Bigger is always better, especially if you want to make a statement in the garden. And alcantarea, one of the largest growing bromeliads, fits the bill perfectly. With spectacular foliage form and colour, and growing up to 2m high and 1.5m wide, this regal plant is the high-impact solution for full-sun to part-shade conditions, in a large container, or any part of the garden that requires instant wow! There are about 16 species of alcantarea available in Australia, but the most popular variety is Alcantarea imperialis ‘Rubra’. It’s normally seen with green-grey foliage flushed with red, but in cooler climates the leaves can develop to deep maroon. Alcantarea has won the hearts of many landscape designers, particularly when planted alongside cordylines, heliconias, gingers or aloes. It’s also tough, and an ideal choice for balconies and beside swimming pools.
Climate Alcantarea thrives in most climates, from tropical to temperate and even cool, frost-free areas. It can tolerate light frosts once established.
Aspect Plant in full sun to part shade and protect from strong winds. Red tones of ‘Rubra’ develop best in full sun.
Soil Extremely free-draining soils or potting mix is essential, as wet soggy roots are fatal. If soil isn’t well draining, build up beds with orchid mix and plant alcantarea on top, taking care not to plant too deeply. Maintain the same soil level as in the original container.
Pots Choose large pots when planting these giants, about 50cm-1m wide and deep, with drainage holes. Fill with orchid mix or make your own blend with 80 per cent composted pine bark fines, 10 per cent coco peat and 10 per cent polystyrene foam.
Water They need little water, relying on rainfall, except in the hottest, dry periods. Mist over plant and around root zone with fine spray when humidity is low; there’s no need to fill the centre cup.
Fertiliser Little is needed, but a sprinkle of controlled-release fertiliser such as Yates Acticote or Scotts Osmocote Plus Trace Elements around the root zone in spring will help.