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"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.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bromeliads: They're Tougher Than You Might Think

There was never a noted time when I set out to collect bromeliads. Even as I write I can't say I intentionally collect them even now although there are hundreds of them throughout my gardens.
As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I take them completely for granted.

Around here they are such reliable plants in every season and I get so used to seeing them everywhere that I hardly notice them.

Until the last couple of months.

When this neo's foliage has morphed into the most brilliant red I catch myself staring at it uncontrollably.

Which got me to thinking about the numerous other bromeliads that live here.

Knowing this is a 'neo' of some sort is about the extent of my ability to name any of them. So forgive me for that (please) at the outset.

The cobalt blue glazed pottery is a perfect complement to these remarkably vibrant colors in autumn.
To minimize dragging watering hoses, to the gazillion (hyperbole) container plants located in and around the gardens, efforts are on-going to replace flowers with foliage in a great majority of them. It's taking me a good while to accomplish this idea. But approaching it as a gradual project makes it feasible.
Don't get me wrong. There will always be container plants with flowers. But minimizing their numbers and keeping those that do have flowers closer to the water source makes life a bit simpler.

In the course of this re-design project, I'm discovering bromeliads make a great substitution for flowers in outdoor container arrangements. Mixed with other low maintenance, drought-resistant, less-thirsty plants some creative combinations can fool the eye into thinking just as much color is present as flowering plants provide.

As a terrestrial plant they seem to work beautifully for ground cover at Hoe and Shovel. A concentration of them are tucked in groupings along the tropical pathway and mixed in with other partial-shade-loving tropicals. Sending out pups they multiply themselves.
Many years ago, when I had no idea what I was doing, it dawned on me to stop throwing them away when there were too many coming over the sides of the front walkway. That's when I started placing them at the base of the oak trees in the back gardens.
There wasn't much else back there at the time. They've multiplied like mad. Which makes me happy.

Many bromeliads are epiphytic or capable of absorbing nutrients and moisturr through their leaves. Others are terrestrial and some are both.

They are as diverse as any other species in the plant world. The array of colors, sizes, bracts, and flowering they produce is vast.

The detail found in their foliage of dots, stripes, striations, bright tips, bracts, and flowering characteristics is innumerable. As a matter of fact, often the actual flowers are quite small and insignificant.

In no way do I consider myself knowledgeable about them. If you read the information available referencing what they need it all seems more specific/particular and somewhat more cumbersome than what I've experienced.

Almost confusing.

In general, the success I've had with them has been purely from ignorance and willingness to make mistakes. It's kind-of refreshing not to complicate matters concerning them given the number of plants that don't allow that same simplicity.
There is no fussing or research done to figure out which-ones-do-better-where when it comes to initially siting them. Although in most years I was told that the neos and aechmeas like lots of sunshine and have tried to heed that advice.

Through some trial and error I've taken note of other types that do well in dappled light but take on a more beautiful glow given greater doses of sunshine.

I suppose they probably do require and might even appreciate more specific conditions according to cultivar ~~ more than I know.

My best guess is the tree cover here sustains the atmosphere most of them need to at least perform satisfactorily.
Truthfully, they are one of those plants that I depend on to fill in bare spots without hardly a thought to their care. Remarkably, very few of them were lost even during our harshest freezing winter weather.
Almost all the bromeliads growing here have been passed along to me by friends and neighbors. I truly love receiving them knowing they will take care of themselves.

I mean, seriously, they don't even require "watering until established".
Bromeliads should be much lauded for any garden that supports their basic needs with ample humidity and good circulation. They truly have so many wonderful attributes.
Realizing this now that I've stopped to deeply appreciate their dependable functionality once again.

One additional observation worth noting is the way their leaves collect water like a holding tank. At the beginning of each autumn when our rainy season often comes to a screeching halt I've noticed dozens of bees flying in and out of the largest colonies of bromeliads in the shadiest parts of the garden.

At first I question whether they could be building a nest deep in the shadows. But I've come to the conclusion they are drinking water from these reservoirs during times of lack of rain. Anyone out there know for certain?

See the tiny flowers emerging in the center above. The hot pink bracts are surely the star and the flowers the supporting role.

I'd love to hear your experiences with bromeliads. They really are easier to maintain than you might think.


  1. The color on those broms are brilliant!
    I think you're right about the bees drinking the water from the center. I often find baby frogs in the centers of my pineapple plants during rainy times.
    I don't have any experience to share yet, but I will give broms a second look on the "dead" rack next time I am in the nursery center.
    Enjoy the cooler temps, Meems!

  2. Hehe...I can't say I have hundreds or even one hundred broms, but I do call myself a collector. I love them! In my earliest garden, I used to pick through my neighbor's lawn trash every Tuesday to hunt for broms, as she too threw away her excess every year. I've been by that old house many times over the years, and the brom clumps just keep getting bigger. : ) I'm sure someone out there appreciates your cleaning efforts....

    Anyway, love that brom collection! You do have so many, and I bet your garden is lit up year-round with the tall bloom spikes (from the non-neos anyway). I do think that broms are full are wildlife, and great for the eco-system, though they are probably also helping the mosquito population.

    As for cold-hardiness, I'd never thought of it before these past two winters, but yes, I lost a handful myself to the cold. One Aechmea in particular was heartbreaking as I didn't have another, and it was quite rare.

  3. Hi Meems,
    You have some lovely varieties, and I like the way you have them interspersed here and there to add different heights and textures. Reading Floridgirls comments got me thinking about mosquitoes though, and I did some research. evidently a few drops of natural soap, like ivory liquid into each cup will stop mosquitoes breeding - I am going to try that anyway as we are heading into a bad mosquito time. I do love bromeliads :)

  4. I finally got out to work in the garden again today and was amazed at the growth of the small collection of bromediads I have under the magnolia tree. I'm hoping mine will spread as yours have. They seem to be doing well so far, so I have high hopes.

  5. Lovely! I really like how you've incorporated bromeliads into your gardens! I should try them. We grow neoregelias here and they can look so "blah." Yours are spectacular. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I love bromes too! I even dedicated a small corner to them in my space limited garden. Most of my bromes are pass alongs from friends too. I appreacite the color and the textures they bring to the garden, and really they don't need much special cares. You have a beautiful collection, and love those pictures with leaves back lit by the sun!

  7. You really have a wonderful collection of bromelias. I haven't been around Blotanical much lately since I've had my hands and head filled with opening my own interior store for the home and garden / gittan

  8. Meems-I know nothing about broms,except that I like them and I find them interesting.I'm going to have to start keeping an eye out for bees drinking from them.
    I stick mine under the oak tree with the orchids,and they must like it there.None of them have died yet...

  9. Thanks, Meems, for another wonderful post. I also appreciate Africanaussie's tip about soap keeping skeeters at bay. I've been using Mosquito Bits, which are made from Bt.

    Most of my broms have been found at the side of the road (we have a weekly trash pick up, which is an endless source of wonderful plants) or I've bought them at yard sales. In fact, on Saturday, out biking with Sparky-the-Dog, I came across a huge pile of A. blanchetiana, of which I have more than enough, but buried near the bottom was a brom I don't have. After getting home, I drove over to pick it up. I have no idea what it is, but that's part of the fun.


  10. Beautiful photos as usual, Meems. Another candidate for containers.

  11. Daisy,
    The color on those broms just keeps getting more intense. Loving the cooler temps today and what's predicted for the rest of the week.

    It would make me feel so much better if someone had found my throw-aways. But I highly doubt it since they were inside of a bag.

    Most of my broms came through the cold with amazing performance... some of them that were exposed the most were burnt in places. I dug up my aechmeas and brought them in the garage since they were fairly new at the time.

    That's a great solution especially for smaller collections. I think I'll just have to wear bug spray.

    I think you're going to be glad you took those broms. They are too easy not to love.

  12. Elizabeth,
    We have really high humidity here which supports the broms needs. I wonder if you are too dry there for them?

    Your collection is lovely and as you say, the colors and textures are a wonderful addition to any southern garden.

    Thank you. It sounds like you have some really great adventures ahead. Good luck.

    They are easy to like and easy to care for without knowing much about them. I noticed today my lone orchid that is out there with the broms under the oaks has buds. Ignored and blooming... just like you said.

    The blanchetiana's seem to like it further south. They are everywhere south of me. Mine didn't like the cold and then didn't like the rain. They look okay but not great. I wonder what kind of brom you found? Well, actually I wonder what it looks like since I don't know the names of most of them anyway.

    Yes, it would probably work for you in a container. Althouh they do prefer humidity and I'm pretty sure you don't know what that feels like. :-)

  13. They are incredibly beautiful plants. That red is intense. Aren't bees clever, they have to find water someplace and a little brom pond is perfect. I don't think I ever appreciated them before meeting you and your garden! I do have distant memories of trying to grow them as houseplants, but being a grad student I was terribly distracted and eventually gave them away! gail

  14. The red on those neos is so bright. The broms do add a spot of color most of the year as the colors last and last. Some of the blooms don't last as long but they make up for it with a mass display. I've begun adding different types since the big freeze. I did notice most were pretty cold hardy. I thought I had lost an aechmea but two pups came out from the dead looking momma. Love the idea of using them in containers.

  15. Hi meems...You've got a great collection of broms. Like you, I don't know much about their particular needs, but have found them to be non-fussy. Once I plant them, I don't do anything else to them except thin them out and plant them somewhere else.

    The only broms that suffered damage this past winter were those no located beneath heavy tree cover...I think the frost caused the damage. My neighbor told me the water in hers was frozen solid.


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September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

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