"Blooming bromelliads"

A number of bromeliads are flowering in my garden now.
Sunday, 16 May 2021     

Vrisea cultivar in bloom now

A wander in my garden this week revealed that quite a few of my bromeliads are in bloom, which was a nice surprise. They are sometimes unpredictable in their flowering times, perhaps responding to weather factors. I enjoy the sculptured and unusual inflorescences of all of these plants, and many last a very long time on the plant, giving colour over a long period. Bromeliads would earn their keep by their sturdy and decorative foliage alone, so the flowers are a lovely bonus.

The shock-headed pink flowers of Aechmea fasciata have been out since January this year, and every time I pass them , I stop to admire their bold form above their vases of banded silvery leaves. I have them growing beneath pink-flowered Justicia carnea and Justicia brasiliana (both shade-tolerant plants), and the combination has been pleasing for many months now. Silvery foliage also looks good with this bromeliad - such as shade-tolerant Plectranthus argentatus - to echo the banding on the foliage.

I find this bromeliad slow to increase, so I bought a few to make a clump.

On the other hand, Aechmea gamosepala expands at a great rate every year! Originally given to me as a single pup by my erstwhile neighbour, who had brought it with her from her previous inner-city garden, it has quirky, cerise-pink flower-spikes with blue tips, like a cluster of surreal matchsticks, which last for a considerable time. In some years, they appear in winter, but this year mine have started blooming in May. I have always liked the combination of this plant with the identically coloured Ruellia macrantha that also comes out at this time of year. The bromeliad flower also matches the autumn blooms of the pretty groundcover Ruellia makoyana, an excellent plant for dry shade. Elsewhere in my garden, I have planted some of this Aechmea beneath a blue-flowered Salvia rubiginosa, which also flowers in the cooler months and I am looking forward to seeing how this combination works out. This bromeliad makes a good groundcover.

Yet another Aechmea - Aechmea weilbachii (ht 60-70 cm) - which also makes a good groundcover, is just coming into flower now. This has a bright red stem with red-bracted, lilac-purple flowers that are like strange beads. It multiplies well and I have placed it in several shaded garden beds where I grow red flowers that bloom in autumn and winter, such as Abutilon and tall red Salvia splendens.

A lovely and unusual Billbergia from my mother's garden (possibly Billbergia vittata) flowers on and off through the year, and is sporting some of its large, curved blooms at the moment. These have pink bracts and purple flowers, which are not long lived but are very attractive whilst they are out. The foliage is silver and marked with darker bands. It quickly forms clumps and I have been able to give away a number of these over the years to other gardeners. I grow it beneath a silvery-trunked birch tree in my garden.

I have noticed that several of my Vriesea hybrids are also in flower at the moment. These are generally quite compact little bromeliads (ht 20-30 cm) and have a thick, feathery flower spike that looks like it is made of some sort of plastic. Various hues can be obtained, including yellow, orange, burgundy, red, pink and purple. Some varieties include several colours on the flower-spike. Others have interesting foliage as well as the flowers. These flowers last for ages in the garden. They form reasonable clumps over time.

Many bromeliads are perfectly suited to our climate and are an excellent solution to dry, shaded garden beds with very little soil. They also do very well in pots. A number of them can be grown epiphytically in the forks of trees for an interesting garden feature. I have added a few to my 'epiphytic stump'. They need very little maintenance (apart occasionally watering them with the hose and dividing them occasionally) and look good every single day of the year. What more could we ask of a plant?

Blog originally posted 27 May 2012; updated 16 May 2021.

 Reader Comments

1/11  Lyn - 2565 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 May 2012

Very interesting and colourful article. Became a fan of Broms after visiting Mt Tamborine Botanic Gdns last year. Friend gave me heaps of cuttings and was overjoyed when they started to bloom. My Aechmea fasciata has also been flowering for 6 months in a corner of the garden where nothing ever grew. Thanks, Lyn. Your Aechmea sounds great; mine has also bloomed since February in a very dark, dry corner. Deirdre

2/11  Janice - 2069 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 May 2012

My bromeliads are the highlites , also some orchids are just coming out , I have not had so many before!Janice 2069 Thanks, Janice. We are fortunate to have so much colour available for our gardens at this time of year! Deirdre

3/11  Peter - 2008 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 May 2012

Yes Deirdre that Aechmea weilbachii is flowering in my garden, completely forgot the name as with the Bilbergia vittata that I think I saw in Centennial Parklands designed there by Gillian Smart www.paradisusgl.peternixon.com.au on the Facebook feed dated 21st May ... Thanks, Peter - they are great plants for Sydney gardens. Deirdre

4/11  Lyn - 4570 (Zone:11B - Tropical) Monday, 28 May 2012

When offering a friend some brom pups I was astounded when she refused because she liked colour in her garden, so only grew "flowers"! She hadn"t seen my garden which has colour all year, spring being such an ephemeral season in the subtropics.Mini broms grow on a dead tree and look fantastic. Hope your friend will see their value some day. I also like growing them in trees as you do. Deirdre

5/11  Stacey - 3805 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 28 May 2012

hi there, am i the only person in the world whos broms have never ever flowered since purchased 3 years ago? so sad and im so jealous, in order to get flowers i just keep buying new ones and then they just sit there as foliage. That is very frustrating for you, Stacey. Could it be a climate thing, if you are in a cold region? They do generally come from warm climates. I don"t know if they would do better grown indoors as I have never tried it but might be possible. The other possibility is that they are the more fancier sorts that don"t flower so well in general. I have never had much luck with guzmannias, for example - they never flower again for me even if I buy them with a flower on them. Neoregelias don"t have a prominent flower either - it is low down in the vase and they are grown more for their leaves. I have good success with flowers on Aechmea, Billbergia and Vriesea in Sydney. I know that some do take a while to get mature enough to flower but I would think three years is long enough. Hope you do get some blooms eventually! Deirdre

6/11  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 17 May 2021

I had almost forgotten my small group of bromeliads until while walking around my own garden, I found my Billbergia, rather like the one you described, with flowers. Further on, I suspect an Aechimea gemosepala, cerise-pink, blue tips, but with variegated leaves. Recently I received a Guzmania species, with a brilliant cerise flower. Will gather more plants. A nice collection. There is definitely an Aechmea gamosepala with variegated leaves. Deirdre

7/11  Maureen - 2118 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 17 May 2021

You, coupled with Linda's great presentation at the Garden Club, have certainly revived my interest in Broms. Must pay more attention to them. Thanks for this post. Yes it was a wonderful talk that night! Deirdre

8/11  Bren - 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 17 May 2021

I bought a couple of Alcantarea species from the Royal Botanic gardens in Sydney about three years ago. These are the huge species that can grow in full sun. They say they are slow growing, but they are not that slow. I bought them for $12, and they are now the same size as the $150 specimens they sell in 'Bunnies'. Ten years ago, I didnt give Bromeliads a second glance. Now I love them and have quite a big collection. I really like those big ones. I have a golden one that is superb. I used to spurn bromeliads but now really like them. Deirdre

9/11  Kay - 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 17 May 2021

Thanks enjoyed this blog only have a couple of Bromeliads but will be looking out for the ones mentioned Cant wait for your blog on the ones that grow in trees Cheers Kay Most of them can grow well in trees. I tie them on with old stockings, with a slit cut into the side of the stocking, into which I put some orchid bark then the bromeliad, which I then tie up a bit with the ends of the stocking - then I tie it onto the tree using the end of the stocking. By the time the bromeliad has attached itself to the tree, the stocking will be decomposing and can be removed. I sometimes put Spanish moss over the stocking to disguise it. I recently wrote about the epiphytic stump in a blog. Deirdre

10/11  Valerie - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 17 May 2021

Thank you Deirdre for naming these bromeliads. Some of the above are multiplying happily in our garden but I didn't know their names. If I can get them growing closely together the brush turkeys can't get in and excavate. Next project is to get a few growing in little 'rock pockets' around a bird bath (to catch extra water). That sounds lovely, Valerie! Deirdre

11/11  Sarah - 2151 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Ah bromeliads, my first plant love. There have been many since, but 'bros' will always be my first. You have some beautifully coloured examples Deirdre. Missing the Bromeliad Society's autumn and spring shows at Castle Hill. When it's safe to hold the shows again, I highly recommend going along to any fellow readers who are keen to collect some of these unique plants. Very passionate club members are happy to share their knowledge. I have never attended the shows but have heard they are good. It's great to swap pups with fellow bromeliad growers too! Deirdre

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