Bromeliads are part of the same family as pineapples and Spanish Moss. In this group there are well over 2000 different species. Their range is from the Southern US all the way down to South America. They live in deserts, rain forests and high mountains all the way down to beaches. They come in all different shapes, colours and sizes up to 10 m tall. They can live in the ground, on trees & rocks and even hang on power lines.
Bromeliads are known for their brightly coloured leaves and some varieties for their flowers. What ever you like there is always something different and new varieties being discovered and cultured.
In Western Australia there are a few bromeliads that can handle the full sun but most need some form of shade during the hot summer months. Bright light is required to bring out the best in their colours so careful selection of where they are placed is essential. Too much shade can lead to the plant losing its bright colours and at times changing colour completely.
As long as water is in the cup of the bromeliad they can be extremely hardy surviving up to a week without regular watering over summer. For best results they should be watered twice a week ensuring water covers the foliage and root system. They can be placed straight into the ground without any preparation and over time can form large clumps. Offsets commonly referred to as ‘pups’ can be moved at any time of the year but do best when removed in the warmer months.
When kept in pots bromeliads require a good potting mix that can hold water but is also an open mix allowing for aeration. Alternatively a fine pine bark mix seems to work well available from select landscape soil yards around Perth.
Plants should be preferably fertilised two to three times over the summer months to optimise their growth. Too much fertiliser can result in the bromeliad turning green due to the high nitrogen levels.
While very few pests affect the bromeliad the main concern in WA is flyspeck scale that can make the foliage look unsightly. This can be managed by using a systemic insecticide at least twice. Make sure the insecticides or fungicides you use do not contain copper or oil, as they will kill the bromeliad. You may notice that the centre of the bromeliad may go smelly and the middle leaves can fall out – this is due to bacteria that can get into the plants. You can dry out the plant by laying the bromeliad on its side to drain the water and avoid further water getting into the cup of the plant. Water only the foliage and over time the bromeliad may recover or at least give off some pups.
Pups grow best when they are left on the parent plant until they come up through the leaves of the mother. If they are removed too early their growth will be a lot slower.