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Bromeliads: Basic Facts About the Plants and Flowers

Updated on July 8, 2016

WARNING Please be aware that reading this material can trigger an irresistible addiction that is extremely hard to heal. I know people who have been afflicted for over 30 years. The diagnosis is happiness, good health, genteel learning, immense respect, a loving heart, personal self esteem, and spiritual satisfaction, Read and enjoy learning about the majestic royalty of the plant families--Bromeliaceae.

This species has one of the most extraordinary inflorescences (blooms) of all the bromeliads.
This species has one of the most extraordinary inflorescences (blooms) of all the bromeliads. | Source
Dozens of flowers on one long inflorescence
Dozens of flowers on one long inflorescence | Source
Flowers in a rosette cup
Flowers in a rosette cup | Source
A colorful air plant
A colorful air plant | Source

What is a Bromeliad?

The bromeliad family of plants is probably the most diverse group of species in the world. The typical flower of most plants is not found in the bromeliads. Some of them fabricate a spectacular display on beautiful inflorescences with dozens of exquisite flowers. Other species have their arrangement of small delicate flowers in a rosette cup. Leaves run from long and belt-like to small with curved, thin blades. Growing habits run from epiphytic (supported non-parasitically by another plant), saxicoline (living or growing among rocks), and several species are terrestrial (grow in the ground). Many species obtain water from the humidity in the air, and many have a rosette or cup filled with water fashioned by compactly overlapping leaves. The colorful foliage runs from greens, browns, and blues to reds, yellows, and oranges.

Plant sizes run from very small (2 - 4 cm) to very large (3 to 4 meters) with inflorescences running in that same range.

In general, these plants are easy to maintain indoors or outside and they are continuing to gain in popularity. They make great houseplants and can take unfavorable growing conditions. A few make great landscape exhibits. (See http://hubpages.com/living/Using_Bromeliads_in_Your_Landscape)

This small Tillandsia typically grows on the bark of trees.
This small Tillandsia typically grows on the bark of trees. | Source
Not the pineapple we usually eat, but it is in the same genus Ananus.
Not the pineapple we usually eat, but it is in the same genus Ananus. | Source
Close up of Spanish Moss. Notice the very small flowers (about 1/4th inch).
Close up of Spanish Moss. Notice the very small flowers (about 1/4th inch). | Source

The Bromeliaceae (bro-meh-lee-AH-say-eye) includes over 3000 described species in over 50 genera. The most familiar bromeliad is the pineapple. However, the family contains a wide assortment of plants including some which are very different from the pineapple such as Spanish Moss (which is neither Spanish nor a moss). Other members bear a resemblance to aloes and yuccas while still others look like giant leaves of grass.

In general they are inexpensive, easy to grow, require very little care, and reward the grower with brilliant, long lasting blooms and ornamental foliage. They come in a wide range of sizes from tiny miniatures to giants. They can be grown indoors in cooler climates and can also be used outdoors where temperatures stay above freezing.

If you are interested in reading more, go to the BSI site.

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What Do the Flowers Look Like?

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For most bromeliads the appearance of the inflorescence is a breathtaking event. After buying and enjoying the splendor of the often showy foliage for a few months, the center of the plant suddenly bursts into life. Below are several species examples of these bursts of life.

Aechmea
Aechmea | Source
Guzmania
Guzmania | Source
Tillandsia
Tillandsia | Source
Vriesea
Vriesea | Source
Orthophytum                                             Neoregelia                                    Hohenbergia
Orthophytum Neoregelia Hohenbergia | Source
Forterella Dyckia Canistrum
Forterella Dyckia Canistrum | Source

And these are just examples of 300 to 400 species plus that many or more cultivars (man made hybrids) that you can make your own. Read on, you are not far from becoming a genuine bromeliophile!

Where Can I Raise Bromeliads

Bromeliads can be grown just about anywhere. I don't suppose they would do too well in Antarctica, but if you want to go to a little trouble you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful inflorescences on earth.

Up North: If you are from an area with freezes, you will need to have them in pots and during the winter place them under artificial light or inside in a warm place with good light. However, after the last freeze, they can be placed outside for the summer. A heated greenhouse is the best place if you have a lot of them, and when you begin growing these regal plants, numbers just seem to grow and grow.

South Florida, Southern California, Brownsville, Texas: If you are fortunate enough to live in one of these areas in the United States where freezes are generally rare, they can be left outside all year.

Around the World: Bromeliads are native to the South and Central American tropics and thrive in most areas between 27 ° N to 27 ° S. Depending on local weather conditions bromeliads can be grown outside in these areas around the world. Of course, the terrain (ex. mountains) can have a big effect; however, the major inhibiting factor is freezes.

Where Can I Acquire Bromeliads?

Bromeliads can be ordered through the mail from nurseries specializing in bromeliads and on the Internet from EBay. If you live in Florida, you can find them in most nurseries and even in Home Depot. If you live over the world, you will probably need to order by mail from Internet sites. There are some restrictions on mailing plants from one country to another, so expect some difficulties, but there is great satisfaction in getting just that plant that you want.

Bromeliads can be acquired by mail from bromeliad nurseries and EBay. If you live in a city where they have a bromeliad society, you can join and acquire them from other members. If you live in Florida or southern California you probably can find them in some nurseries. If you need more help with this go to here.


Where Can I Learn More?

You can find a multitude of sites on the Web, but not many of them are reliable. Most of them are just trying to get you to buy whatever it is that they are selling. You can't really blame them as that is how they make a living, but it does make it hard for a beginning bromeliad grower to get good information. I have listed a few below, but you will get the best information by joining a bromeliad society.

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