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Growing Bromeliads

Greenhouse at Kiwi Bromeliads Nursery
  Production area at Kiwi Bromeliads.

Most bromeliads are native to South America, mainly Brazil. But there are also some found naturally in Central America, the Caribbean and south eastern USA. There is even one species from western Africa. Regretfully widespread forest clearance has endangered the survival of some bromeliads in the wild and others are becoming extinct before they’ve even been discovered.

In their natural habitat bromeliads range in altitude from sea level to over 5000 metres, and from hot, dry deserts, through tropical rainforest to cool mountain regions. So among the 3000-odd species of bromeliads so far discovered there are many that grow well in New Zealand conditions – either as landscape plants in the garden or in containers on the deck or patio, or indoors.

Bromeliads come in a huge range of shapes and sizes. While some are grown for their attractively coloured flowers Kiwi Bromeliads specialises in foliage varieties, particularly Vrieseas and Alcantareas. These are ideal landscape or container plants in frost-free or light frost areas.

Our Vrieseas are medium to large growing varieties, capable of reaching around 60-100cm high and wide. And some of our Alcantareas are the largest bromeliads available, their majestic form creating an impact in any garden. Alcantarea imperialis, for example, can reach around 1.2m high and 1.5m wide, even larger in ideal conditions. When in flower the spike can reach 2-3 metres high.

Most of our bromeliads are grown from seed, taking several years to produce saleable plants.

Growing conditions

Greenhouse at Kiwi Bromeliads Nursery
  Selection of young plants

Both Vrieseas and Alcantareas grow best in free-draining soil but it needn’t be deep as they’re shallow rooting. Once established they’ll withstand summer drought though occasional watering will encourage attractive new growth. Don’t be tricked into thinking you only need to fill the centre of the plant with water - they do take up water through their roots so if you want them to grow well water the soil or, if in a pot, water the potting mix.

Bromeliads only require light feeding and if planted in good garden soil will often grow perfectly with no extra fertilising at all. In pots or containers an occasional light feed with a general fertiliser is usually sufficient.

Greenhouse at Kiwi Bromeliads Nursery
  Selection of young plants

Most Vrieseas prefer a little shade though some varieties do well in full sun. Some Alcantareas are best exposed to sun all day – it deepens the dark red of varieties like Alcantarea imperialis and A. vinicolor.

After several years Vrieseas and Alcantareas produce a tall flower spike from the centre of the plant. Around the same time ‘pups’ (young plants) grow from the base of the plant. When these are big enough you can split them off to propagate new plants or leave them in place to form a large clump. Cut out the old flower spike and remove the old foliage as it browns off to keep the plants looking their best.

Bromeliads have no serious pest and disease problems. Scale and mealy bug can sometimes attack them but seldom cause serious damage