Bromeliads for the discrening plant collector



Bromeliads are not difficult plants to grow as long as you have a little understanding of where they grow in nature and apply this to your growing technique. Most bromeliads are epiphytes or lithophytes, which means they grow on trees or rocks. They like an open mix for their roots and they also like air movement.

Bromeliads originate in Central and South America and the range of climatic types they inhabit is extensive, from hot sandy shorelines to high mountains. There are therefore a large range of species which can tolerate a wide variety of conditions and from these species many hybrids have now been produced. Therefore with a little research and discussion with other growers you can find bromeliads suitable for your area. Try growing some different ones and see which do well for you.


Using Bromeliads in Garden Landscaping and Floral Displays

At present, bromeliad flowers are rarely used by florists in arrangements, probably because of the time it takes for them to flower. They are not a viable commercial flower type. One that is used is Aechmea gamosepala. It is easy to grow and a prolific flowerer, but it is only short lived. Bromeliad flowers can be cut and used by florists and the home gardener, but usually the plant as a whole is used or sold when in flower.

Beautiful Display at the 2005 Australian Bromeliad Conference, BrisbaneBromeliad floral displays are usually made up of mass groupings of plants to show them off and this can be achieved in the home.  You can use a single spectacular specimen plant, like Vriesea hieroglyphica, placed in a nice decorative pot and the surface covered in mulch. 



 Cut Bromeliad Flowers mixed with full plants. Makes a beautiful display. Australian Bromeliad Conference Brisbane Alternatively, in a large decorative pot, place 3 or 4 flowering plants in their pots. The pots can be hidden with some mulch or coconut fibre. They last for weeks and the advantage of this is you can change any plants around once they look tired, just by taking out that pot. 

Steve Ward.
Copyright © 2007 [Bromeliad Growers Group Australia]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 2008



Bromeliads in the Tropical Landscape Garden

Bromeliads have not traditionally been used as landscape plants. There were several reasonsAech blanchetiana growing in combination with gingers and heliconias for this. Mostly bromeliads were rare and often expensive plants, so many people kept them in shade houses where they could be closely watched and looked after. Also there were not many plants available which were suited for landscape type culture. Fortunately attitudes toward bromeliads are now changing and people are more readily using them to develop a more tropical garden style.
Many Bromeliads are shade lovers, but there are many types now available that can tolerate direct sun, with some liking full sun for most of the day. Aechmeas are a group of broms which contain varieties which are most sun tolerant. Of these, Aechmea blanchetiana is probably the most spectacular and most widely used in full sun locations. 
A large Alcantarea growing in almost full sun, Cairns Botanilcal Gardens

Another great group of broms for landscape use is the Alcantareas. These were very hard to come by but are becoming more readily available now. They can take a lot of sun, particularly winter and morning sun, as long as there is humidity. They take several years to flower and can grow very large over 1 metre across and the flower spike can reach 2.5 metres tall. They make a spectacular addition to any garden and there are several very colourful species available now .

Selection of bromeliad types to suit a particular location is important. The critical issue is the amount of sun and shade the plants will receive. When you are selecting a location think of where the sun will be in summer or winter and morning and afternoon. Many broms can take morning and afternoon winter sun but midday sun during summePalm garden excellent location for some bromelaidsr will burn them.

 This is a beautiful section of a palm garden in the Cairns Botanical Gardens. This stunning palm area would be excellent for a range of bromeliad plants. It has areas which are very shady and areas on the outside which get direct sun at different times of the day and year. This area already has that tropical look and would look spectacular with an under-planting of assorted broms.
Neoregelias, Aechmeas and Alcantareas would be most suited for the brighter locations near the edge and Vrieseas, Guzmanias and Nidulariums for the shady areas.

Bromeliads don’t like being planted into garden soil or dirt. I have found the most effective way to grow them in this situation is to dig a hole about twice as large as the pot for the plant you wish to use. Partly fill the hole with a free draining mix such as gravel, chunky bark etc.
Put the plant, pot and all, into the hole and fill the hole up with the free draining mix. Spread mulch around the top to conceal the pot. This allows the plant to have free drainage and also allows you to remove the plant when it finishes flowering, so you can have easy access to the removal of pups for replanting back into the hole and swapping with friends. The mother plant can then be put aside somewhere else in the garden as it will develop more pups. Another advantage is they can be moved around if you find they are getting too much sun.

Certain plants mix well with Broms in the landscape. Cordylines, cycads, yucca, palms and gingers are a natural choice for that tropical effect. Recently I have seen a stunning garden incorporating these plants with cacti. The structural form of cacti goes surprisingly well with bromeliads.
The pictures below show combination plantings I would never have thought of, but after seeing this garden in Atherton, I will be incorporating these in any future gardens I develop. Note also that the garden is along a driveway and gets full sun all day. The cacti and other plants provide shady nooks for broms but they still get plenty of sun.

Bromeliads, Cacti, Yuccas and Cordylines provide linear structure make that this garden spectacular

 Selected succulents go very well with bromeliads and cordylines







Gardens like this give you great ideas on how to use Bromeliads in your garden. This garden takes up a small space along the sides of a driveway.

Steve Ward.
Copyright © 2007 [Bromeliad Growers Group Australia]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 2008

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