Advanced Bromeliad Culture

Culture & Tips

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Bromeliads belong to the plant family Bromeliaceae, which encompasses over 3,500 species and tens of thousands of hybrids.  They are native to the Americas and grow from the Southern part of the United States throughout the Americas to Chili and Argentina in South America.
 
Spanish Moss is the most familiar Bromeliad as is the Pineapple.  In nature bromeliads grow on trees as epiphytes or air plants.  Their roots are used mainly for support.  They are not parasites.  While many grow on trees, some grow on the ground and on rocks.  They are very versatile.  They are one of the most adaptable plant families in the World.
 
Bromeliads are divided into groups called genera.  Different genera and species require varying amounts of light, water and humidity:  however, the majority of plants in each genus (singular for genera) often have the same general cultural requirements.  In cultivation the most common found genera are Aechmea, Billbergia, Cryptanthus, Guzmania, Neoregelia, Tillandsia and Vriesea.
 
Quite a few are good house plants, given a reasonable amount of care.  Most Bromeliads can be potted.  The best potting mix is composed of peat moss, perlite and a small amount of bark for drainage purposes.  Level 21 has its own potting mix for Bromeliads available for purchase.
 
Bromeliad Tips
 
Potting
 
1.  Plant just to the base of the leaves to prevent possible rotting.
     Don't plant a Bromeliad too deeply.
 
2.  Use a pot sized to fit the plant.  Small plants take 4" or 5" pots,
     medium plants take 6" pots, and large plants take 8" pots to
     3 gal.
 
3.  The plant should be firmly planted and not allowed to rock in its
      container.
 
4.  Use a mix that drains well, such as is available through        
      Level 21.
 
5.  Pots should have drain holes in the bottoms or sides. 
      Appropriate pots are available through Level 21 as well.
 
Watering
 
Most Bromeliad roots like to be moist, but never soggy.  If grown outside keep the central cup (if there is one) filled with fresh water.  If grown inside, only keep the soil moist - don't put water in the central cup.
 
The water should be at room temperature.  Watering inside once a week is usually sufficient.  If grown outside and it is warm, it will probably necessary to water more than once a week.
 
Mounted plants such as available in the Level 21 "Natural Art" section, dry out quickly and should be hosed down two to three times each week or they may be soaked in a 5 gallon bucket for 15 to 20 minutes once a week.
 
Mounted plants should have a small amount of water in their cups as much as possible.
 
Light
 
Morning light - up until Noon or late afternoon after 4 pm - or filtered light through a screened patio or lanai is sufficient for most Bromeliads. 
 
Guzmanias also do well in bright indirect light.  On average, the thicker the leaf, the more light the plant can handle.  Plants can be adapted in the cooler time of the year to more lighting.  In the middle of the summer, some plants may have to be moved as the sun's intensity may become too strong. 
 
Symptoms of too little light are dark green, soft, droopy, leggy leaves. 
 
Symptoms of too much light are yellow leaves, markings that are faded or bleached out, and in extreme cases sunburned spots and holes.
 
A few Bromeliads capable of taking full sunlight are Androlaechmea O'Rourke, Aechmea blanch., and Aechmea distichantha, as well as Alcantarea imperialis.
 
Fertilizing
 
Some people like to fertilize - others don't.  In general Bromeliads grow very quickly on their own in a good potting mix.  If you want to grow plants extra large and quickly, then fertilization is called for.
 
Osmocote, a slow-release fertilizer, is very popular.  Use low numbers such as 13-13-13.
 
Temperature
 
Think of Bromeliads as you think of yourself.  If you are comfortable, they are too.  They prosper at temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees F.  They can only handle winter in a tropical environment unless moved inside.
 
Humidity and Air Circulation
 
This is critical.  In their natural environment, Bromeliads grow in trees with regular storms and lots of wind.  When grown inside, it's important to keep their soil moist which allows them to adapt to a less humid environment.  Because air circulation is minimal inside, this explains why water should not be kept in their cups.  It would cause stagnation and the plant would soon die.
 
Greenhouses alleviate this problem by using fans to create constant air circulation.  One can mimic this for indoor culture to a degree with a small fan blowing on your Bromeliads for part of the day.
 
Insects and Disease
 
Bromeliads are relatively pest-free.  If mealy bugs or scale are present you can use a pesticide, but Level 21 does not recommend it.  Level 21 uses a 5 gallon bucket with laundry detergent and bleach, dipping the plant for 5 minutes and scraping off any excess insects remaining.  Following this procedure, you should rinse your Bromeliad thoroughly.
 
You can also use a plant oil spray which will suffocate the insects.  This may be left on the plant.  Spray entire plant once a week for one month.
 
A plant with intense scaling requires the offshoots to be removed and cleaned as thoroughly as possible.  The old mother plant should be discarded as she is a scale bomb and will infect other Bromeliads.
 
Blooming
 
Most Bromeliads bloom once and create offsets.  New blooms will come from the offsets.  The mother will eventually die as she has given all her energy to the new growth.
 
Many Bromeliads bloom once a year.  Their blooms can last from three months to a year with proper care.  They are very beautiful.
 
To stimulate blooms, large greenhouses use ethelene gas.  To force a plant into bloom, the plant should be three-fourths to the same size as the parent.  This should force it into flower within a month or two and a new bud will appear.  Most non-commercial growers do not yet have this gas.  So you must be patient and wait for it to bloom naturally - or you can add a small piece of either a banana peel or apple peel in pups that have reached maturity.  Keep cups full of water during this process.  Blooming should take place within one to two months.  This method produces ethelene gas naturally.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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