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Growing Bromeliads Epiphytically

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Joined: Oct 25, 2007
Posts: 21

PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:44 am    Post subject: Growing Bromeliads Epiphytically Reply with quote

[i][align=left]Growing Bromeliads Epiphytically in the Subtropical Home Garden

Most bromeliad growers cultivate their plants in pots under shade cloth or some form of protective structure. This is necessary when climate conditions do not replicate the bromeliads' natural habitat. However, for those lucky enough to live in a subtropical climate as I do, growing bromeliads in trees of the home garden can be successful and very effective.
I have many trees established on my property and my trees have become living sculptures, embellished with their ornaments, it's like Christmas all year.
When selecting a bromeliad for growing outside my shade houses, I research its origin and growth habit in the limited literature I have, and decide where and under which conditions it will thrive

When tying a bromeliad onto a branch ot trunk of a tree, I do not use sphagnum moss around the root area of the plant. Sometimes, a purchased pot-grown bromeliad already has an established root system inculding pine chunks. This can be easier to secure to a tree branch, especially if the plant is not stoloniferous. Well-grown pups, with an obvious stolon, can be tied directly onto the upper side of a branch very easily. I cut stretchy fabric like lycra into 3/4 inch wide strips, and wind it around the base or stolon of the plant and branch. Once the bromeliad has rooted firmly to its host, the tie can be removed. If the tie is unpleasantly obvious, Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides), draped around the base of the plant, is an attractive camouflage. Some bromeliads' roots take longer than others to establish, and strong wind might cause another trip up the ladder to retie.

A newly-purchased bromeliad has usually been pampered under shade house conditions. When the plants are initially exposed to the natural elements, the plants will deteriorate slightly, although the new offsets will be a lot tougher. Their vases will fill with leaves and other debris which feeds the plants. These are insignificant detractions when viewing the overall effect. However, an occasional clean-out makes a difference, including pulling or cutting off dead lower leaves and old plants past their use-by date. From experience, the number one natural enemy of bromeliads in the landscape is hail. Number two is a big black possum.

Moisture and humidity requirements for epiphytic bromeliads are best met by imitating their natural habitat. In subtropical regions, like here in Florida, natural rainfall in the warmer months will usually suffice, although in unseasonably dry, hot weather, supplementary watering or misting is necessary for healthy growth. Brief, gental rain showers will be best for bromeliads growing in the open, less-densely foliaged trees, but any bromeliads growing under a dense canopy will miss out. Under these conditions, its best to hand-water with a hose spray about twice a week when there is no decent rainfall in the warmer months.
Early morning or late afternoon is the best time to water, both for the plants, and you. Brown tips and inward-rolling leaves are a sign of low humidity and inadequate moisture. In subtropical areas, winter is usually dry. I do not water any of my bromeliads in the coldest months, relying on the adage "better cold and dry, than cold and wet". Root growth is obvious in autumn with the constant moisture of the wet season.

If limited space is a subtropical gardener's plight, then going 'up' can be a happy alternative, adding a new dimension to the garden. When size and spacing are taken into account, the form of each bromeliad is enhanced and unimpeded when grown epiphytically. Contrasting forms, size, foliage colour and patterning compliment each other if they are positioned artistically. The growth habit of each species or hybrid needs to be considered, regarding its future development, although most bromeliads seem to grow slower and are more compact when grown this way.

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best tree for that special bromeliad:

* Multi-branched trees, especially at lower ground level, are ideal. Horizontal or diagonally-angled branches are more aesthetic and attachable than vertical trunks and branches.

* Tree forks are good, especially for vrieseas..... and are useful for securing latge plants in the desired position.

* Roots fasten more easily to rough, permanent bark. Trees which shed their bark are unsuitable, as the bromeliads might fall off.

* Pruning of selected branches for a natural or creative effect, allows more choice when positioning and tying bromeliads to the trees.

* Deciduous/semi-deciduous and evergreen trees may be suitable. Deciduous trees which are bare in winter allow the weaker sun to brighten the bromeliads' foliage. However, cold conditions might damage susceptible plants without a canopy for protection.

* Some deciduous and semi-deciduous trees, e.g., Orchid tree (Baubinia sp) and Cape chestnut (Calodendron capense), lose most or all of their leaves late winter, and do not commence regrowth until late spring, or even summer. Care should be taken when selecting bromeliads for these conditions, as shade-loving plants will likely suffer unless they are down low and near the center of a well-branched tree.

* The denseness of foliage, the size and the shape of each tree will affect the light factor. Evergreen trees with a large dense canopy would suit shade-loving bromeliads, both in the tree and underneath it.

Another important consideration is each bromeliad tree's exposure to wind. Bromeliads like plenty of ventilation, which they will receive, in most cases, by growing them on any outdoor tree. However, extreme exposure to very strong wind may cause serious damage to the leaves of vulnerable bromeliads such as soft-leaved vrieseas, guzmanias, and some aechmeas. The tougher-leaved aechmeas and stiff billbergias, once rooted to a branch, survive harsher conditions.... in fact, many thrive on neglect.

Recommended Bromeliads for Epiphytic Culture

Aechmea chantinii .............................Aechmea fendleri
Aechmea fosteriana............................Aechmea lueddemanniana
Aechmea nudicaulis (all varieties)...Aechmea orlandiana (all cultivars)
Aechmea penduliflora.......................Aechmea racinae
Billbergia alfonsi-joannis................Billbergia elegans
Billbergia leptopoda........................Billbergia vittata
Billbergia zebrina............................ Canistrum fosterianum
Canistrum seidelianum.................... Canistrum triangulare
Hoenbergia correia-araujoi........... Hoenbergia stellata
Neoregelia compacta....................... Neoregelia 'Fireball'
Neoregelia olens.............................. Neoregelia pauciflora
Neoregelia punctatissima............... Neoregelia procerum
Quesnelia marmorata......................Quesnelia testudo
Tillandsia geminiflora.....................Tillandsia juncea
Tillandsia stricta..............................Tillandsia tricolor
Tillandsia usneiodes........................Vriesea carinata
Vriesea flammea...............................Vriesea philippo-coburgii
Vriesea platynema (all varieties)....Vriesea racinae
Vriesea simplex................................Vriesea

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