Gardeners in frost-free areas know this genus to be epiphytes, plants that grow on the trunks and branches of trees. All have rigid, strap-shaped leaves (often with spiny margins) that form a funnel of foliage around a central cup that will hold water after a rain. In summer, a plumelike flower arises from the center and is showy for several months.
amazonian zebra plant
- Upright or urnlike rosettes of 1- to 3 feet-long leaves in green to gray-green or olive-green are banded with silver or darker green.
- Tall flower clusters have orange, pink, or red bracts, yellow-and-red flowers.
- Fruit is white or blue.
silver vase plant
- Funnel-shaped rosette of handsome gray-green leaves cross-banded with silvery white.
- From the center grows a cluster of rosy pink flower bracts enclosing pale blue flowers that change to deep rose.
- The selection 'Silver King' has unusually silvery leaves; 'Marginata' has leaves edged with creamy white bands.
- Green leaves dusted with gray, 1216 inches long, 23 inches wide.
- Flower cluster usually above the leaves; red, blue, or blue-violet blossoms.
- Aechmea f.
- discolor has brownish red or violet-red leaves, usually faintly striped.
- Dozens of hybrids have been developed from the various species.
- Among the most readily available are those in the Foster's Favorite group; they have bright, wine-red, lacquered, 1 feet-long leaves and drooping, spikelike flower clusters in coral-red and blue.
- Another favorite is 'Royal Wine', which forms an open rosette of somewhat leathery, glossy, light green leaves with burgundy-red undersides; it has drooping clusters of orange-and-blue flowers.
- Stiff rosettes up to 3 feet wide; leaves to 3 inches wide, strongly marked pink or red at bloom time.
- Flowers are whitish and green.
- Shiny leaves to 2 feet long, green or suffused with red tones, in rosettes 23 feet wide.
- Dull red, 112 feet flower stalk has orange-red berries tipped with lilac.
These bromeliads can be grown outdoors in light shade in pots or hanging baskets. Just be ready to bring them indoors before a frost. Indoors or out, they require a gritty, fast-draining soil such as orchid mix. Contrary to popular belief, it's not a good idea to keep the central cup of plants grown indoors filled with water; this often causes rot. Instead, water the soil around the plant. Let the soil surface go dry to the touch between waterings; mist the foliage of indoor plants frequently. Soft leaf tips indicate overwatering; hard tips indicate underwatering.