July 7, 2010

Rainbows of Bromeliads

We are blessed to live in a climate that permits us so many landscaping options. I believe we have grown used to the high diversity of interesting plants in this area, and take some plants for granted. A case in point: I visited the Ft. Myers area last weekend and noticed a big difference in the landscape: a substantial lack of bromeliads ! We have a LOT of bromeliads in a rainbow of colors and textures in our local area. Many bromeliads are really easy to grow: we can just park the plants on the surface of mulch, prop the plants up with a few rocks, and they seem to grow by themselves. Bromeliads are almost the definition of low-maintenance plants. There are hundreds of varieties to grow here, not just the big copper-tone types. With interesting names like Hannibal Lecter, Shark Tooth, Snaggle Teeth, Silver Vase, Fireball, Big Mac, Passion, Grace, and Foster's Favorite-Favorite, why limit yourself to just a few common ones ?

Propagating bromeliads is really easy, since most of them propagate themselves by offsets called "pups". The main plant will flower only once, and as it dies, it will produce pups. If you cut back the big leaves of the main plant after it flowers, the pups will have more light and space; they'll grow twice as fast. Some plants produce pups on long runners called stolons, and make a nice groundcover. There is a huge range of plants available: miniature plants, giant plants, plants for all-day sun, shade, plants for tree mounting and hundreds of others. Here's a great time-tested tip for selecting plants for your garden: "hard leaves, hard light-- soft leaves, soft light". If the plant has teeth on the leaf edges, plant in a really bright area, but with a little afternoon shade. If the plant has very soft leaves, the plant won't like much direct sunlight.

The South Florida Bromeliad Society is the oldest in the nation, and hosts a major plant sale every year. We've used bromeliads as a major part of our landscaping here, following in the footsteps of Mr. Nat Deleon, who pioneered bromeliad landscaping and culture in this area. He was also integral in bringing bromeliads to the mass market. Visit Pinecrest Gardens to see some of the vast array of bromeliads, and then look at your garden again to see if a few unusual types might find a new home at your place.

Craig Morell

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