Bromeliads are fun to grow both inside as a potted plant and outside in the landscape
where the climate allows. They can give you many different shapes and colors from
small to large.
The bromeliad family can be broken down into three main categories. They are Terrestrial
(Ground), Saxicolus (rocks) and Epiphytic (Air):
Terrestrials are the one that are normally found growing in some form of soil and
rely some what of their roots to gather water and nutrients. They are mostly shaped
in a rosette shape to where the leaves channel water and debris toward the plants
center and its main root concentration. The pineapple is a good example of the type.
Saxicolus are the ones that mainly grow on rocks. They are very similar to Terrestrials
in that they rely on the root system for some part of their nutrient pick-up.
Epiphytic are the bromeliads that grow on trees or other plants to where they have
no contact with soil. Their root systems are mainly used for anchoring them to the
host plant. Epiphytes draw most of the nutrients and water they need directly from
the air. These are mostly Tillansia of which Spanish Moss is a member.
The one thing that all bromeliads have is small scales on the leaves that are very
efficient absorption system. They are called Trichomes. The Trichomes also help protect
the plant from burning in the sun.
Bromeliads like all living things need proper nutrition. Healthy plants are better
prepared to combat pests and diseases. Proper nutrition is a combination of a number
of diverse things.
Air: Plants need air to provide their leaves with carbon dioxide to make sugars
and starches for plant food. Roots also need air to stay healthy.
Water: Plants need water even more than nutrients and light. Most plants are 90%
water. Plants use water directly when they capture light energy and transform it
Plants also transpire. Transpiration is when plants exchange water for carbon dioxide.
All leaves have stomata that when open let water out and carbon dioxide in.
Sun light: The sun light provides the energy necessary to make food. The process
is called Photosynthesis.
Nutrients: These are divided into two groups.
First are the Non-mineral Nutrients that plants get from air and water and they are
carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
The second group and the minerals and they include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium,
calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum
and zinc. Many bromeliads get almost all of these nutrients through their leaves.
Biology. There are many levels of live microorganisms in the soil and on plant
leaves that are essential to plant life. The main groups are bacteria, actinomycetes,
fungi, protozoa and algae. These all work in various ways to help plants store water,
break down nutrients into a usable form and to fight pests and disease.
Bromeliads. For the most part are not heavy feeders and do better with low amounts
of fertilizer (N-P-K). Some especially, the decorative ones that curl at the ends,
keep growing instead of curling properly if given too much nitrogen (N). So what
they need is a well balances diet of nutrients plus the biology that are needed to
make them function properly.
Too much emphasis is put on fertilizers and not on a balanced feeding program. N-P-K
is necessary but should not be all you look at. Synthetic fertilizer can be a problem
in that they can burn a plant very easily and tend to kill natural healthy plant
biology. In nature bromeliads depend heavily on what falls into the plant and the
biology that in it to provide nutrients. I find that using low nitrogen organic fertilizers
that work with natural biology to work great. With it I add the other needed nutrients
and live biology.
The terrestrials and Saxicolus that you are growing in soil (potting mix) can produce
roots systems extensive enough to provide a portion of the nutrition. This ‘soil’
should have 3% to 5% organic mater that is in a state that it is called humus. That
this point in decay it can hold water, allows proper aeration and contains the biology
necessary to support the plant roots. The plants use it up just like fertilizer so
it needs to be replenished regularly. We also need to add all of the minor elements
necessary for plant nutrition.
For the Epiphytic bromeliad we need to be able to give them all of the nutrients
and biology they need in our foliar spray mix to supplement what nature gives them.
Feed well during the plants growing season and cut back during the rest on the year.
I remove the growth nutrient from my spray during their dormant season.
A number of years ago I felt that it was necessary to provide my family, pets and
wildlife with a better environment. I grow many bromeliads, orchids and many other
plants in both a natural setting and in greenhouses. I did a great deal of study
and decided that I would try and grow everything in a totally organic setting. First
I got rid of all pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Then I changed to organic
fertilizers and amendments.
I started treating my bromeliads with a natural Humate along with a good fish hydrolysate
fertilizer. The bromeliads loved it and flourished. Within three months my plants
were scale free for the first time ever. It seems that the combination of proper
nutrition and healthy biology works.
Since then I have gotten deeply involved in foliar feeding of all plants and have
evolved my sprays into what I feel gives me a great end product. I do very to content
depending on what I see the plants need but I have a couple basic sprays.
FOLIAR SPRAY All Purpose during growing season
1 Tablespoon liquid Humic Acid. Recommend a complete natural Humate such as Turf
& Garden Pro. Be sure of country of origin on Humates, many come for China and some
are suspect as to quality.
1 Tablespoon Liquid Fish fertilizer*. Recommend a fish hydrolysate such as Mega