Tropical Style for Indoors
Bromeliads can add intrigue as well as wonderful forms and colours to your home.
Bromeliads have made an effortless leap from outdoor jungle to stylish indoor tropical plants. Elegant enough to match most modern interiors, they are sculptural in their simplicity and symmetry, with ‘flowers’ that are both unusual and wildly coloured.
What intrigues most is their ‘water tank’, which most varieties have, that looks ever so slightly carnivorous, like Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. Would an unsuspecting finger dangled in the water tank be snapped up?
Fortunately, bromeliads are completely harmless and not in the least predatory, so there is no danger to inquisitive children or pets.
The only danger they pose is that you may find yourself becoming a collector, such is the range of leaf patterns, flower forms and colours. In fact, there are some 2500 species from the tropical areas of North and South America, and several thousand hybrids and cultivars, from the edible pineapple to wispy Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides).
The better known and more cultivated bromeliads include Guzmania, Vriesea, Neoregelia, Aechmea, Tillandsia and Cryptanthus. They have become popular indoor plants because they have few needs and virtually no problems with pests.
Caring for bromeliads
Position: Bromeliad varieties like as much medium to bright indirect light you can give them. The higher the light, the more humidity they will need. This can be supplied by putting the pots on a pebble-filled saucer with the water just below the bottom of the pot, otherwise the roots could rot. Misting the plants also improves humidity. There should be good air circulation but no drafts.
Watering: Plants are adapted for drought and should not be over-watered. The growing medium should drain easily, and the soil should be allowed to dry out moderately in between watering. If plants have a tank or cup, fill it with rainwater or bottled water if your tap water is highly chlorinated. The cup is the space where the leaves meet and form a cup (or tank) toward the base of the plant. Flush it out regularly to prevent it from stagnating. In winter fill the ‘cup’ with lukewarm water, or lightly water the soil leaving the cup dry.
Feeding: Plants can be fertilised once a month in spring or summer, using a slightly acidic liquid fertiliser diluted at half strength, or less frequently with a slow-release fertiliser added to the potting medium. A sign of over-fertilising is that plants lose their colour or the rosettes become misshapen. My bromeliad has had pups! The original plant starts to die after flowering, but in the process produces offsets (pups) that can be separated from the plant and potted up as new plants. The offsets are usually separated from the mother plant when they are about 1/3 of the size of the original plant. Use a potting soil that drains well and keep the pots in a shady, humid place while the roots are setting. Don’t over-water but rather keep the growing medium on the dry side to prevent root rot.
My bromeliad has had pups!
The original plant starts to die after flowering, but in the process produces offsets (pups) that can be separated from the plant and potted up as new plants. The offsets are usually separated from the mother plant when they are about 1/3 of the size of the original plant. Use a potting soil that drains well and keep the pots in a shady, humid place while the roots are setting. Don’t over-water but rather keep the growing medium on the dry side to prevent root rot.
Best indoor bromeliads
Guzmania rostara is dramatic and exotic. What appear to be flowers are flower bracts in yellow, purple, scarlet or red, which last for two months or more. After flowering the plant dies, leaving behind new plants, that become the next generation Guzmania. Plants need medium indirect light and thrive in a warm room with good humidity. As the species originates in a shadier habitat than most other bromeliads it will tolerate lower light conditions. Don’t let plants get cold or dry in winter.
Vriesea is known as the flaming sword plant, because of the very unusual, vividly coloured flowers that are flat and sword-like. Even so, the flowers (bracts) vary. Some are elongated (Vriesea ‘Splenriet’), others are branched (Vriesea ‘Electric’) and some have small, flag-like flowers (Vriesea ‘Style’). The flowers are long lasting, up to six months, and some varieties also have dramatic striped foliage. In the wild Vriesea grow as epiphytes, which means that plants get food and moisture from the air with tiny ‘mouths’ on the leaves.
As indoor plants they can be grown in pots in free-draining potting soil, attached to a piece of wood as an epiphyte, or grown in a soilless terrarium. The cup is at the base of its leaves and should be kept full of water. Topping up weekly allows the ‘old’ water to be displaced into the soil, which the plant needs. Diluted liquid fertiliser can be added to the water once a month. Make sure the plant receives good indirect light.
Neoregelia adds colour and variety with its striking foliage that is mainly in shades of bright pink and red through to deep burgundy. It has a very defined cup, and this should be kept ¼ full but not more or it may rot. It can also be watered through the foliage. In dry weather, mist the plants to increase humidity. To bring out the foliage colours, plants should receive strong indirect light, but no sunlight which will burn the leaves. When new plants are produced, they an be separated and replanted or left grow into larger clumps.
Look out for Neoregelia ‘Aztec’ which is a bright burgundy with yellow-green flecks; ‘Hojo Rojo’ which has burgundy coloured foliage and ‘Flandria’ which has variegated foliage in shades of green, pink and brown with cream edge.
For more information visit: www.plantimex.co.za