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Can you dig it? – Bromeliads in the garden

How about adding a little spice to your garden and grow some exotic bromeliads from the jungles of Mexico, Central and South America and beyond?

You most likely have eaten pineapple which falls into the bromeliaceae family, and you can grow your own out in the garden in full sun.

This family of plants is huge, and they come in all sizes, shapes and colors. They can either be grown in the ground (terrestrial) or up in the trees (as an epiphyte).

They require minimum care, and can give the landscape an extra punch both in sun or shade, which will set a theme of faraway exotic lands.

Bromeliads have been commercially grown for years as a houseplant and their flowering period can last for many months with tall flower spikes (vriesea) or those with petite flowers in the center of the foliage cups like neoregelia.

One robust bromeliad that grows out in the blazing hot sun is portea petropolitana with large lime-green vase cups erupting with four feet flower spikes of cobalt blue, green, yellow flowers along with pink flower bracts; it's a really wows and the flowers spikes have lasted for up to seven months on my specimen clumps. It is also striking as a dramatic cut flower in arrangements.

After the mother plant finishes her flowering cycle, she will develop "pups" or baby plants along her underground stem. These will take a few years to develop, but eventually will also flower in time and multiply.

The "broms," as they are called, can be grown in a shady nook under some trees or even out in full sun with the right species. Some of the more common types are represented by the neoregelia, nidularium, aechmea, billbergia, or Tillandsia.

The flower spikes that form from the central cup of the plants come in red, pink, orange, yellow, blue and green, and they will have florets radiating off of the main flower stalk.

If you would like to enjoy some fragrance out in the garden, a few species of Tillandsia will emit a slight odoriferous perfume both during the daytime and into the evening. The Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish moss) will flower from "first dark" with a delicate aroma that any parfumeur would want to capture in a bottle.

The cryptanthus "earth stars" are small and make wonderful small bedding plants with their colorful zebra striped foliage and are easy to grow for the beginner.

Those that can take the blazing sun are portea, aechmea, Dyckia, pineapple (ananas) which I have fruited in my garden. These sun-lovers can work handsomely out in a xeriscape type of landscape and planted amongst rock clusters can be a handsome focal point.

Bromeliads have become a huge greenhouse crop in the United States and one company here in Fallbrook ships them across the country. The hybridizing of bromeliads has developed some spectacular new types, so the potential of new plants are always on the horizon.

Once you get hooked and start expanding your collection, you should consider joining a bromeliad club which is a great source of acquiring new plants not readily available.

Roger Boddaert "Maker of Natural Gardens" Landscape Designer and Consultant can be reached at 760-728-4297.


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