TIPS FOR CARING FOR YOUR BROMELIAD
Bromeliads (broh-MEE-lee-ads) are a plant family of over 2500 species which are native to the tropics of North and South America. They grow from the dry deserts of southwestern United States to equatorial tropical rain forest. The growth most commonly seen is a stem less rosette of leaves which usually forms as a cup which holds water. Both the pineapple and Spanish moss are members of the diverse family.
Approximately half of all the Bromeliad species are epiphytes, plants that use a tree or other plant as their host, but simply use it as a perch to gain access to bright, filtered light at a higher level in the forest. The remaining Bromeliads are terrestrials growing in the ground, or saxicolous, growing on rocks. Some varieties can be found in habitat exhibiting all three growth patterns.
Many Bromeliads are cold hardy in this area. Some may be severely damaged by freezing temperatures, but if plants are given some protection they will usually survive and produce offsets.
Most Bromeliads available for sale like 30%-50% shade. Very few will tolerate full sun. A general rule is that grey leaved plants such as Tillandsias tolerate the most light while thin green leaved plants such as Guzmania and Vriesia require the least light. Neoregelia will not develop their desirable color without good light. A green plant becomes yellowish if receiving too much light. A plant that has excessively long dark green leaves is receiving too little light.
Root systems in most Bromeliads are fairly small, serving mainly to anchor the plant to rock or tree branch. Water and nutrient absorption for the plant are functions performed by the leaves.
Although Bromeliads prefer an acidic water supply, they are tolerant of most water types. If you are unsure of the pH of your water, frequent flushing of the water in the leaf axils of the plants will prevent a buildup of dissolved salts and other minerals. In general, when the rosette of leaves is empty, fill it; when the soil feels dry, water it. Hanging plants usually require more water during hot dry months than they do during the winter.
For potted plants, fertilizer can be mixed with the potting soil, applying 1/2 teaspoon of osmocote(time-released) per 5" or 6" pot. Using low strength, water soluble fertilizer at regular intervals helps maintain healthy plants, especially if water is less than optimal.
Commercial potting mix is usually too dense for bromeliads. Good drainage is a must. Do not let roots stand in water. A satisfactory mix is 1/2 potting soil, 1/4 perlite and 1/4 orchid bark, tree fern or similar ingredient. The most common error in potting is potting too deeply. The bottom leaves should be at or slightly above soil level. Plants may have to be staked to maintain stability until they are well rooted.
In general, bromeliads are pest free. Occasionally problems with scale or mealy bug and this can be controlled with any of the safer soaps, Cygon or Orthene. Check with your local cooperative extension office-they have printed material to make sure you are using the proper treatment and applying chemicals correctly.
Most Bromeliads from small plants (offsets or pups) at the base of the mother plant or between the leaf axils. These can be removed when they are about one third the size of the mother plant. They do not have to have roots when removed. If a knife is used to remove the offset, cut toward the mother plant and let the incision dry out for 24 hours before potting.
If you have any questions you are welcome to attend meetings of the Treasure coast Bromeliad Society, held at 8400 Picos Road, Fort Pierce, Florida. Click HERE for Directions.