Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
August, 2006
Regional Report

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If you like to propagate plants and love bold flowers, vase bromeliads are for you. The beautiful bloomers in this photo came from one mother plant two seasons ago. I'm waiting for the "grandchildren" now!

Worth the Wait

Bromeliads are a love it or not plant family. The anti-bromeliad types say they are expensive, aren't edible, and die after flowering. I say, "Humbug!"

Living "Vases"
Where else can you get a living vase of colorful leaves with stunning flowers that last for months? The colors last just as well in a hot sunroom or air conditioned bedroom. The bromeliad family has three distinctly different types of plants. Terrestrials live on the ground. Tillandsias have no traditional leaves -- instead, they look like hairy gray tufts with impossibly charming flower spikes stuck to them. Then there are the incredible vase types with names like Aechmea and Neoregelia, including the popular 'Carolina tricolor'. Gray-striped, bottle green speckled red, and nearly yellow leaves hold a strong shapely form with minimal care.

Vase bromeliads can be grown in pots or in clumps of moss attached to driftwood. Their roots need occasional water, but keep a consistent supply in the vase, adding a dilute fertilizer a few times each year. Flowers begin to show as a color change in the center of the vase, and rise or expand very slowly. You cannot ignore a vase bromeliad beginning to bloom, as each day brings subtle changes to enjoy!

Post-Flower Care
Flowers can last for months, but eventually do fade, stretch, lean, and may tip the pot over. But don't give up on this "mother" plant. Instead, prop it up or slide the pot into a larger one so you can continue to water and fertilize it. At this stage, water the soil or moss as well as the vase, and watch for tiny green bumps to appear at the base of the vase. These "pups" should be removed as soon as they are large enough to handle, then planted to start their own lives.

Grow a Pineapple!
Who says you can't eat bromeliads?? It's called the pineapple family, after all, and you can grow one as easily as any other vase type. Slice the crown off a fresh pineapple with about an inch of fruit below it. Put the fruit side down into a shallow dish of water, then watch for roots to show at the base in a few weeks. Pot up the pineapple and grow in a bright, sunny location for about a year, then get ready for the magic: A stem emerges from the center crowned by a baby fruit that matures in several weeks. Trust me, your family and friends will be amazed when you cut and serve it to them.

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