The bromeliads are plants of tropical origin, there are hundreds of species, many of which are very common in cultivation as indoor plants, as they are very decorative, and often well suited to be grown at home. All bromeliads produce thick rosettes of fleshy and rigid leaves, leathery, ribbon-like, arched, often with sharp apex; some species have foliage covered by a thin layer of bloom, which renders them greyish.
Between the leaves, they produce inflorescences of various kinds, round and flattened, or elongated and thin, panicle-like, fan-shaped; the inflorescences are often subtended by several brightly coloured papyrus bracts and produce many small white or lilac flowers.
The bromeliads they produce a small root system, therefore they are often cultivated in very small containers; they do not have many cultivation needs, even if to obtain always luxuriant leaves and a new inflorescence it is necessary to follow some simple trick, otherwise our bromeliad is destined to wither slowly.
How they are grown
The bromeliads are native to South America, where they live in the most varied locations, in the pluvial forests, in the deserts, in the Andean mountainous zones; therefore, there are several types of bromeliads, with the most varied cultural needs.
In apartment, usually, are cultivated the botanical varieties native to the pluvial forests, or hybrids of these last ones, and therefore the varieties of tillandsia, vriesea, billbergia or acmea we find in nursery have more or less similar cultivation needs.
These plants have adapted to draw the water they need to live directly from the precipitations, rather than by utilizing their roots, and, in fact, they produce a decidedly reduced rooting apparatus; in the wild, these plants collect the water from the rains, storing it in the cup which forms at the centre of the rosette of leaves.
So when we water our bromeliads it is advisable to fill the rosette with leaves, rather than wet the ground; this is because usually these plants need a good ambient humidity, but do not like water stagnations, which quickly ruin the roots, and then the entire plant.
Besides watering the plants in this way, every day we vaporize the foliage with demineralized water, especially in summer, and during the periods when the heating or air conditioning is on in the house, which tend to dry up too much the air.
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Exposure and flowering
Let’s place our plant in a bright place, but not directly exposed to sunlight and enjoy the weeks of flowering. These plants love temperatures close to 20°C, but they can easily survive and vegetate with temperatures close to 8-12°C, so they can also find room in an unheated stairwell.
When all the flowers are withered, the inflorescence tends to dry up slowly, and then the entire plant dries up; when this happens we don’t have to worry, let’s suspend the watering and wait; usually the roots begin in this phase to produce new shoots, which use the nutrients produced by the mother plant to develop. Over the weeks, as our plant deteriorates, we should notice the development of one or more new rosettes of leaves, which will gradually become more lush and larger.
If we wish, we can move them in another container, detaching them completely from the mother plant, which is deteriorating; as soon as we move the plant, we begin to water and vaporize again. During the months, the new plants should begin to produce new inflorescences, and then die and give birth to new rosettes of leaves. In principle, all bromeliads develop in this way, even if sometimes the vegetative cycle of a single rosette lasts a few years, while other times it lasts only a few months.
The Bromeliads: Particular Bromeliads
As said before, not all of them are native to the pluvial forests; many of them develop in desert or arid locations, and therefore have a development similar to that of the succulent plants and often produce less showy inflorescences than the tropical species. In the nurseries we often find some specimens of tillandsia species native to the deserts; they are plants with greyish foliage, which do not need soil or watering, but simply capture the atmospheric water through the foliage.
Another particular and very popular bromeliad, although not as a home plant, is the pineapple: above the inflorescence Pineapple develops, after flowering, the large fruitlessness that we all know. The pineapple develops a good root system, which need rich soil to develop well; an adult specimen can reach and exceed one meter in height and width.