THE genus Vriesea includes many house plants prized both for their handsome foliage and their showy I flower spikes. These bromcliads have. stiff, smooth-edged, sword-shaped leaves arranged in a loose rosette that is capable of holding water in the cuplike center. Like most bromcliads, vrieseas do not flower until they are several years old. Their strongly colored, usually erect, sword-shaped flower spikes, which can be produced at various times of the year depending on conditions, are very long-lasting— an effect largely derived from brilliant bracts rather than the short-lived flowers. In addition to the species named below, there are numerous hybrids well worth acquiring.
V. fenestrate has about 20 shiny, arching leaves about 18 inches long and 2 inches wide, that are light green marked with pale green above and purple below. The 18-inch-tall flower stalk bears a terminal spike of up to 20 horizontal, shiny green bracts spotted with deep purple, and within these are 2 ½ -inch-long yellow to pale orange flowers. V. fenestralis, however, is grown primarily for its foliage. V. hieroglyphica (often called the king of bromeliads) is also prized for its foliage. Leaves number 20 to 30, may be up to 2^ feet long and 3 inches wide, and are a shiny bright green with bands of irregular deep purple markings. Average spread of a mature plant is 3 feet. The 2-foot-tall flower stalk branches for the upper third of its length into numerous short, horizontal sections, each comprising inch-long pale green bracts that partly conceal tubular, yellow flowers. V. psittacina has 15 to 20 soft leaves 8-10 inches long and 1 inch wide, which are pale green but may be colored violet-blue toward the rosette center. The 2-inch-wide inflorescence of green, yellow, and red on a io-inch stalk comprises yellow flowers that are spotted green.
V. saundersii (previously called V. botafogensis) has 20 to 30 leaves, which are 8-12 inches long and 11/2 inches wide, leathery, and dull gray-green thickly spotted on the underside with pinkish purple. Leaf tips are pointed and curve downward. There is a 12-to 15-inch flower stalk carrying yellow flowers backed with yellowish bracts 1-2 inches long. V. splendens (flaming sword) has a loose rosette composed of about 20 leaves 15 inches long and 15—2 inches wide, that arc dark green with purple-black cross-banding. The flower spike up to 2 feet tall is capped by a foot-long, flattened blade of brilliant red bracts; and \\- to 2-inch-long, yellow flowers emerge from this. There are many forms, some with darker foliage, some with larger or differently shaded flower spikes.
Light Vrieseas must have bright light, with three or four hours a day of direct sunlight, in order to flower. Do not subject them to the scorching midday sun, however.
Temperature Vrieseas need normal temperatures and high humidity; place pots on trays of moist pebbles.
Watering Water actively growing plants plentifully by filling the central cup of the rosette until water spills over into leaf axils and seeps through to the mixture. During the short-day months vrieseas may rest, when they should be watered just enough to make the mixture barely moist.
Feeding Give all actively growing plants half-strength standard liquid fertilizer once a month. Apply the fertilizer to both the potting mixture and central cup.
Potting and repotting Use the mixture recommended for bromeliads. Repot vrieseas only when roots fill their pots—every two or three years—this is best done in spring. The largest pot size required is 5 inches. When repotting these plants, do not pack the mixture in too firmly; roots cannot penetrate heavy soil.
Propagation Around flowering time, most vrieseas will produce offsets either from leaf axils or around the base of rosettes. A basal offset should be from 3 to 6 inches long (depending on mature plant-size) before being detached with a sharp knife; retain roots if they have already been produced. Plant the offset in a 3-inch pot of moistened standard mixture, enclose it in a plastic bag, and keep it in a warm room in bright filtered light until roots are established (in about four to six weeks). Thereafter, treat the young plant as a mature vriesea. Offsets arising from leaf axils should not be detached but allowed to grow on in the normal way. They will takeover from the parent plant (which, having flowered, slowly dies) over a period of about a year. Vrieseas that do not produce offsets can be propagated from seed.
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