On March 1st, 2017 we were fortunate to hear a presentation by three members of the Bromeliad Society of South Australia.
Ron and Bev Masters, aided by Peter, (who spent the evening talking to prospective purchasers) delivered an excellent, informative visual presentation, showing many of the 3000 or so species of the genus.
The Bromeliad family consists of about 3,000 species native to tropical North and South America. There are many thousands of hybrids and cultivars. About half of the species are epiphytes, (plants that grow in trees). The rest are terrestrials (plants that grow in the ground) or saxicoles (plants that grow on rocks).
Bromeliads are not parasitic; they do not harm the host plants. These epiphytic bromeliads absorb their water and nutrients through the leaves. The leaves often form a small reservoir at the axis.
These bromeliads (tillandsias) are from the dryer areas and survive on ver little moisture.
Then there are the tank bromeliads, and they come from a wetter area.
The bromeliad habitat, ranges from North America (Georgia) down to the southern end of Argentina.
There are a wide range of climates and conditions; sea level, rain and cloud forests, deserts and on mountains as high as 13,000 feet.
Bromeliads are easy to grow because they grow just about anywhere. They are very adaptable and will grow under artificial air conditioning and will tolerate abnormal light and moisture situations.
Bromeliads will of course grow much better if we can produce similar conditions to their native habitat.
Bromeliad beginners in Adelaide and South Australia can’t go wrong by choosing the tank type plants such as the colourful Neoregelias, Billbergias and Nidulariums. These tank type plants need a lot of light to show their true colours.
If you don’t have a shade house with 50% shade cloth cover you can place them under trees providing that they get all winter sun and morning sun with afternoon shade in the summer months. They will grow quite happily under polycarbonate roofing on a pergola. Another method if you only have a small collection is to move the plants from a winter spot to a summer position.
The tank type bromeliads are best grown in squat pots for (better stability) in an orchid type medium eg 50% medium pine bark chips. 20% mini pine bark chips and 30% good quality potting mix.
These tank type plants only need fertilizer when potting offsets (pups). (Neoregelias and Nidulariums only). Billbergias will lose their colour and markings if fertilized.
Neutrog pelletized fertilizers such as Strike Back for orchids and Seamumgus are ideal when potting up tank type pups.
Aechmeas need a slightly more open potting medium eg 50% medium pine bark chips and 50% mini pine bark chips.
All the tank type bromeliads need to have water in the centre reservoir all the time and in the summer months the potting medium should be watered every 3 to 4 days depending on the temperature.
Tillandsias are also very easy to grow and if you only have a limited space they are ideal. Tillandsias are often referred to as air plants because they do not grow in a potting medium (some will grow in a potting medium) but very few. Tillandsias may be grown hanging in trees, in shade houses, under polycarbonate roofing or mounted on an east-facing wall of your house.
The places and the mounting method for tillandsias is endless eg old tree roots, driftwood, palm sheath husk, volcanic rock, sea shells etc. Tillandsias may be glued on to selected mounts with Selly’s All Clear.
Light is one of the most important elements. The plants should receive the maximum amount of light - just short of bleaching or burning for best results. The more light the better the colour for the tank type plants.
Next is water; Neoregelias, Nidulariums, Vriesias, Guzzmanias and other soft leafed bromeliads need watering every 3 to 4 days in the summer months. Rainwater is best because of the high salt and other elements in the tap water; at times the reading is as high as 720 ppm.
Tillandsias also need a lot of light and may be fertilized with a weak solution at about % strength of soluble fertilizer.
Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss / Old Man’s Beard) is extremely easy to grow and when in flower has a very pleasant perfume.
Bromeliads are really an easy care and water wise plant to brighten up any type garden, balcony or pergola.
Peter Hall, Bromeliad Society of South Australia