By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
Neoregelia bromeliad plants are thelargest of the 56 genera into which these plants are categorized. Possibly, theshowiest of bromeliads, their colorful leaves produce brilliant shades whenlocated in a bright light situation. Although some grow without direct sun, mostrequire full sun for the best color. Identify your specific bromeliad andresearch which lighting is most appropriate for it.
Diverse and interesting patterns ofthe Neoregelia varieties have caused them to be the most hybridized, addingeven more plants to the category. Neoregelia bromeliad facts advise this is oneof the more compact of the group and typically grows in rosette form, mostlyflat and spreading. Cups, called tanks, form in the center of this plant.Neoregelia bromeliad flowers emerge briefly from these tanks.
Likely, the most well-known of thistype is the Neoregelia carolinae, or those that look similar. The planthas a sizeable rosette of bright green leaves, banded in white with a red tank.The tank looks as though a can of red paint was poured over it. Brief bloomsare violet.
“Tricolor” is similar, withyellowish to whitish bands and stripes. When the plant is ready to flower, somebands become red. This one has a lilac bloom.
Neoregelia“Fireball” is a beautiful dark red to burgundy shade when grown in full sun.This is a dwarf plant. Less than full sun can cause the plant to revert togreen. Cups become pink before the violet blooms appear. Overwinter indoors incolder areas.
Water bromeliads with distilled orrainwater only. Don’t water the soil. Water goes into the cups that form on theplant. The tank should be kept filled with water at all times. Bromeliads also likehumidity.
Most Neoregelia are monocarpic,meaning they flower once and die. Blooms sometimes appear after two years orlonger, whenever the plant is in optimum conditions. Normally, by the time theyflower, they have produced pups that canbe separated to produce a full-size plant. When removing an offset from aNeoregelia, be sure to take some roots along with the pup.
Most bromeliads are epiphytes, livingin the trees rather than soil. A few are lithophytes, meaning they live onrocks. They photosynthesize like other plants and use their small root systemas an anchor. Water is absorbed largely through the leaves from the air.
Soil for bromeliads does not providenutrition and should not be used to provide moisture in most cases. As such, ifyou use a growing mix to anchor your plant, it should not contain soil unlessyour specific bromeliad is terrestrial. Bark chips, coarse sand, and peat inequal parts are an appropriate mix.
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Read more about Bromeliads
More than 3,000 species belong to the bromeliad family, including well-known plants such as pineapples and Spanish moss. Their great diversity as a family means that individual bromeliad species possess varying nutritional needs. Although most bromeliad species thrive without supplemental feeding, commonly cultivated varieties such as urn plants (Aechmea spp.), earth stars (Cryptanthus spp.) and blushing bromeliads (Neoregelia spp.) benefit from regular feeding to enhance their foliage and flower production. If provided with the correct nutritional ratio, most bromeliads will thrive as houseplants or as tender perennial landscaping plants within U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 10a and above.
Feed bromeliads from April until September while the plant is actively growing. Taper off feeding starting in late August to prepare the plant for its partial winter dormancy. Continue watering regularly as you taper off the fertilizer, then decrease water by half after your final feeding.
Feed urn plants using low-nitrogen 10-20-20 fertilizer, or use a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer diluted to half strength. Apply the fertilizer to the center of its foliage rosette and water thoroughly to distribute the nutrients around the roots. Spray mounted epiphytic varieties of urn plant twice weekly with 20-20-20 fertilizer diluted to one-eighth to one-sixteenth strength.
Feed earth star bromeliads monthly with general purpose, 20-20-20 ratio fertilizer diluted to quarter-strength. Pour it directly onto the soil around the base of the plant. Decrease feeding by half if the plant grows under shaded or cooler conditions, to keep it from developing unwieldy foliage.
Feed blushing bromeliads weekly with low-nitrogen 5-59-10 ratio fertilizer diluted to one-eighth strength, or use general purpose 20-20-20 fertilizer diluted to one-sixteenth strength monthly. Decrease or withhold feeding if your blushing bromeliad begins to lose foliage color or if it becomes large and misshapen.
I first encountered Bromeliads as houseplants in the 1980s. Winter Gardens, Atrium and Interiorscaping were popular indoors in Shopping Malls and Office Buildings. At the time, I worked for a large Architectural firm as a Landscape Architect and designed these gardens using flowering Bromeliads as color beds in large planted areas. The Bromeliads I used primarily in these indoor plantings were Aechmea fasciata (left) and Guzmanias on the right.
Many years later, my husband and I relocated to the Treasure Coast of Florida. I was excited to learn about all the Bromeliads I could use in my garden. Houseplants rule the outdoors in South Florida. Now I have Guzmanias and Aechmea fasciatas in my garden.
Bromeliads have a broad range of appearance. They range from highly colored foliage with flowers prized in our gardens to Spanish Moss hanging from Oak trees common in the Deep South. Bromeliads may also be found at the supermarket in the form of a Pineapple. Some are epiphytes living on trees (Spanish Moss) others are considered terrestrial and root into the ground. Bromeliads use specialized cells to collect water from the air, they also use cups to collect rainwater and derive nutrients from debris collected in the cup.
While we have several native Bromeliads in Florida (Tillandsias for the most part), most of the showy ones we use in our gardens are from further south in the tropical Americas, many of my favorites hail from Brazil. These are easy to grow, tough plants that lend a tropical touch to our gardens. I use them as the icing in the garden, like using flowering perennials further north.
Being of different origins than most perennials, Bromeliads require a bit of understanding-the plant originally purchased eventually will flower and die. This is called the mother plant generally. The mother plant flowers then begin to decline offshoots called pups then appear around the plant. Pups can be left in place around the mother or clipped off when they reach a third the size of the mother plant. Pups removed may be replanted and usually require staking or a rock to hold them in place until they are established. Aechmea ‘Chiantinii Surprise’ with pups.
My transition from a houseplant tender to the garden Bromeliad enthusiast had a bit of a learning curve. Soon after moving to the Treasure Coast, the very common (here) Blanchetiana Bromeliad began blooming around town. Being a burgeoning fan of the garden Bromeliad, I nearly wrecked my car trying to get a look at the thing. Orange foliage, nearly as tall as I am with a red and yellow spike flower of a similar size. No longer in houseplant territory- this was some serious vegetation!
Now I make wreaths during the holidays from the flowers:
Seeking advice on the needs of these plants proved to be elusive and I began to just plant them. If someone said it needs “some sun” – this means it really needs partial shade. I charco-broiled more than one plant seeking the “some sun”. There are some reliable full sun plants finding the right plant for the right spot is key.
Some favorite sun Bromeliads:
Some favorite shade Bromeliads:
Another key to success with Bromeliads is planting them during the proper time of year. Dividing and installing new plants in your garden should be done between November and March, the reason, to allow the plants to slowly acclimate to the sun – the sun angles in South Florida are dramatically different between summer and winter. Some of the more sun tolerant ones may be planted year round. Landscape beds near a north facing wall can be the full sun in summer and full shade in winter.
Consider the big Bromeliads exclamation points in the garden, use sparingly. Everybody can’t be the star. Even stars need a chorus. This is Aechmea Blanchetiana in a pool of Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis)!
Restrain the color palette to three colors. My favorite color schemes are:
In shade to partial shade: Colors and varieties
Red/Green/Burgundy – Neoregelia ‘Maria’, Neoregelia ‘Angel Face’