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Australian and New Zealand Gardening: Bromeliads for novices and Addicts - Dec 2012, 2 by splinter1804

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In reply to: Bromeliads for novices and Addicts - Dec 2012

Forum: Australian and New Zealand Gardening

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Photo of Bromeliads for novices and Addicts - Dec 2012
splinter1804 wrote:
Hi All – I trust you all had a nice Christmas with family and friends and that Santa was very kind to you all. At long last Santa has finally got the message and all (except) one of my presents were Bunnings vouchers so I can now move ahead with some of these renovations that have been on the planning drawing board for a while.

Colleen – Thanks for the Christmas wishes and I hope you and the boys had a great day and Santa brought you lots of presents.

Sue – Thanks for your Xmas wishes also and I'm gong all out to post before you today.

Ian – I would have been very interested to see the pic's you posted yesterday, however D.G. must have stolen them as they didn't reach this far

Seeing there is no one here to talk to this morning I'll see what I can dig up out of old files to post.

Neville Wood - 2009
Firstly what is an “urn” type of bromeliad? Loosely speaking it is any brom whose leaves form a sort of a “vase” or “urn” which can hold water. Plants such as Aechmeas, Neoregelias, Nidulariums and Vrieseas being good examples which are commonly grown by us all.
When we acquire our first “urn” type bromeliad it is usually already potted up and may or may not be in flower, and like all other plants we need to find out a little about its basic requirements. I have on various occasions overheard various descriptions of the cultural requirements for these plants, often at the markets from the sellers or from other establishments and more often than not the advice given is mostly incorrect.
One of the most common mistakes that the new grower is told is to stand the plant in a saucer of water so it doesn’t need to be watered too often and just make sure that the centre has water in it at all time. Consequently after a few weeks the plant begins to look sick ** and gradually deteriorates to the stage where it’s almost dead. At this stage the new grower will sometimes seek advice from someone who grows these plants. This all usually leads to the plant being taken out of the pot only to reveal it has been growing in nothing more than a pot of mix the bottom half of which is mud; in other words the mix was “water-logged” and has “wet feet”.
To prevent this from happening, I would suggest to all new growers to start with the basics;   Understand the basic requirements of the particular plant genus you want to grow. The basic requirements of the plant can easily be worked out firstly from how similar plants grow in their natural habitat. This is usually on trees, on rocks or on the ground. The one common denominator here is in the fact that no matter which form of growth these plants take, they all have good drainage.
The other fact worth noting is that “in habitat” these plants always have adequate space between them allowing for good air circulation, if they do become crowded for some reason, the weakest plants die which then creates growing room for the strong ones, i.e. the survival of the fittest.
Likewise the plants growing on rocks and on trees have constant access to good air circulation which is necessary to prevent attack by various types of fungus which cause rot.
So based on this we can gather that the two main basic requirements of these plants if they are in a pots, are firstly a free draining mix and secondly, adequate space between plants to allow for good air movement.
Next we have to look at watering and again we can be guided by what happens in their natural habitat. First we need to realise that plants in the wild are mainly reliant on rain and dew for their moisture requirements. The infrequent amounts of moisture coupled with the free drainage and good air movement certainly doesn’t allow for any plant to become waterlogged and the only way they could get an abundance of water is due to excessive prolonged rain which will accumulate in the vases of the urn type plants.
Even in these cases, nature has an inbuilt safety mechanism whereby when the excessive amount of water becomes just too heavy, it causes the plant to either tip over causing it to empty, or in extreme cases the sheer weight will pull its roots from whatever it is attached to.
Whatever the cause, the plant will not be waterlogged. Bearing all of this in mind the message here is that these plants don’t like to be overwatered and it’s a generally accepted fact that many more plants are lost from overwatering than under watering.
Now to just recap on what we have established already:
Brom’s don’t like to be waterlogged................................Free draining mix
Brom’s must have good drainage ...................................Free draining mix
Brom’s must have adequate space to grow
Brom’s need good air circulation, plant and roots ..........Free draining mix
Now what about fertilizer? Again what happens in nature?
When these urn shaped plants are growing naturally, they are exposed to debris and leaf litter falling into the vase as well as the occasional bird, frog or small animal droppings. This mixes with the water already in the vase and makes (for want of a better description) a “soup”, this mixture then starts to rot and break down all of the components and ultimately it becomes a weak liquid fertilizer which as the urn receives more water, becomes more diluted.
This is a continuing cycle and consequently the plant is continually getting minute quantities of dilute fertilizer and it’s probably from this very fact that the old nurseryman’s adage to “fertilize plants little and often” was born.
The following is a summary of the basic needs required to grow urn shaped brom’s in a domestic environment based on what occurs in nature:
1.      They need a free draining potting mix to afford good drainage and air circulation around the roots; they don’t like overcrowding so they need adequate space to grow and they also only need a minimum of water.
2.      In my case where I am one street back from the ocean and my climate could be classed loosely as a “maritime climate”. I only water once every two weeks in the summer and monthly in the winter. The exception being on very hot days where I give plants a light misting in the late afternoon.
3.      As far as nutrition goes they need the fertilizer in a very dilute form and fed regularly, and if the instructions say mix 1 teaspoon of fertilizer per litre of water and apply monthly, you would be better off mixing ¼ Teaspoon per litre and feeding weekly.
These are good safe principles from which to start your journey of growing urn type bromeliads.

** The exception to this is Vriesea 'Ospinae' which often grows better when standing in a saucer of water.

Now to find a few pic's Pic.1 is Neo. 'Fairy Dust', Pic.2 is Neo. 'Camelot', Pic.3 is Neo. 'Carolinae' x 'Concentrica', Pic. 4 is Neo. 'Phyllis O.T.' and Pic.5 is Neo. 'Burgundy Moss'

All the best Nev. 

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