Growing Bromelaids

Growing Bromelaids

by Jackie Carroll

Bromeliads are close cousins of pineapples, and it's easy to see the family resemblance in the shape of bromeliads, which resemble pineapple tops. Airplants and Spanish moss are also members of this large family of plants, but in this article we will discuss the large, architectural specimens that blend so nicely with today's designer décor. Bromeliads are easy to grow as long as their basic requirements of moisture, warmth, and protection from direct sunlight are met.
The Roots

Most bromeliads have a weak root structure that serves as an anchor rather than a feeding structure. In their native rainforests bromeliads use their roots to fasten themselves to tree bark. Keep the soil around your plants slightly moist to keep the roots from drying out.

Soilless Displays

You can grow bromeliads such as tillandsia, neoregelia, nidularium and guzmania on driftwood for an interesting display. Choose a heavy piece of wood to keep your plant from becoming top heavy. Shake most of the soil from the roots of the plant, and drape them around the wood. Surround the roots with Spanish moss, and fasten in place with florist's wire.

Watering

Bromeliads take in most of their water through their foliage, so they enjoy a daily misting during the spring and summer months. You can occasionally add a weak liquid plant food. Bromeliads need high humidity, so mist them several times a day if the air inside your house is dry.

A group of bromeliads called 'urn plants' have a vase like depression in the center of a rosette of thick, waxy leaves that acts as a water reservoir. In the rainforest, these reservoirs act as habitats for small aquatic animals and insects. Top off the reservoir daily and continue to mist the plant for humidity.

Winter Care

In winter the plants need very little water. Continue misting if the humidity inside your home is low, but leave the reservoir empty. Don't use any fertilizer in your water during the winter months. Keep the soil around your plants just moist enough to keep the roots from drying out completely.

Scale

Be on the lookout for scale insects, which sometimes attack bromeliads. Scale may be white, yellow, brown, gray or black. These insects look like a hard-shelled lump on stems and leaves and are sometimes so tightly attached that it sometimes appears to be a part of the plant.

Manual removal works well for small populations. If you have trouble removing them try using a small knife to scrape them off. Rubbing them with a Q-tip soaked in alcohol will kill them. An insecticidal soap used at 10-day intervals will also kill them, and it may be a good idea to add a small amount of insecticidal soap to your misting water on occasion as a preventative measure.

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