Check Out These Pages, Too!

"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems






Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Monday, June 3, 2013

How-to Make a Bromeliad "Tree"

Bromeliads provide uniquely colorful, tropical texture to any Florida garden. Terrestrial bromeliads are an excellent groundcover. They multiply rapidly in the bright, filtered sunlight under my mature oak trees.

There are also epiphytic bromeliads—they don’t require soil. Epiphytes receive nutrients and water from the air and rain. These characteristics make them suitable to attach to wood for a spectacular focal point as a vertical element in the garden.
June 2012. Supplies: Cypress wood, decorative container, inner container
Last year, while vacationing in the quaint coastal town of Apalachicola, Florida, I purchased a substantial piece of driftwood. It is a Cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) “knee” hollowed-out, boasting dramatic architectural character. I'd had a long-time vision in the back of my head of the type of bromeliad tree I'd like to make some day. The moment I saw the wood I knew it would be perfect for what I had in mind.

I actually put this project together last summer. It's taken me this long to write a blog post about it. I knew y'all would want the low down even if I am late getting around to sharing it. Here's **how I did it.
Supplies: see list below

Supplies and tools:
  • Wood piece (my cypress is rot resistant~ something to think about when choosing wood)
  • Container ~ a size appropriate for the wood and one that will hold the weight of your finished tree.
  • Plastic pot~ to fit inside decorative container ~ find one without drain holes or tape over the holes
  • Cement ~ I used Quikrete so I didn't have to mix
  • Wire~ 17 gauge galvanized wire for attaching plants
  • Screws ~ about 4 to hold the plastic pot to concrete
  • Tacks ~ double pointed for attaching wire
  • Drill ~ 3/8" bit
  • Hammer
  • Pliers~ needle nose with side cutters
  • Plants ~ I used bromeliads, tillandsia and (later) orchids.
  • Liquid Nails ~ the photo shows this but (in the end) I opted not to use it for attaching plants

Prepare the Wood:
  • Drive several spikes half-way into the wood a few inches above the bottom end. I used screws. This will help secure the concrete to the wood. Optional: treat the part of the wood that will be immersed into concrete with wood preservative to extend the life of the wood.


Notice my plastic pot doesn't have any drain holes. You may be able to find these from a garden center.
Prepare the plastic pot:
  • Insert several screws (about 2" long) from the outside around the base of the pot. This is going to hold the cement to the pot.

Concrete:
  • Pour the concrete into the plastic pot and mix according to directions. It should come to about 3-4" below the top of the pot. (Be ready with your wood if you use Quikrete. It really does start to dry quickly.)














Wood placement:
  • Place the wood into concrete and be sure it is in the position you desire.
  • Let it set for 24 hours just to be sure it is not going to move.
  • See step below (drill holes before plastic pot is placed inside decorative container).
  • Place plastic pot inside of decorative container.
  • Balance and center your tree inside the decorative container. I used pieces of styrofoam from a shipping package to fill in the gap between the plastic pot and the decorative container. You may not have a gap but you will need to use something waterproof if you do.

Now you need that big ole drill bit:

  • Drill holes along the outside of the plastic container for drainage just above the concrete.  ( I did this before I put my plastic pot inside the decorative container as shown in photo above this one).


Prep for plants: This is the fun, artistic part you've been waiting for.
  • Visualize where you want your plants to grow on your tree. It might help to hold them up where you think they will fit best.
  • Mark where the base of the plant will be.


  • Cut pieces of wire long enough to wrap around the base of the plant.
  • Hammer the tacks in to hold down the wire where you marked the tree for plants.


  • Twist the wire around the base of the bromeliad tight enough to hold it flush to the wood.
  • Repeat this process for each plant until your tree is as full as you'd like it to be.


  • Fill in the space at the bottom of the tree and on the surface of the cement with rocks to finish it off and make it look nice. I used Spanish moss wedged down between the styrofoam and pot. (Plants fit into nooks and crannies of the wood depending on the shape of your wood. I used the cupped out parts of the cypress knees for plants also).

My completed project fits well into the landscape as a prominent focal point in my side garden. I see it every time I drive up in the driveway.

The bromeliads I used were all pups from plantings in my garden. I added Anthurium and tillandsia to complete it and give it more texture and diversity.
I think a variety of colorful leaves is what makes this type of arrangement an exciting and interesting vertical garden.

A few weeks later I tucked in some Calathea plants (Rattlesnake and Prayer plant) around the base to add lushness.

During the summer season when 'Red Flash' caladiums and  'Triostar' Stromanthe are flourishing it all blends together in an inviting combination of warmth and color.
I'm really pleased with the way it turned out and the variety of color it presents. Recently I added some orchids a friend gave to me. Then a neighbor gave me more and I attached them to the back side of the wood.
My bromeliad tree has done well over the past year. It takes zero care or maintenance other than pulling off stray pieces of moss that fall from the trees above. Some of the bromeliads are putting on pups and I didn't lose any of the plants I started with. It makes me smile when I see it.

How have you made use of the vertical space in your garden? Meems



**My directions are loosely adapted from information found on Tropiflora.com.

Come see me on Facebook... additional photos/discussions there...here's the link:
*** Hoe and Shovel on Facebook   **

8 comments:

Rick Brown said...

Love it! Good techniques. So beautiful. Now you have to make one for each of your children.

Meems said...

Is that how it works Rick? Then the grandkiddos after that...

Leslie said...

Wow, that's beautiful. What a success. I love how you have the chair placed next to it and the way the bromeliads complement the caladiums. All the colors just work together so well. Your design skills really blow me away.

Elizabeth said...

Wow - now this I LOVE! Definitely going on the "to be tried" list.

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a great idea! :) I bet this would work beautifully with several varieties of orchids, too! :)

Lona said...

Wow Meems! I love your Bromeliad tree. You are so clever.

My blog address has changed to:
http://lonadawn7.blogspot.com/

boulder walls Brisbane said...

Oh, I love it! What a very good idea. Will absolutely try out making one as well. Thanks for the nice share!

sharon said...

wish I could find a cypress piece like that


September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway