Bromeliads: the "Holiday Centerpiece" Flower to Try

These beautiful blooms will give your winter arrangements a bold new look.
Ellen Ruoff Riley

Harvest-colored flowers take many forms--some traditional and some unexpected. This year, take a break from using conventional chrysanthemums, and give your holiday centerpiece a twist with autumn-hued, easy-to-arrange bromeliads. These long-lasting plants partner beautifully with time-tested elements we love to include on a Thanksgiving table--pumpkins, gourds, colorful fruit, and brilliant leaves.

Caring for these plants is simple. Put your bromeliads in a bright location, avoiding direct sunlight. When dry, remove plants from decorative containers, water the soil well, and drain thoroughly. These tropical jewels are comfortable with high humidity, so mist the foliage each time you water. While pots must not sit in water, it is perfectly acceptable for moisture to remain on foliage where stems and leaves come together. 
 

 

Center of Attention
Part of bromeliads' versatility comes with their size assortment. Small 2 ½-inch pots contain petite plants; larger 4- and 6-inch pots are also available. A collection of these containers nest together and arrange easily for a decorative centerpiece.

Begin with a large container or collection of smaller ones, complementing the style and attitude of your dining area and table setting. Place one as the focal point with smaller vessels surrounding it. For our Thanksgiving table, we used an old colander and tart pan to create a look that's compatible with the homespun cloth and casual atmosphere.

Line the container with foil to protect furniture from moisture. Leaving the bromeliads in their pots, snuggle them together, starting with the tallest plant and working toward the container edge with smaller ones.

Surround the plants with tiny pumpkins, persimmons, pomegranates, and gourds. Bring the arrangement onto the table by clustering large elements close to the containers and trailing smaller ones between. 
 

 
On the Side

It's always fun to personalize the table, and a small bromeliad is a great way to mark each place setting. Carve a hole in a small pie pumpkin, making it slightly larger than the plant's 2 ½-inch container. Remove the plant from the pot, and gently slip the soil into the pumpkin, dressing the top with sunflower birdseed. Add a place card to the side, or inscribe a name on each pumpkin using a waterproof pen.

A sideboard holds a sprawling cornucopia of plants, vegetables, and fruits. Place a long, narrow basket on its side at the table's end. Tuck the bromeliads inside, with foliage flowing out and around the edges. Secure pots with crumpled newspaper or wedges of dry florist foam. Arrange the largest pumpkins and squash close to the plants, adding smaller elements around them. Cluster similar items together as they cascade to the top of the sideboard.

This type of arrangement lasts for weeks, provided plants are watered weekly. Check the fruits and vegetables frequently--don't allow them to mar furniture with moisture. 

Bromeliads offer colorful blooms and an easy-care attitude. They bring a great look to Thanksgiving decorations and won't miss a beat as Christmas arrives. Give them a try--you'll feel like a pro making easy, stylish arrangements. 

A Seasonal Switch
Bromeliads bloom for months with proper care. Your Thanksgiving centerpiece will still be in full flower as the Christmas season arrives, so keep the display intact. Simply change out the seasonal elements, or choose a new decorative container. Replace pumpkins, gourds, and fruit with glass ornaments, and you're set for another season's arrangement.

This article is from the November 2002 issue of Southern Living.