by ALINE CLEMENT
Over the past several years I have begun to collect some of the most beautiful foliage plants we can find in our neck of the woods. The family of bromeliads includes some plants you probably know, like pineapple and Spanish moss. It also includes ball moss, often called an “air plant” because it attaches itself to other plants. Interestingly enough, many people think Spanish moss and air plants are parasites that live off their host plants. In reality they are epiphytes, plants that get their moisture and nutrients from the air and rain.
The bromeliads in my collection are colorful, mostly tropical plants that require little from us gardeners. Our main duty is to find the right place for them and let Mother Nature do the work for us. While we can grow them indoors, they perform at their best when grown outside where they can capture rain and dew in the “cups” that form in their center. Bromeliads also get most of their nutrients from the insects and plant materials that are captured in the cup. While we might need to apply light fertilizer during the growing season, we need to resist the urge to water our bromeliads too frequently, which can cause them to rot.
Our fellow Floridians in central and south Florida can plant bromeliads directly in the landscape, but we need to cover them or move them indoors if temperatures fall below 40 degrees. To improve their portability we can plant bromeliads in a planter filled with potting soil, but we have other options such as attaching them to a piece of driftwood or nestling them into the space where a frond was once attached to a palm tree. These amazing plants only need an anchor to hold them in the best position to gather what they need from their environment. Soil is just one of those possible anchors.
The leaves of bromeliads can be wide or narrow, thorny-edged or smooth, variegated, one color, or multi-colored. They can be pink, green, yellow, red, orange or a combination of colors. The flower can be bold and striking or small and delicate. Once the flower appears, we can enjoy it for weeks or even months. After the flower has passed its prime, the mother plant begins a slow decline that could last a year or two. While this can be a sad event, the good news is that we will probably begin to see some “pups” appear at the base of the plant. Once they have small roots they can be separated and planted in pots to form new plants to enjoy or to share with friends!
For a good overview of bromeliads and their care, refer to http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP33700.pdf, which provides more details about these remarkable plants.
I’m enjoying many beautiful bromeliad blooms right now. Why not try to grow some of your own? They will be a delightful addition to your home or garden.
grow your own – february
by ALINE CLEMENT