Neoregelia carolinae

Neoregelia carolinae in bloom

This is a member of the Bromeliaceae (bromeliad) family of plants, and hails from Brazil. It does not have showy flowers like some members of the family: instead it has stunning foliage, with the centre of its 'vase' being coloured brilliant red at flowering time and for some months afterwards. It is sometimes colloquially known as the blushing bromeliad. The clustered flowers are held low in the centre of the vase and look like a cute miniature water garden. The leaves can be 40 cm or more long. It is epiphytic so can be grown in tree branches if tied on initially with an old stocking; however, it can also be grown in a pot or in a semi-shaded garden bed, where it will form big clumps. It looks very effective if grown nearby to red-flowering plants that can cope with some shade, such as red Pentas, red Abutilon, Salvia miniata, Salvia splendens and Odontonema tubaeforme. I particularly like it grown near red cane, shrub or bedding Begonia, which all have shiny flowers that echo the gloss of the bromeliad foliage.

There is a Neoregelia cultivar called 'Tricolor' that has leaves striped in white and green, with a red centre, and one with yellow-striped foliage; along with many other cultivars! Propagation is by division of the clumps. There are basically no pests that attack them. Avoid overwatering, which may rot the roots. Remove excess leaf litter from the central 'vase' every so often - long tongs can be used!

Flowers in January.