Bromeliads (plants of the pineapple family, Bromeliaceae) are among the easiest of ornamentals to grow, giving maximum satisfaction for minimum effort. Their flowers come in an astonishing range of shapes and colours and the foliage is equally varied.
Needing very little water and no special care, these natives of the rainforests are equally at home outdoors or in.
Outdoors, they will grow and flower in shade, where many plants won’t; indoors, they not only make colourful focal points in the décor but, as a bonus, purify the air as well.
Like orchids, bromeliads in their native habitat grow as epiphytes on trees (they are not parasites drawing food from the host but use the tree for support only), so they like dappled shade, not direct sun.
This makes them ideal for filling in those difficult spots under a tree or on a shaded balcony.
Most bromeliads have spectacular flowers: a brilliant pink, fish-shaped spathe with velvety purple flowers; a pale pink spike with electric blue flowers, growing from grey-green leaves; a bright red, sword-like spike rising out of a rosette of dark green and white-striped leaves; an orange-red spike from cream and green speckled leaves; a range as wide and varied as there are species.
Plant bromeliads in pots or in the ground in ordinary garden soil, in semi-shade. Placing them in pots allows you to move them around as you need and to bring them indoors or display them prominently when they bloom. The soil should be loose and well drained.
These plants are very shallow rooted, so you must be careful not to overwater them or the roots will rot away. Their leaves grow in a rosette around a central hollow; keep this “cup” filled with water and water the soil only when it is dry, maybe once or twice a week, depending on the prevailing weather.
Save and dry banana skins and place some in this cup to induce flowering.
After flowering, the plant will slowly fade away, but as it fades a new plant will start growing from its side.
Cut away the faded plant and let the new plantlet grow to flower the following season. Start a collection of bromeliads now — they will constantly surprise and delight you.