved into an airy, light. The best time to take off-shoots is August. They should be placed in the smallest possible pot and only be potted on in absolute necessity. This will be caused by the size of the rosette, not the action. In the home, bromeliads like as much light as possible.
Aechmea fulgens, a native of Guyana, has dark green, narrow leaves finely spined on the margin and rounded at the ends.
The flower is a spike, bearing a panicle of flaming scarlet, and blooms throughout the autumn. They like plenty of light, judicious moderatewith the central rosette kept full of water, rain water if possible, and leaves wiped free of dust.
A. rhodocyanea, originally known as A. fasciata, produces grey-green rosettes about 12 to 18 inches across. The flowerbears pink, spiky bracts, which protect pink, blue and violet and which last for a long period. Propagation of all types is by detaching the offsets.
Anamas comasus is the common Pineapple and it is possible, with care, to grow an attractive house plant that will flower and fruit after a couple of years. A young green Pineapple tuft should be chosen and it should have as little of the fruit flesh on it as possible. It must be potted into moist peat and sand and kept very warm. When a root system is well developed it can be potted into a soil mixture. A floweringplant should be fed freely. Sunlight is essential and cold draughts are lethal. Propagation is by offsets.
Billbergia nutans, an almost hardy native of Brazil, grows with rosettes of narrow, finely spined, grass-like, silvery green leaves, about 12 inches long. The flowers, a drooping spike made up of rose pink bracts surrounding small greenish-yellow and blue flowers, occur in late winter and early spring. It should be watered freely in summer, less freely in winter and kept at a minimum temperature of 15°C. Propagation is by off-sets in spring.
Guzmunia zahnii is a most interesting plant from Costa Rica. The leaves, with a yellow ground, striped crimson, are about 20 inches long. The upper part of the leaves are also crimson while the flower spike consists of a panicle 4 inches across, 9 inches long with a number of yellow flowers that are shortlived, but so numerous that the spike is conspicuous for several weeks. It likes a temperature of l0°C, or over.
Neoregelia carolinae tricolar are like many of the other bromeliads, but the flowers do not appear on a spike, but emerge above the water in the vase. N. carolinae has rather narrow leaves of medium green with a centre variegated with cream and pink. The last leaves appear before the flowers are short and very brilliantly coloured; in this species they are bright red. The flowers which appear first from the outside of the flower cluster, are pale blue, about ½ inch across.
Nidularium innocentii is very similar to the last genus making a fair-sized rosette of leaves about 12 inches long, 1 ½ inches in width. The leaves are very slightly serrated at the edge, dark green, flecked with purple above and a very dark red underneath. As the flowers emerge, the centre of the rosette turns a bright crimson. The flowers, which barely emerge from the water in the vase, are greenish white in colour and of little interest. The plant is quite hardy, but the temperature should not be allowed to drop below 10°C.
Tillandsia lindeniana plants make a rosette, about 20 inches across, of narrow green leaves. The flower shape is very ornamental with pink bracts from which large blue flowers emerge. The bracts keep their colour for about eight weeks, and although the flowers, which start from the bottom of the sheath, only last about four days there is a continual succession and the bracts remain. They require an airyand bright light and should be kept just moist most of the time.
Vriesia carinata is a small plant with a rosette about 6 inches across with medium green leaves. The keeled bracts (carinata means ‘keeled’) are borne on a stem 4 inches high and are red and yellow, lasting for about eight weeks. The inflorescence is 3 inches long and 2 inches across, with yellow flowers lasting one day. V. splendens is often obtainable and has 15 inch long leaves, about 2% inches wide, with brownish banding.
V. fenestralis and V. hieroglyphica are even bigger plants, the rosettes sometimes being 2 feet across. All species should be given some warmth but they are not susceptible to draughts and will tolerate some sunlight, although shade is preferable.