Bromeliads for the discrening plant collector

HOW TO GROW


Light is a key factor in growing your bromeliads

Most bromeliads like bright indirect light and a few, such as some Aechmeas, Neoregelias, Alcantareas and Tillandsias, can grow out in direct sun. However most like bright, indirect light with morning and/or afternoon sun, such as under a tree, in a shade house or in a bright window or under a sky light. Most Guzmanias and Vrieseas prefer a shadier location with no direct full sun. They also like air movement so a windy location is great for them.

Bromeliads can tolerate a range of temperatures

Because bromeliads grow in a wide range of habitats from sea level to high mountains, so they tolerate varying degrees of frost and cold. Where I grow them, we get frost to about -5 degrees ( occasionally), but our days are always warm (about 20 degrees). Some bromeliads get bad spotting on the leaves after a very cold frost. Many of the coastal ones can't take lots of frost days and need to be protected or taken inside. As the hybrids contain plants from all locations, it is a case of trying and see. I have found some are frost hardy and others are very sensitive. Generally I give them some protection from continual heavy frost.

Watering

Bromeliads like humidity but they can take dry weather if you provide a suitable micro climate for them. There must always be water in the centre of most bromeliads (not tillandsias). During hot weather, or if in heated conditions, they need more frequent watering. They also appreciate a good hose off with warm water regularly if in cold areas.

Pests and Diseases

Never use copper based sprays, white oil or any oil based sprays on your bromeliads as they will kill the bromeliad.

Scale, usually brown scale, is the most commonly encountered insect pest on bromeliads. A spray with a systemic scale insecticide a couple of times a year will help keep them clean. Also general hygiene in your shade house can reduce the risk of scale spreading.

In some areas you will see plants infested by black scale or commonly called fly speck scale. It is a very small scale insect and coveres itself with a black shiny shell. Sometimes, with a bad infestation, the plant has a black sheen to it from the sheer numbers of this pest. It is very hard to get rid of and you will need to seek advice from a grower as to what to use. As a rule, if you see small black shiny specks on a brom be carefull and isolate and treat it before you put it near your others.

Keeping your plants clean by pulling off the old leaves from the base with a sideways action helps to keep pests away.

Fungal diseases can affect bromeliads in very hot areas during hot, humid, stormy weather. The most common is centre rot. The centre of the plant will turn red/pink and if you pull on the leaves the centre will fall out. This is caused by a fungal attack and it can spread from one plant to another. Good air flow helps to reduce this problem. However if it occurs a spray with Diazanon (Mancozeb) fungicide can help prevent and cure the problem if caught early. I have found a product called Rid A Rot (phosphoric acid) to be excellent in preventing and curing this. It doesn't affect the plants even small seedlings. I now spray my plants each month during summer to reduce the risk of this fungal infection occurring.



Propergation

After your bromeliad flowers, it will send up side shoots from the base & these are called 'pups'. You can gently break them off the mother using a sideways and down pulling action. With Neoregelias and Aechmeias you need to cut them off with a pruning saw. With Guzmanias and Vrieseas you need to take some of the stem from the old mother. This does seem brutal but the plant can take it.

Often pups have no roots when taken off the mother, however this does not matter as they will grow them quickly. I have found some good German or Canadian brown peat in the mix near the base of the plant helps it to produce roots. After you break the first pups off, keep the mother plant as it will put up more pups several times.

If you don't want to separate, just leave the plant and the pups will grow up as a clump and the mother will die off. Generally bromeliads are very easy to grow.

Bromeliads can also be grown from seeds. This is a very slow and labour intensive way but very rewarding, as you can develop your own hybrids. If you would like more information on growing bromeliads from seed feel free to ask one of our group members for details

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