Bromeliads for South Florida Gardens

I first encountered Bromeliads as houseplants in the 1980’s. Winter Gardens, Atrium and Interiorscaping were popular indoors in Shopping Malls and Office Buildings. At the time, I worked for a large Architectural firm as a Landscape Architect and designed these gardens using flowering Bromeliads as color beds in large planted areas. The Bromeliads I used primarily in these indoor plantings were Aechmea fasciata (left) and Guzmanias on the right.

 

 

Many years later, my husband and I relocated to the Treasure Coast of Florida. I was excited to learn about all the Bromeliads I could use in my garden. Houseplants rule the outdoors in South Florida. Now I have Guzmanias and Aechmea fasciatas  in my garden.

Bromeliads have a broad range of appearance. They range from highly colored foliage with flowers prized in our gardens to Spanish Moss hanging from Oak trees common in the Deep South. Bromeliads may also be found at the supermarket in the form of a Pineapple. Some are epiphytes living on trees (Spanish Moss) others are considered terrestrial and root into the ground. Bromeliads use specialized cells to collect water from the air, they also use cups to collect rainwater and derive nutrients from debris collected in the cup.

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While we have several native Bromeliads in Florida (Tillandsias for the most part), most of the showy ones we use in our gardens are from further south in the tropical Americas, many of my favorites hail from Brazil. These are easy to grow, tough plants that lend a tropical touch to our gardens. I use them as the icing in the garden, like using flowering perennials further north.

Being of different origins than most perennials, Bromeliads require a bit of understanding-the plant originally purchased eventually will flower and die. This is called the mother plant generally. The mother plant flowers, then begins to decline; offshoots called pups then appear around the plant. Pups can be left in place around the mother or clipped off when they reach a third the size of the mother plant. Pups removed may be replanted and usually require staking or a rock to hold them in place until they are established. Aechmea ‘Chiantinii Surprise’ with pups.

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Chantinii Surprise

My transition from a houseplant tender to the garden Bromeliad enthusiast had a bit of a learning curve. Soon after moving to the Treasure Coast, the very common (here) Blanchetiana Bromeliad began blooming around town. Being a burgeoning fan of the garden Bromeliad, I nearly wrecked my car trying to get a look at the thing. Orange foliage, nearly as tall as I am with a red and yellow spike flower of a similar size. No longer in houseplant territory- this was some serious vegetation!

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Now I make wreaths during the holidays from the flowers:

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Seeking advice on the needs of these plants proved to be elusive and I began to just plant them. If someone said it needs “some sun” – this means it really needs partial shade. I charco-broiled more than one plant seeking the “some sun”. There are some reliable full sun plants; finding the right plant for the right spot is key.

Some favorite sun Bromeliads:

 

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Some favorite shade Bromeliads:

 

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Another key to success with Bromeliads is planting them during the proper time of year. Dividing and installing new plants in your garden should be done between November and March, the reason, to allow the plants to slowly acclimate to the sun – the sun angles in South Florida are dramatically different between summer and winter. Some of the more sun tolerant ones may be planted year round. Landscape beds near a north facing wall can be full sun in summer and full shade in winter.

Design tips:

Consider the big Bromeliads exclamation points in the garden, use sparingly. Everybody can’t be the star. Even stars need a chorus. This is Aechmea Blanchetiana in a pool of Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis)!

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Restrain the color palette to three colors. My favorite color schemes are:

In shade to partial shade: Colors and varieties

Red/Green/Burgundy – Neoregelia ‘Maria’, Neoregelia ‘Angel Face’

 

Good companion plants: Coontie Palms, Ferns

Gold/ Green/ Salmony Red: Vriesea ospinae ‘Gruberii’, Neoregelia ‘Super Fireball’

 

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Combination of orange, red and green for sun; named from left to right

Neoregelia ‘Fireball’, Neoregelia ‘Bossa Nova’, Bird of Paradise (not a Bromeliad), Aechmea ‘Alvarez’, Aechmea ‘Red Candles’

The Bird of Paradise is shown as a companion plant example.

Bromeliads also make great container plants. Here are a few examples we put together at Pinders Nursery in Palm City, Florida for a talk I gave (about Bromeliads!) last Saturday. These container plantings last a long time, until the plant flowers or you need a change of view.

 

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Plants are: in back ‘Imperial Red’ Alcanterea (for sun – these bloom every 10 years), in the blue container for shade, Aechmea ‘Del Mar’, the brown bowl has Aechmea ‘Bracteata Red’ and Neoregelia ‘Donger’ would take Sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In A Vase on Monday – Frond Farewell

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I am bidding farewell to a flower from my Blanchetiana Bromeliad that has served me well. It opened at the end of November, I enjoyed if for a couple of weeks, then used part of it to create a wreath for Christmas. On Saturday, I cut the rest to use as part of a talk I gave about Bromeliads in the Garden.

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The wreath is still on my door and has dried to a nice brown, I am still mulling whether to get rid of it

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The frond in the arrangement is from a Chinese Fan Palm (Livingstonia chinensis) seedling that popped up between me and my neighbor. It gives a really tropical vibe to the area, so I left it. I figure I will long gone before it reaches full size (60 feet!)  Odd for winter in South Florida, it has been raining since yesterday afternoon. The vase holds about half of the frond, I went out in the pouring rain with Loppers in search of a bold bit of foliage to contrast with the Blanchetiana flower (at least 3 feet tall). Upon lopping the frond, I spied a wasp nest in the other half. For whatever reason, the wasps were not bothered by me and I left the other half of the frond where I found it, ensuring no homeless wasps and hoping for beneficial wasps. I cut the frond in half again – one quarter is hanging over the edge and the rest is in the vase upright.

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Farewell, fine Flower.

In A Vase on Monday – Tea Time

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Wintry weather has arrived in South Florida. Having had a warm and too dry winter thus far a bit of rain was welcome, my suspicion is the wind following the rain will blow the moisture out of everything. Myself included.

Seems like a really good time for a cup of tea. I brewed a cup of English Breakfast and got the antique teapot from Rington Limited Tea Merchants down to serve as my vase. It seemed there was not much blooming, after the rain stopped and the sky cleared I went out and looked. To my surprise, I shortly had assembled a vase with an unusual combination of plants.

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The pink balls are from the Dombeya (Dombeya wallachi);  white flowers spilling over the edge are Sweet Begonia (Begonia odorata); a few purple Ground Orchids (Spathoglottis ‘Cabernet) are peeking out about above the Begonias; the yellow daisies are Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis); the purples are Lilac Emperor Zinnias and Tampa Verbena (Glandularia tampensis); the backdrop of burgundy leaves is Red Giant Mustard ( I don’t eat it, I use it in winter containers) other greenery is another form of Asparagus Fern that pops up in the garden.

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We have added a new family member, meet Fiona the greyhound. She is going to be a garden hound, I think. She waits patiently by the gate while I putter around in the garden.

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In A Vase on Monday – Long Stemmed Salvia

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For reasons unknown to me, I have a bumper crop of Tropical Red Salvia. Usually a short and somewhat scruffy looking perennial (or reseeding annual, it seems perennial due to the constant supply of seedlings). The Tropical Red Salvia this winter is bearing long, lushly foliated stems with fat blossoms. The bees were not happy with me and my clippers again.

The Tropical Red Salvia also comes in peach, pink and neon orange. I rarely get a neon orange, but I do enjoy the softer colors and seedling variation. You have to wonder why it can’t be called simply Tropical Salvia as it is native to Florida, or, Florida Salvia?

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Another native added to the vase, Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) – These ferns graciously popped up in the nether regions between my driveway and my neighbors fence. I have been enjoying ferns in vases since it’s arrival. The red and orange zig zag shaped bits are flowers from a Blanchetiana Bromeliad; the sprays of blue/white flowers are from Dianella (some call it Blueberry Flax), the variegated leaves are also from Dianella. Grey fuzzy foliage is from Licorice Plant (Helichryseum petiolare) – a plant in a winter container that I just cut back. I was happy to learn the Licorice Plant will grow here. More plants to propagate. Or try.

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I am having the exact opposite experience with China Asters and will not ask them into the garden again. I love the flowers and am not sure if this is the second or third attempt. Here is a seedling- sowed in September! Had one flower about the size of a fingernail.

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Ironically, the seedlings coming up in the pot are Tropical Red Salvia.

Life in the Garden. Happy Monday.

In A Vase on Monday -Cheers to 2019

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My vases this first Monday of 2019 reflect my mood and the New Year. Celebratory. The Silver Goblet could be used to quaff the contents of the Champagne bottles. My girlfriends from college were here last week for a toast to 2019 – Champagne always seems to materialize with them. The bottles were saved for a toast from my garden.

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The Pinkballs (common name) are Dombeya wallichii, purple flowers are Zinnia “Lilac Emperor” and Tampa Verbena (Glandularia tampensis); pink foliage is Alabama Sunset Coleus; off white spikes are Juba Bush (Iresine diffusa); green foliage is Asparagus Fern.

Another view:

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Here’s a gardening toast to 2019, I found a lovely new seed source in the US (ordered seeds, of course! I was excited to find Lime Zinnia seed) Here is a link:

Floret Flowers

Cheers to 2019!

 

In A Vase on Monday – Dombeya Jambalaya

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This could be a year end vocabulary lesson. Dombeyas are tropical flowering trees and shrubs native to India. Jambalaya is a rice dish, consisting of rice, meat, vegetables and spicy seasoning cooked in a big pot – originating in Louisiana, the American Deep South. It is a mixture of many ingredients, like my vase.

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Here is the Dombeya flower, borne on a long stem hanging below big, fuzzy leaves. The bees and pollinators love them, and were objecting to my taking a few. A friend came by yesterday and said ‘this would be cool if it was a small tree and you could stand below and look up at the flowers’. The good news, it will be a small tree. The bad news, I was told maybe 6 feet tall and placed it accordingly. There is likely some judicious pruning in my future, but I love tree form shrubs.20181230_110831

The view from above, in light pink, the Dombeya (Dombeya wallichii); purple flowers are Spathoglottis ‘Cabernet’ (sounds like a dreadful disease, really a small orchid); purple foliage is from a Hallelujah Bromeliad ( a Billbergia variety with a, yes, red, white and blue flower-note to breeder, just because you can doesn’t mean you should). The green foliage is from Asparagus Fern that pops up here and there in my garden. The vase is a thrift store find.

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Another view.

Thanks to Cathy, at https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/, for another great year of hosting In A Vase on Monday. Follow the link to see what gardeners from the world over have filled their vases with this week.

And thank you to all who take time to view and comment on my blog and weekly vase post.

Happy New Year and here’s to 52 vases in 2019. I didn’t quite make it this year and also made a resolution to blog more in 2018, didn’t quite make that happen either!

There’s always next year, and it starts tomorrow!

Happy New Year!!