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What is Bromelia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 30 January 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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Bromelia is a genus of approximately 50 species in the bromeliad family, Bromeliaceae. These tropical natives grow in Southern and Central America, often in rainforest environments, and they are famous for forming cup- or tube-shaped structures to trap water. A number are cultivated as ornamentals and smaller species make popular houseplants in some regions of the world, along with other tropical plants used to bring colorful flowers and showy foliage into homes during the fall and winter months.

While bromeliads are often thought of as epiphytic because some of the most famous species grow on trees in the forest canopy, Bromelia includes terrestrial species known to grow in soil as well. All species produce long, bladelike leaves in a tight central rosette. The flowers are red, orange, and other bright colors and are borne on long stalks. Often spiky in appearance, the blooms are very showy and are highly prized. Blooming cycles vary, depending on the climate conditions and the plant, and unhealthy plants generally will not flower.

In nature, members of this genus may grow on the branches of trees, using runners and suckers to propagate themselves and absorbing nutrients from the surrounding environment. They can also grow on the forest floor. Conditions suitable for Bromelia species depend on the individual plant. Some want rich, moist soil with plenty of leaf litter mixed in, mimicking conditions on the ground. Others want very light soil or a bromeliad mix and are highly sensitive to overwatering.

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Like other tropical plants, members of the genus Bromelia require warm, humid growing conditions. People living in the tropics can grow these plants in their gardens, and may be able to obtain large species that are harder to grow in containers. In cooler regions, the plants must be cultivated in a greenhouse or in a warm spot of the house where they get plenty of bright, indirect light and are not subjected to heavy drafts.

Nurseries and garden supply stores may stock Bromelia species or can order them by special request for customers. People with access to mature cuts can also propagate from suckers. Gardeners periodically divide their plants for repotting and other purposes and this can provide an opportunity for obtaining young starts. Trades of rare and unusual species are sometimes listed on gardening websites and exchanges, providing people with a chance to obtain plants they may not be able to get on the open market.

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