November 10, 2010

Miniature Bromeliads for Landscaping

Bromeliads are one of the most diverse and easily grown plant groups available to South Florida gardeners. There are nearly 2000 species and thousands of hybrids available, but the selection of miniature bromeliads is a smaller list indeed. Several mail-order nurseries sell a variety of such plants amongst others. Tropiflora in Sarasota, Michael's Bromeliads in Venice, Tradewinds Tropicals in Homestead sell these wonderful plants, as do many plant collectors. Bromeliad Society plant sales are goldmines for these neat little plants, most of which will do well in hanging slotted baskets or mounted on pieces of rough wood. Given the vast array of plants available, I am classif ying 'miniature' bromeliads as plants under 6 inches tall and less than 8 inches wide. In the last 2 decades there have been many hybrids using a miniature parent and a full-size parent, resultiung in the best characters of both. Neoregelia 'Fireball' is an excellent parent, and lends a compact, branching habit to its progeny, as does Neoregelia 'Olens'. Frequently these plants grow best in very bright light, are rather drought resistant, and make good groundcovers.   

Neoregelia 'Fireball'
grown in semi-shade

Neoregelia 'Fireball
grown in strong light and direct sunlight

Neoregelia 'Zoe''

Neoregelia 'Olens'

Neoregelia ampullacea

Vriesia scalaris
In the world of really small bromeliads, there is the petite Neoregelia ampullacea, an ultra-compact plant that can grow for many years in an 8 inch clay pan. Its progeny show this trait, and often have brilliant colors in strong light. Vriesia scalaris is an excellent candidate for tree-mounting in a shady tree. This miniature species appreciates frequent watering and fertilizing, rewarding you with colorful penduloius flower spikes that last for weeks. It can be grown to wonderful effect in a slotted wood basket and treated like a Phalaenopsis, using the same potting mix and growing regime.

New hybrids are introduced every year. Bromeliad shows and sales occur throughout the state frequently, usually within an hour's drive of wherever you are. Bromeliad collectors, as with many hobby enthusiasts, are readily willing to give you all the information you need ( sometimes a lot more) to get the right plants for the right garden places. The Bromeliad Society of South Florida  ( is the oldest bromeliad society in the country, meeting in Miami every month.

As with so many plants, there are lots of choices, and lots of information to help with those choices. To qoute an old mentor of mine from 40 years ago, "Use your options ! There's lots of them !"    

Craig Morell
Pinescrest Gardens


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