Historic note

Title: Bromeliads
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00049905/00001
 Material Information
Title: Bromeliads
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Sheehan, Thomas J.
Conover, C. A.
Publisher: Florida Agricultural Extension Service, IFAS, University of Florida
Publication Date: 1966
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00049905
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
    Historic note
        Historic note
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        Page 2
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        Page 5
        Page 6
Full Text


The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source

site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
of Florida

Circular 300

Agricultural Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville

T. J. Sheehan and C. A. Conover'

Few families in the plant king-
dom surpass bromeliads with their
wide variation in size, shape and
foliage color (Fig. 1). They are
a d a pt e d to growing conditions
found in the home, require little
care and therefore make excellent
house plants.
Hardier genera, such as Brome-
lia, can be used as landscape
subjects throughout most of pen-
insular Florida. Most species are
grown primarily for their colorful
foliage and exotic shapes, but
many are even more outstanding
when in flower and fruit.
Bromeliads are members of the
pineapple family (Bromeliaceae),
a family native to American
Tropics. Two widely known mem-
bers of this family are the
pineapple (Ananas comosus) and
Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoi-
Most bromeliads are air plants
or epiphytes. In nature they grow
on trees. They are attached by
special root structures to the bark
covering of host tree branches and
trunk, but do not invade deeper
tissues of the host like mistletoe
and other parasitic plants.

In cultivation bromeliads are
sometimes grown attached to larg-
er plants or fibrous stumps, simu-
lating natural displays. More often
specimens are grown and displayed
in containers or in ground beds
supported by soil mixtures around
the roots.
Variations in foliage are as wide
as variations in flowering, and
leaves may be green, gray, maroon,
spotted or striped. They range
from grass-like and less than 2
inches long in some Tillandsias, to
broad leaves several feet long in
Billbergias. Leaves of many species
change color at maturity when
plants are about to flower. Gray-
green grass-like foliage of Tilland-
sia ionantha turns pink, and deep
purple-blue flowers arise among
the pink leaves. Neoregelia has
red tips on the apex of the leaves
that resemble fingernails, and is
often called "painted fingernail".
Inflorescences may arise from
the 'vase' or be borne within the
'vase'. Flowers are often small but
colorful; however, the showy por-
tion of the inflorescence is fre-
quently made up of brilliantly
colored bracts borne below each

1Associate Ornamental Horticulturist, Agricultural Experiment Stations,
and assistant Ornamental Horticulturist, Agricultural Extension Service

June, 1966

Fig. 1-Variations in bromeliads. 1. Tillandsia ionantha (x 1/3);
2. Tillandsia usneoides (x 1/2); 3. Aechmea 'Foster's Favorite'
(x 1/4); 4. Billbergia brasiliensis (x 1/4); 5. and Ananas
comosus-Pineapple (x 1/6).


flower. Bracts may be separated,
large and leaf-like or over-lapping
and forming dense spikes. Usually,
the bright bracts persist and re-
main on the inflorescence while
fruit matures. The combination of
highly colored bracts and often
contrasting colored fruit which re-
mains on the plant for several
months adds to the esthetic value
of bromeliads.

Bromeliads can be propagated
by seed or offsets. Offsets develop
at the base of the 'vase' and can
be severed from the parent plant
as soon as several roots develop
(Fig. 2). Most bromeliads, how-
ever, are propagated by seed since
only a limited number of offsets
are produced by most species.
Seeds can be sown in pots or
flats on a surface of sphagnum
moss or finely screened soil con-
taining 50 to 75 percent organic
matter. Since seeds are sown on
the surface, a glass cover should
be placed over the pot or flat to
maintain a high humidity around
the seeds and prevent media from
drying out too rapidly.
Seedlings are usually left in the
propagating device until they are
11/2 to 2 inches tall and then trans-
planted directly to small pots. How-
ever, some growers transfer seed-
lings to community pots as soon as
seedlings are large enough to han-
dle. Seedlings transferred to com-
munity pots usually develop a little
faster than those left in original
seed flats.

Fig. 2-Bromeliad plant with off-
sets (x 4). Offset on left
has sufficient roots and
can be severed from the
parent plant.

Seedlings take three to six years
to attain flowering size, while off-
sets will flower in one to three

Potting Media
Most bromeliads grow best in a
very porous organic medium. Equal
parts of peat moss, leaf mold and
sand will make a good potting me-
dium. Chopped osmunda, bark or
tree fern fiber may be substituted
for peat moss.
Gusmania, Vriesia and Tilland-
sia thrive best when grown in os-
munda fiber; however, they will
also grow in the aforementioned
organic medium.

A good fertilization program
will insure excellent bromeliads. A
liquid fertilizer applied once a
month is adequate. A 1-1-1 ratio,

such as a 10-10-10, applied at the
rate of one ounce to three gallons
of water produces good plants.
Three gallons of solution is suffi-
cient to fertilize 108 four-inch or
48 six-inch pots. Dry fertilizers
can be used, but, extreme care
should be exercised since an exces-
sive amount accidentally dropped
into a 'vase' can injure or even kill

In native habitats some brome-
liads grow in full sun, others do
best under light shade and some
require almost full shade for best
growth. It is almost impossible,
therefore, to select a general light
level for all bromeliads.
Although optimum light levels
vary considerably, the following
characteristics are helpful in se-
lecting a spot for a particular
plant. Generally bromeliad species
with hard, thick, gray, gray-green
or fuzzy foliage will withstand the
highest light levels, while species
with soft, green, thin leaves need
moderate to heavy shade.
A general recommendation is to
grow bromeliads where the light
level is 1500 foot candles or where
orchids have been growing well.
Usually a window with a southern,
eastern or western exposure is sat-
isfactory for growth of bromeliads,
but, most species must not be ex-
posed to direct rays of the sun.
In most instances, a bromeliad
will indicate by its growth habit
whether light levels are satisfac-
tory. If a plant is yellowish or very

light green in color, this may in-
dicate that the light level is too
high. Conversely, a darker green
than normal color, with a more
open or elongated shape, may in-
dicate low light levels.

Bromeliads native to Florida
will tolerate temperatures slightly
below freezing for short periods,
but most introduced species should
not be exposed to temperatures be-
low 40 degrees F. Normal temper-
atures found inside homes are very
acceptable for bromeliad culture,
and homes with and without air
conditioning are equally accept-

Watering bromeliads is a very
simple matter since a majority of
species in cultivation today have a
rosette of leaves with overlapping
leaf bases that form a 'vase' at
the base of the plant that traps
water. Consequently, a homeowner
or grower need only check the
water level in the 'vase' periodic-
ally and refill when low or empty.
Species or genera without a
'vase' should be watered in the
same manner as house plants.
Plants should be watered thor-
oughly, until water runs out of the
bottom of the pot and then not
watered again until the medium
surface feels dry. Under normal
household conditions watering
thoroughly once a week is suffi-
cient. In homes where the rela-
tive humidity is low (during win-

ter months and in air-conditioned
homes) plants must be checked
more often to maintain water in
the 'vase'.

Flower Induction
Bromeliads produce flowers over
a long period of time and conse-
quently growers are interested in
any method that can be used to
regulate or induce flowering. Stud-
ies carried out primarily by com-
mercial pineapple growers indicate
that chemical flower induction of
bromeliads is feasible.
A new chemical, Betahydrox-
yethylhydrazine (BOH), is avail-
able and is very effective for initi-
ating floral induction. BOH (80%)
should be used at the rate of 1 to
2 teaspoons (6 cc) per gallon of
tap water. The resulting solution
can be sprayed or poured into the
'vase'. At least 2 ounces (50 cc)
should be used on each plant.
Application of BOH should be
made 40 days prior to the time
flowers are desired. In commercial
pineapple production fertilization
is stopped three months before the
BOH is applied.
A grower should be familiar
with the normal flowering time
for plants he plans to treat. Aech-
ma fasciata and Vriesia splendens
flower when days are short, where-
as Ananas and Billbergia flower
when days are long. Consequently,
a grower must regulate the day-
length to keep plants in a vegeta-
tive condition. For example, if
normal flowering commences in
January and the plants were to be

used at Thanksgiving, BOH would
be applied on October 15.
Since there has been little re-
search on this crop, try a few
plants experimentally before treat-
ing large numbers. Use only plants
that are large enough to flower.
Also check all species for tolerance
to BOH, as leaf burn has been re-
ported. On sensitive plants the
BOH solution should be removed
after 24 hours.
Research workers have discover-
ed that ethylene gas given off by
ripe apples will cause flower induc-
tion in some bromeliad species.
Therefore, a homeowner may in-
duce flowering by placing a plant
and a ripe apple in a polyethylene
bag, tying and leaving for four
days before removing.


When bromeliads are grown un-
der proper conditions they are
rarely affected by disease organ-
isms. Plants which are subject to
drought (no water in the 'vase'),
mechanical injury, rapid tempera-
ture change, insects, or sunburn,
however, may be invaded by one
of many fungi.
This invasion usually appears
as a dark spot on the leaf, either
with sunken or water soaked areas
and frequently with a radiating
yellow area. Affected areas should
be removed with a sterile knife
and then the plant should be spray-
ed or dipped in a solution of Cap-
tan. Use a Captan 50% wettable
powder at a rate of one tablespoon
per gallon of water.

After dipping a plant make sure
the 'vase' is drained, and refill with
water the next day. Older leaves
will normally decline, and yellow-
ing of these leaves should not
cause concern. Do not use sprays
containing heavy metals and those
with oil bases. They will damage

Few insects bother bromeliads,
and those that may be found on
plants can be controlled. A number
of scales, as well as mealybugs,
may attack bromeliads. Dimetho-
ate (Cygon) at the rate of 2 tea-
spoons of 25% emulsifiable concen-
trate per gallon of water is effec-
tive against these pests. Another
material that can be used is Mala-
thion at the rate of 1 tablespoon
of 57% emulsifiable concentrate

per gallon of water. It may be
necessary to make two applications
of dimethoate or malathion 2 to 3
weeks apart.
Spider mites may also attack
these plants. Kelthane at the rate
of 2 tablespoons of 181/2% wettable
powder or 2 teaspoons of the
181/2% emulsifiable concentrate per
gallon of water is recommended.
Two applications of Malathion 7 to
10 days apart using the amount
recommended above for scales will
aid in their control.
Plants should be dipped or
sprayed outside, but the 'vase'
should be drained and flushed with
clean water the next day before it
is refilled.

Read and follow the recommen-
dations and precautions on the
pesticide label

(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida
United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director

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