There are 75 Bromeliad genera, but we will only be discussing the ones we cumently stock, additions will be made later as we expand and stock other genera.
The following cultivation notes are offered as a guide only. They have been compiled through research & our own nursery experiences. Experiment & see what works best for you.
There is opinion that bromeliads in the Tillandsioideae group benefit most from foliar fertiliser. Phostrogen is commonly used which has an N:P:K of 14:4.4: 22.4
The number of species in a genus is continually changing – so I have mostly used the term ‘approximate’.
Genera that we stock
There are approx 255 species in this genus which is named after the Greek word “aechme” meaning a spear. Their habitat is from Central America & the West Indies to Argentina in South America.
They are epiphytic tank bromeliads. A few are tubular like billbergias.
Temperature: Prefer 7 to 30 degrees C. In general the hard leaved species are more cold tolerant. Some species will need extra care where definite winters are experienced when a solid roof is needed to protect from winter rain eg Aechmea carvalhoi.
Light: Moderate to bright indirect light with early am or late pm sun – 50% shadecloth in winter & 75% in summer. There are some full sun aechmeas eg Aechmea blanchetiana. Soft leaved aechmeas will do better under lower diffuse light eg Aechmea victoriana & carvalhoi.
Fertiliser: Apply controlled release fertiliser that is higher in potassium (K) than nitrogen (N). We use 1 teaspoon per 140mm pot. European growers recommend a ratio of N 1: P .44-.66: K of 2.49 – 3.32
Water: So that the medium doesn’t dry out completely & the cup has fresh water. Less in winter – enough to prevent dehydration. As a guide a thorough water 2 x week in summer & 1 x week in winter.
Potting: Many aechmeas are tall compared to their width & often need larger pots (170mm) which can be ¾ filled or a smaller pot can be stabilised by sitting it in a larger one. Aechmeas can be potted or mounted.
*When some epiphytes are grown in pots, their root systems become more developed & thus more responsive to absorbing nutrients.
There are 8 species which are endemic to the tropical Americas. They are terrestrial & the most widely known is the pineapple (Ananus comosus). It was called Ananus which means “sugar loaf’ because of its sweet taste.
They can be grown under the same conditions as aechmeas. Some are full sun eg Ananus comosus & Ananus bracteatus. In colder climates, they need protection in a hothouse or indoors in winter.
This genus was named after the second Emperor of Brazil who was Dom Pedro D’Alcantara.
There are approx 27 species which are endemic to eastern Brazil which grow mainly on rocky outcrops. Their cultivation is the same as for vrieseas except most can take partial to full sun.
Temperature: They are quite cold hardy, coping with several degrees of frosts.
Fertiliser: They benefit from controlled release as well as regular foliar fertiliser normal strength (overall higher in potassium than nitrogen). However once established, they often do best without fertiliser to get maximum colour.
DON’T APPLY FOLIAR FERTILISER WHEN 30 DEGREES C OR OVER. IT IS BEST TO APPLY IN THE COOLER PARTS OF THE DAY IN SUMMER.
Potting: Although alcantareas are epiphytes, they will grow in virtually any soil, but prefer it to be free draining. They also do well in large pots.
There are approximately 64 species in this genus which was named after the Swedish botanist, zoologist & anatomist, Gustav Johan Billberg. They are endemic to Brazil but individual species are represented from Mexico to Argentina.
These epiphytic bromeliads have a rosette with only a few leaves & are mostly tubular or narrowly vase shaped.
Temperature: They tolerate temperature extremes & can tolerate several degrees of frosts or periods of 47 degrees C.
Light: High indirect light to develop good colour & form: 50% – 65% shadecloth.
Fertiliser: They require very little or they will lose colour & form: ½ teaspoon of controlled release fertiliser higher in K than N per pot. If over fertilised, they may take several generations to regain their colour.
Water: to prevent the plant from drying out completely & to keep fresh water in the cup.
Potting: They do well in pots or mounted. Don’t over pot – most are ok in 140mm.The larger growing need bigger pots eg Billbergia ‘Muriel Waterman’.
The name is from the Greek words “cryptos” (hidden) & “anthos” (flower). There are approx 66 species which come mainly from eastern Brazil.
They are terrestrial & a few are saxicolous (grow among rocks). They have low spreading rosettes which are nearly flat & don’t hold any water. They grow in widely varied conditions.
Temperature: Prefer 4-38 degrees C & are not cold tolerant. They need to be kept warm in winter.
Light: Bright indirect light suits most: 55-75% shadecloth in sunny climates. If too little light they will lose colour & markings – if too much they will burn. They grow well as accent pieces in a well lit bathroom or above the kitchen sink where the humidity is generally greater.
Fertiliser: Use a controlled release fertiliser in or on top of the potting mix. Cryptanthus benefit from more nitrogen then most bromeliads & a more balanced N & K is beneficial. Some growers are of the opinion that these bromeliads don’t benefit from foliar fertiliser as they do not have as many trichomes on the leaves. Others prefer to use ¼ to ½ strength foliar fertiliser on a regular basis. Some use both controlled release & weak foliar.
Water: Keep the medium moist at all times. They suffer if dried out for extended periods.
Potting: They require a more water retentive medium than other bromeliads – one that is similar to an African Violet mix – but it must still be free draining. We add extra peat moss to our basic mix of coco peat & composted pine bark. Others add sand to pine bark. Water retaining crystals are sometimes used eg Efekto Stockosorb Waterwise Crystals which does not swell up. Use larger squat pots (130mm -165mm) to accommodate the spreading & shallow root system which is at least the width of the plant. As terrestrials they are not suitable for mounting.
The genus, which comprises approx 130 species, was named after the Prussian botanist, botanical artist & horticulturalist The Prince & Earl of Salm Reifferscheid-Dyck (1773-1861).
They are terrestrial bromeliads without a water reservoir with succulent leaves that are very spiky.
Temperature: minus 9 to 30 degrees C
Light: Need high light – can take full sun.
Fertiliser: Controlled release higher in K then N.
Water: Benefit from plenty of water particularly during summer – free draining mix.
Potting: Need to be over potted to cope with their enormous root system. They benefit from a potting mix as for Cryptanthus (see above).
There are 52 terrestrial species which are mostly native to Mexico with a few in Guatemala & Honduras. They grow in the more arid rocky regions often at high altitudes. They have stiff pointed leaves with spiky margins.
They are named after Julius Gottfried Conrad Hecht (1771-1837) who was the German counsellor to the King of Prussia.
Cultivation: as for Dyckias
There are approximately 207 species in this genus named after the Spanish pharmacist & naturalist Anastasio Guzman.
They are found in heavily shaded areas of humid rain forests. Most are epiphytic but some of the larger species can survive as terrestrials in their native habitat which is in the highlands of Colombia & southwards to western Brazil. There are a few in Florida.
The leaves are spineless & they have been widely hybridised & propagated as tissue culture.
Temperature: They are jungle plants from hot tropical areas & are cold sensitive therefore the species need fibreglass or plastic sheeting protection in winter. Ideal temperature is 16 to 20 degrees C. The many hybrids are more cold tolerant.
Light: They require shady conditions: 75% to 80% shadecloth all year. Because of their low light requirements, they are ideal for long lasting colour indoors.
Fertiliser: Guzmanias benefit from a stronger fertilising regime than most bromeliads. Use controlled release plus weekly foliar (throughout the year) at normal house plant strength with an overall higher K then N. European growers recommend a ratio of N 1: P .11 – .22: K 1.66 – 2.49
Water: Quality is important. They are extremely intolerant of hard, alkaline or salty water. Keep moist but not wet & keep humidity high. Mist if necessary. They need free draining potting mix.
Pots: Don’t over pot. They are usually potted into 140mm or 170mm for larger varieties.
The genus is named for Eduard August von Regel, director of St Petersburg Botanic Gardens in Russia (1815-1892). There are 12 species largely endemic to eastern Brazil, but a few species are found in Amazonia & in eastern Colombia & Peru.
They are epiphytic tank bromeliads that grow in a compact, flat rosette.
Temperature: Though many are hardy to minus 7 degrees C, frost protection is recommended. Colour can fade when night temperatures are hot.
Light: They need bright indirect light (dappled sun) & benefit from early morning or late afternoon sun: 50% shadecloth in winter & 75% in summer. Variegated types tolerate more shade. Also some hybrids are more light sensitive & need shadier conditions to prevent bleaching.
Fertiliser: Use very little – 1/2 teaspoon of controlled release fertiliser higher in K than N (per 140mm pot – more by ratio if a larger pot for the larger growing neoregelias). Fertilise only once as the mature plant achieves best form & colour without fertiliser. Some fertilise again after the mother has deteriorated & started to produce her pups. European growers recommend a ratio of N 1: P 1: K 1.66
Water: just enough to prevent the mixture from drying out & to keep fresh water in the cups.
Pots: 140mm for medium growing varieties & 170mm for larger. Those grown in the ground develop stronger root systems particularly when decaying matter is available. They are not deep rooted but rather send out their roots laterally in search of food. They love to get their roots under rocks where it is moist & cool.
Need to be grown hard to obtain good colour & form. We don’t fertilise the smaller ones at all & give the larger varieties (often referred to as Midis) ¼ teaspoon of controlled release fertiliser higher in K. Use smaller pots.
This is the largest genus with 609 species which grow in a wide variety of habitats throughout South America from Argentina to Venezuela & Colombia, & in Central America from Panama to Mexico & the West Indies.
The genus was named after the Swedish physician & botanist Dr Elias Tillandz (1640-1693).
They have great variation in shape, size, leaf formation & general adaptability to their native habitat.
The thinner leaved varieties grow in rainy areas & the thick leaved in areas more subject to drought.
They are nearly all epiphytes that absorb water & nutrients through the leaf trichomes.
Temperature: The commonly available Tillandsias are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures from 38 degrees C to freezing. Most though prefer to be protected from frosts. A few are frost hardy to minus 7 degrees C.
Light: The grey leaved Tillandsias grow under 50% to 75 % shadecloth or in partial or full sun (in humid conditions). The green or grey/green softer leaved species require filtered light & need winter care & warmth.
Fertiliser: Grey leaved Tillandsias respond to regular application of foliar fertiliser (third to quarter strength) & the green leaved to both foliar & a small amount of controlled release fertiliser higher in K than N.
Water: As a guide – water twice a week in summer & once a week in winter. They should be allowed to dry out between watering. They must have good air circulation.
Pots: The rule of thumb is to mount the grey leaved types & to pot the soft leaved ones.
The Vriesea were named after Professor W. H. de Vriese, a Dutch botanist. They are found from Mexico to Brazil. Many of them grow well indoors and have been favorites of indoor gardeners for years.
Hybridizing started with great earnestness at the end of the last century, and many hybrids are available. Most vrieseas are epiphytic and have definite vases and strap-like, blunt-ended, green leaves. The plants vary in size from five inches to five feet.
Temperature: Vrieseas can survive quite cold conditions. However, as a general rule, they need protection from frosts. Under the shelter of taller shrubs & trees or shade cloth, where frost isn’t going to settle on the foliage, they should tolerate light frosts (-2 degrees C). Foliage vrieseas do best in bright, indirect light. They are ok with direct sun in the cooler part of the day (especially in Summer) but will bleach & burn if exposed to the South African midday summer heat. Beige shade cloth is the best (50% Winter & 70-75% in Summer). 50% black shade cloth is usually ok all year round. If in too much shade, they will go green, & if in too much sun they will yellow & burn. Australian hybridist – ‘Give them as much light as possible without burning them’. Some foliage vrieseas tolerate more light then others.
Fertiliser: For foliage vrieseas- add a controlled release fertilizer (normal strength for indoor plants) that is higher in Potassium (K) than Nitrogen (N) – either in the mix or on top. This is often found in fertilisers for flowering plants. We note the expiry date & reapply at this time. Other growers apply controlled release only once. Foliage vrieseas also benefit from weekly feeding with a soluble fertiliser at normal strength for indoor plants. Phostrogen is used by many growers which has an N:P:K of 14:4.4: 22.4 (P = phosphorus).
Water: Vrieseas do not like to dry out. As a guide only – in Summer give a heavy water 2 x week (water drains out of the pot) preferably early am or late pm. In Winter heavy water 1 x week. In temperatures over 30 degrees C – dampen the foliage 1 x day.
Potting Mix: As with most bromeliads, vrieseas require an acidic mix that retains some moisture yet drains freely. The roots need aeration & will rot out in a tight or boggy mix. There are many ways to achieve this & different growers all have their favourite mixes. Ingredients commonly used include peat moss, cocopeat, composted pine bark chips (11 – 20 mm in diameter), sand, perlite, charcoal, small pieces of polystyrene foam & ‘clinker’. Commonly used mixtures are:
Pots: Vrieseas do well in pots or planted in the ground as long as they are planted directly into well drained, organically rich garden soil. We think it’s a good idea to add some pine bark chips to ensure adequate drainage. As they are mainly epiphytes- they also grow well on logs & trees etc.
Air: All vrieseas like plenty of air movement around them. They do best on benches above the ground if possible. Space the plants so the outer leaves are just touching.
Green Leaved Vrieseas grown for their flowers
All of the above is the same except for 1) Fertilizer 2) Light
Fertiliser: We use normal indoor plant strength controlled release fertilizer (replaced at expiry) & weekly soluble fertiliser throughout the year that are both higher in Potassium (K) than Nitrogen (N). The recommended ratio of N:P:K from the European growers who are experts in flowering Vrieseas is 1:.44: 1.66. I always keep this ratio in mind when assessing the total result of our controlled release & soluble fertilizing program.
Light: These Vrieseas are like Guzmanias & need shade to do well (80% shade cloth). For this reason they are great for indoors for long lasting colour instead of short lived flowers. They do well in pots on a patio or in the garden in shade.