The following cultivation notes are offered as a guide only. They have been compiled through research & our own nursery experiences. Experiment & see what works best for you.
There is opinion that bromeliads in the Tillandsioideae group benefit most from foliar fertiliser. Phostrogen is commonly used which has an N:P:K of 14:4.4: 22.4
The number of species in a genus is continually changing – so I have mostly used the term ‘approximate’.
There are approx 255 species in this genus which is named after the Greek word “aechme” meaning a spear. Their habitat is from Central America & the West Indies to Argentina in South America.
They are epiphytic tank bromeliads. A few are tubular like billbergias.
Temperature: Prefer 7 to 30 degrees C. In general the hard leaved species are more cold tolerant. Some species will need extra care where definite winters are experienced when a solid roof is needed to protect from winter rain eg Aechmea carvalhoi.
Light: Moderate to bright indirect light with early am or late pm sun - 50% shade cloth in winter & 75% in summer. There are some full sun aechmeas eg Aechmea blanchetiana. Soft leaved aechmeas will do better under lower diffuse light eg Aechmea victoriana & carvalhoi.
Fertiliser: Apply controlled release fertiliser that is higher in potassium (K) than nitrogen (N). We use 1 teaspoon per 140mm pot. European growers recommend a ratio of N 1: P .44-.66: K of 2.49 - 3.32
Water: So that the medium doesn’t dry out completely & the cup has fresh water. Less in winter – enough to prevent dehydration. As a guide a thorough water 2 x week in summer & 1 x week in winter.
Potting: Many aechmeas are tall compared to their width & often need larger pots (170mm) which can be ¾ filled or a smaller pot can be stabilised by sitting it in a larger one. Aechmeas can be potted or mounted.
*When some epiphytes are grown in pots, their root systems become more developed & thus more responsive to absorbing nutrients.
There are 8 species which are endemic to the tropical Americas. They are terrestrial & the most widely known is the pineapple (Ananas comosus). It was called Ananas which means “sugar loaf’ because of its sweet taste.
They can be grown under the same conditions as aechmeas. Some are full sun eg Ananas comosus & Ananas bracteatus. In colder climates, they need protection in a hothouse or indoors in winter.
ALCANTAREA - Also refer to Newsletter #22
This genus was named after the second Emperor of Brazil who was Dom Pedro D’Alcantara.
There are approx 27 species which are endemic to eastern Brazil which grow mainly on rocky outcrops. Their cultivation is the same as for vrieseas except most can take partial to full sun.
Temperature: They are quite cold hardy, coping with several degrees of frosts.
Fertiliser: They benefit from controlled release as well as regular foliar fertiliser normal strength (overall higher in potassium than nitrogen). However once established, they often do best without fertiliser to get maximum colour.
DON’T APPLY FOLIAR FERTILISER WHEN 30 DEGREES C OR OVER. IT IS BEST TO APPLY IN THE COOLER PARTS OF THE DAY IN SUMMER.
Potting: Although alcantareas are epiphytes, they will grow in virtually any soil, but prefer it to be free draining. They also do well in large pots.
There are approximately 64 species in this genus which was named after the Swedish botanist, zoologist & anatomist, Gustav Johan Billberg. They are endemic to Brazil but individual species are represented from Mexico to Argentina.
These epiphytic bromeliads have a rosette with only a few leaves & are mostly tubular or narrowly vase shaped.
Temperature: They tolerate temperature extremes & can tolerate several degrees of frosts or periods of 47 degrees C.
Light: High indirect light to develop good colour & form: 50% - 65% shade cloth.
Fertiliser: They require very little or they will lose colour & form: ½ teaspoon of controlled release fertiliser higher in K than N per pot. If over fertilised, they may take several generations to regain their colour.
Water: to prevent the plant from drying out completely & to keep fresh water in the cup.
Potting: They do well in pots or mounted. Don’t over pot – most are ok in 140mm.The larger growing need bigger pots eg Billbergia ‘Muriel Waterman’.
CANISTROPSIS - Please refer to Newsletter #14
CATOPSIS - Please refer to Newsletter # 13
CRYPTANTHUS - Also refer to Newsletter #23
The name is from the Greek words “cryptos” (hidden) & “anthos” (flower). There are approx 66 species which come mainly from eastern Brazil.
They are terrestrial & a few are saxicolous (grow among rocks). They have low spreading rosettes which are nearly flat & don’t hold any water. They grow in widely varied conditions.
Temperature: Prefer 4-38 degrees C & are not cold tolerant. They need to be kept warm in winter.
Light: Bright indirect light suits most: 55-75% shade cloth in sunny climates. If too little light they will lose colour & markings - if too much they will burn. They grow well as accent pieces in a well lit bathroom or above the kitchen sink where the humidity is generally greater.
Fertiliser: Use a controlled release fertiliser in or on top of the potting mix. Cryptanthus benefit from more nitrogen then most bromeliads & a more balanced N & K is beneficial. Some growers are of the opinion that these bromeliads don’t benefit from foliar fertiliser as they do not have as many trichomes on the leaves. Others prefer to use ¼ to ½ strength foliar fertiliser on a regular basis. Some use both controlled release & weak foliar.
Water: Keep the medium moist at all times. They suffer if dried out for extended periods.
Potting: They require a more water retentive medium than other bromeliads – one that is similar to an African Violet mix – but it must still be free draining. We add extra peat moss to our basic mix of coco peat & composted pine bark. Others add sand to pine bark. Water retaining crystals are sometimes used eg Saturade which does not swell up. Use larger squat pots (130mm -165mm) to accommodate the spreading & shallow root system which is at least the width of the plant. As terrestrials they are not suitable for mounting.
The genus, which comprises approx 130 species, was named after the Prussian botanist, botanical artist & horticulturalist The Prince & Earl of Salm Reifferscheid-Dyck (1773-1861).
They are terrestrial bromeliads without a water reservoir with succulent leaves that are very spiky.
Temperature: minus 9 to 30 degrees C
Light: Need high light - can take full sun.
Fertiliser: Controlled release higher in K then N.
Water: Benefit from plenty of water particularly during summer - free draining mix.
Potting: Need to be over potted to cope with their enormous root system. They benefit from a potting mix as for Cryptanthus (see above).
There are 52 terrestrial species which are mostly native to Mexico with a few in Guatemala & Honduras. They grow in the more arid rocky regions often at high altitudes. They have stiff pointed leaves with spiky margins.
They are named after Julius Gottfried Conrad Hecht (1771-1837) who was the German counsellor to the King of Prussia.
Cultivation: as for Dyckias
GUZMANIA - Also refer to Newsletters #2 through to #6
There are approximately 207 species in this genus named after the Spanish pharmacist & naturalist Anastasio Guzman.
They are found in heavily shaded areas of humid rain forests. Most are epiphytic but some of the larger species can survive as terrestrials in their native habitat which is in the highlands of Colombia & southwards to western Brazil. There are a few in Florida.
The leaves are spineless & they have been widely hybridised & propagated as tissue culture.
Temperature: They are jungle plants from hot tropical areas & are cold sensitive therefore the species need fibreglass or plastic sheeting protection in winter. Ideal temperature is 16 to 20 degrees C. The many hybrids are more cold tolerant.
Light: They require shady conditions: 75% to 80% shade cloth all year. Because of their low light requirements, they are ideal for long lasting colour indoors.
Fertiliser: Guzmanias benefit from a stronger fertilising regime than most bromeliads. Use controlled release plus weekly foliar (throughout the year) at normal house plant strength with an overall higher K then N. European growers recommend a ratio of N 1: P .11 - .22: K 1.66 – 2.49
Water: Quality is important. They are extremely intolerant of hard, alkaline or salty water. Keep moist but not wet & keep humidity high. Mist if necessary. They need free draining potting mix.
Pots: Don’t over pot. They are usually potted into 140mm or 170mm for larger varieties.
NEOREGELIA - Also refer to Newsletters #7 through to #9
The genus is named for Eduard August von Regel, director of St Petersburg Botanic Gardens in Russia (1815-1892). There are 12 species largely endemic to eastern Brazil, but a few species are found in Amazonia & in eastern Colombia & Peru.
They are epiphytic tank bromeliads that grow in a compact, flat rosette.
Temperature: Though many are hardy to minus 7 degrees C, frost protection is recommended. Colour can fade when night temperatures are hot.
Light: They need bright indirect light (dappled sun) & benefit from early morning or late afternoon sun: 50% shade cloth in winter & 75% in summer. Variegated types tolerate more shade. Also some hybrids are more light sensitive & need shadier conditions to prevent bleaching.
Fertiliser: Use very little - 1/2 teaspoon of controlled release fertiliser higher in K than N (per 140mm pot – more by ratio if a larger pot for the larger growing neoregelias). Fertilise only once as the mature plant achieves best form & colour without fertiliser. Some fertilise again after the mother has deteriorated & started to produce her pups. European growers recommend a ratio of N 1: P 1: K 1.66
Water: just enough to prevent the mixture from drying out & to keep fresh water in the cups.
Pots: 140mm for medium growing varieties & 170mm for larger. Those grown in the ground develop stronger root systems particularly when decaying matter is available. They are not deep rooted but rather send out their roots laterally in search of food. They love to get their roots under rocks where it is moist & cool.
Need to be grown hard to obtain good colour & form. We don’t fertilise the smaller ones at all & give the larger varieties (often referred to as Midis) ¼ teaspoon of controlled release fertiliser higher in K. Use smaller pots.
NIDULARIUM - Please refer to Newsletter #18
ORTHOPHYTUM (pronounced or-tho-fy-tum) - Also refer to Newsletter # 24
Orthophytum is a genus in the Bromeliaceae (Bromeliad)
family & the subfamily Bromelioideae.
The genus was named by Beer in 1854 from the Greek ‘ortho’
meaning straight & ‘phytum’ meaning plant, referring to the erect
inflorescence (flower spike).
Due to recent advances in technology & DNA testing, many
of the original Orthophytum species & cultivars have been reclassified
under new genera (see list at the end).
There are currently 67 species listed in the Bromeliad Taxon
List & 49 cultivars in the Bromeliad Cultivar Register.
Orthophytum are semi succulent plants with considerable
variation within the species. Some have attractive banding on the leaves. All
species have white flowers & stiff, green or copper coloured fleshy leaves
with soft spines which enable them to slow transpiration in order to keep the
leaves cool in bright sunlight & also survive the driest parts of the year.
The few leaves are arranged in a rosette form & don’t hold water in the
All Orthophytum species are endemic to the Atlantic Forest
biome in south eastern Brazil (see map) in the states of Alagoas, Bahia,
Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Paraiba & Pernambuco.
They are all terrestrial (growing in the ground) & most
are rupicolous (growing on or among rocks). They are found growing in clumps
into the cracks & fissures of rocks or high on granite cliff faces above
streams, frequently at high altitudes, with constant seepage often providing
dampness to the well-developed fibrous roots which absorb water &
Overall, Orthophytum are hardy & require little
attention. They are cold tolerant & some are able to tolerate full sun as
well as frost.
Temperature / Humidity
In their natural habitat, the roots are continually provided
moisture through seepage. They prefer cool to medium temperatures in the range
of 10 °C – 24 °C. However, they will tolerate higher or lower temperatures,
with some able to tolerate full sun & frost. They need good light, air
circulation & adequate moisture.
Bright filtered light to full sun (if slowly adapted). Will
not tolerate low light.
Water again when the potting mix has almost dried out (i.e.
don’t let the potting mix completely dry out especially for prolonged periods).
So water more frequently in the warmer months & less in the cooler times of
Use a fertiliser higher in potassium (K) than nitrogen (N).
Controlled release can be used (applied when potting up to promote growth &
when flowering to promote offsets) &/or foliar fertiliser (on a regular
basis) – both used at ½ strength.
Potting Mix & Pots
Orthophytum need a rich, free draining potting mix with more
‘humus’ than the standard bromeliad mix. A succulent mix is suitable.
They also need a generous pot size.
When they flower, the stem of most Orthophytum elongate
& the leaves stretch up along the stem. Small white flowers are produced.
If left on the plant, the stem (scape) will bend with the weight of the offsets
& if left, some of these offsets will root & grow.
Orthophytum reproduce by producing offsets at the base of
the plant or at the end of the flower spike or on the floral bracts. When there
are visible roots, remove & repot.
Orthophytum species readily cross pollinate to produce
viable seed though the progeny can be unpredictable.
Due to recent advances in
technology and DNA testing in 2017 many of the original Orthophytum species and
cultivars have been reclassified under new genera:
Orthophytum ‘Andrea’ is now
Orthophytum ‘Blaze’ is now xSincorphytum
Orthophytum albopicta is now Sincoraea albopicta
Orthophytum amoena is now Sincoraea
Orthophytum burle-marxii is now
Orthophytum hatschbachii is now
Orthophytum heleniceae is now
Orthophytum humilis is now
Orthophytum mucugensis is now Sincoraea
Orthophytum navioides is now Sincoraea
Orthophytum ophiuroides is now
Orthophytum rafaelii is now Sincoraea rafaelii
Orthophytum ulei is now Sincoraea
PITCAIRNIA - Please refer to Newsletter # 17
QUESNELIA - Please refer to Newsletter #19
This is the largest genus with 609 species which grow in a wide variety of habitats throughout South America from Argentina to Venezuela & Colombia, & in Central America from Panama to Mexico & the West Indies.
The genus was named after the Swedish physician & botanist Dr Elias Tillandz (1640-1693).
They have great variation in shape, size, leaf formation & general adaptability to their native habitat.
The thinner leaved varieties grow in rainy areas & the thick leaved in areas more subject to drought.
They are nearly all epiphytes that absorb water & nutrients through the leaf trichomes.
Temperature: The commonly available Tillandsias are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures from 38 degrees C to freezing. Most though prefer to be protected from frosts. A few are frost hardy to minus 7 degrees C.
Light: The grey leaved Tillandsias grow under 50% to 75 % shade cloth or in partial or full sun (in humid conditions). The green or grey/green softer leaved species require filtered light & need winter care & warmth.
Fertiliser: Grey leaved Tillandsias respond to regular application of foliar fertiliser (third to quarter strength) & the green leaved to both foliar & a small amount of controlled release fertiliser higher in K than N.
Water: As a guide – water twice a week in summer & once a week in winter. They should be allowed to dry out between watering. They must have good air circulation.
Pots: The rule of thumb is to mount the grey leaved types & to pot the soft leaved ones.
VRIESEA – Please refer to Newsletters #10 & #11 (August & December 2011)