Sometimes a room with a view gets a little depressing—for instance, when that view is of nothing but gray and white, as it might well be in January. If your view needs a little help, try parking Aechmea fasciata—a big, bold bromeliad—in front of the glass. This beauty has a tall, bright pink spike rising out of a rosette of banded, silver gray leaves. The pink spike is actually a cluster of bracts, and the real flowers—which are pale blue that turn to rose red—nestle within the bracts.
Common name: Bromeliad, urn plant, silver vase
Botanical name: Aechmea fasciata
Plant type: Evergreen perennial
Zones: 10b to 15; in other zones, grow as houseplant
Height: 1 to 3 feet
· Sun: When grown outdoors, does well in part shade. Indoors, prefers bright, indirect light.
· Soil: Well-drained sand or gravel
· Moisture: Moist but not soggy. Keep plant’s “cup” (the vase formed by leaves at the base of the rosette) filled with water. Needs humid conditions.
· Mulch: None needed.
· Pruning: None needed.
· Fertilizer: Can fertilize lightly in summer with low- or no-nitrogen fertilizer.
· By seed or by offsets (pups).
Pests and diseases
· If soil is too moist, plants may suffer from root rot.
· Vulnerable to mealybugs and scale insects.
· Aechmea fasciata is slow-growing and a dependable bloomer, which makes it perfect for a container filled with well-drained soil.
· In the wild, it’s an epiphyte—it doesn’t grow in soil, but attaches to a tree and captures water in its cup. Allow soil to dry out between waterings, but keep the cupped rosette filled.
· In the few U.S. regions where A. fasciata survives outside year-round, it makes a good ground cover. Place plants about 2 feet apart.
· If your bromeliad is outside, add fresh water to the leaf vase every few days to prevent mosquito eggs from hatching
· None known.
All in the family
· There are about 2,400 species in more than 50 genera within the Bromeliaceae family. Most bromeliads are from Central and South America.
· The most familiar bromeliads in the United States are the commercial pineapple (Ananas comosus) and Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides).
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo by Tracy Walsh)