Blazing Sun Bromeliads

Alcantarea imperialis, flanked by Aechmea blanchettiana

One of the more popular questions I get is what kinds of bromeliads can take full sunlight. It is an interesting question and a hard one to answer, since "full sun" can mean either direct sunlight for a short period, or all-day sun without shade. The two conditions are quite different ! Many of the hard-leaved bromeliads can take a few hours of direct morning sunlight and will benefit from it. The same plants placed into all-day sunlight will likely sun-burn to crisp, literally.  I believe it would be safe to say that most bromeliads enjoy bright filtered light, as seen under an oak or poinciana or a cluster of pine trees. This "shifting shade" is excellent; it has all the sun energy the plants need without all the scorching heat. Some of the hardest-leaved species actually need direct sunlight for several hours to get the best leaf color.

Alcantarea imperialis rubra

The same tolerance for sunlight can be said of most gardeners, too. We enjoy a bright spot in the garden, but very few of us enjoy working in the hot afternoon sun. There are some bromeliads species that will grow and thrive in the most intense sunlight we have to offer, and as such these plants are also fairly thrifty in their water demands. Let's look at some of these plants, many of which are rock or tree-dwellers. The plants might be a little hard to find, but there are several bromeliad societies in Florida and California, and their plant sales are excellent.  

Neoregelia johannis
a sun-loving giant to 4 feet across

Vriesia hieroglyphica
 There are numerous species in the genera Aechmea, Alcantarea, Billbergia, Quesnelia, and Vriesia which enjoy strong light to all-day sunlight. Most of these plants need water in the center of the plant more frequently than they need water at their roots, but in most cases the plants qualify as xeriphytes. They like very occasional, low-nitrogen fertilizer, and a well-drained potting medium that allows plenty of air to circulate amongst the roots. The plants do need watering every week, but are hardly demanding of it.

Neoregelia carcharodon

Neoregelia MacWilliamsii,  one of the most prolific
and sturdy of landscape bromeliads

There are myriad choices for bromeliads for strong light- morning sunlight, and even all-day sunlight. Don't limit yourself to the plants available at bog-box garden centers, spend a bit of time and go to a bromeliad society sale, or to a botanical garden sale. The members and staff are willing to assist in getting the right plants for your garden, and can lend some excellent advice about keeping the plants in top shape. As with so many landscape plants, use your options of local knowledge and the vast array of plants available to you.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens



  1. love those bromeliads! your post possesses 3 i's: interesting, impressive and informative.

  2. Thanks for the kudos ! I always appreciate good feedback !

    Craig Morell
    Pinecrest Gardens