Bromeliads have fascinated gardeners and plant lovers since their introduction to the gardening world. They’re hardy, provide year-round interest with their mottled, striped and patterned foliage, and have long-lasting blooms available in flaming reds, bubblegum pinks and sunshine yellows. Best of all, broms (as they’re affectionately known) are easy to grow and require minimal attention.
How do I grow them?
Bromeliads can be grown outdoors in most frost-free areas of Australia. However, if you live in a cooler area, plant them in pots that can be brought inside in case of frost.
The majority of bromeliads have their own ‘water tank’ – the cup or vase shape formed where their rosette of leaves comes together. So, when watering the plant, ensure the cup is filled but don’t allow the water to sit for months on end – it should be periodically flushed and replaced with fresh water. Keep the soil moist, but never wet.
The name ‘bromeliad’ covers quite a group of different genera and their light needs vary accordingly. Certain varieties can withstand full tropical sun while others will scorch. As a general rule, they flourish in dappled shade or filtered sunlight, but check plant labels to ensure you give your broms the best possible growing conditions.
In spring, sprinkle a slow-release fertiliser around the base of your bromeliads – this gives them a boost of nutrients during the growing period and improves their condition, so they’re able to cope with the heat in summer.
Bromeliads are epiphytic, meaning they grow on another plant for support, so are often found growing in trees, on stumps or on other supports. But they will also happily grow in the garden or in pots, as long as you use well-drained or free-draining soil that’s enriched with organic matter. To grow bromeliads in pots, use a free-draining mix such as orchid potting mix. If you wish to grow them in trees or on stumps, place a ball of sphagnum moss around the roots and tie them down with fishing line or jute.
If you’re looking for a brom with the wow factor, look out for the Alcantarea (pictured, above). Depending on the species, these beauties can reach up to 2m high and wide! They’re also quite adaptable and can be found growing in shade to full sun. However, they develop their best colour and shape in full sun with afternoon shade. A popular species is Alcantarea imperialis, which spans 1.5m wide and has a thick flower spike reaching up to 2.5m in height. Truly amazing.