Aechmea: The Beginner’s Bromeliad
Author: Melanie Dearringer23 Comments
It is easy to become attracted to the exceptional beauty of bromeliads. If you have found yourself drawn to these plants and would like to try growing one of your own, the Aechmea (pronounced EEK-me-uh) genus may be a good place to start. Aechmea is a genus of plants found in the Bromeliaceae family. Aechmea gets its name from a Greek word meaning “spear tip”.
Many Aechmeas have sharp spines along the margins or outer edges of their leaves. The Aechmea genus contains 255 different species that originate from throughout Central and South America. Some have adapted for growth in moist, shady forests while others prefer more arid regions. Aechmea broemliads offer a great variety in color, foliage, and growth habits. They are especially easy to care for and reward their owners with bright, long lasting inflorescence.
Most Aechmeas are epiphytic meaning they grow non-parasitically on another host such as a tree. However, they are often sold as potted, terrestrial plants in nurseries and flower shops. While they can grow well in pots, their root systems are not large. In the wild, Aechmea’s roots merely act as an anchor attaching the bromeliad to the host plant. They take in water from rainfall and nutrients from dust, insects, and other particles that have collected in their tanks. It is common for Aechmeas to become top heavy. Their foliage is large and meaty yet their small root systems prefer small 4-6 inch pots.
Most Aechmea are well suited to grow both indoors or outdoors. They thrive in light shade or indirect sunlight. Aechmeas can flourish in indoor office spaces. The florescent lighting will typically be enough to satisfy this bromeliad. They can be grown outdoors in climates that have no risk of frost. They are susceptible to few pests and are more unlikely to succumb to insect related illness or disease than other indoor plants.
Aechmea’s foliage grows without a stem. The leaves grow together forming a rosette shape at the center of the plant. It takes in water through this rosette, which is more commonly referred to as a tank. The Aechmea’s ability to store up water in its tank to be used as needed helps it to survive through periods of sporadic rainfall. When caring for an Aechmea in your home, it is important to keep water in its central tank at all times. Be sure to flush this water regularly. Water left to stagnate in the tank can lead to bacterial infection, pests, and build up of salinity that can eventually lead to plant damage. You should empty the tank and rinse your bromeliad at least once a month. Do this more often if you notice build up on the leaves. Filling the tanks with distilled water or rain water will help prevent the build up of salts commonly found in tap water.
A Clear Favorite
Aechmea fasciata, more commonly known as the urn plant, is one of the most widely recognized species in the Aechmea genus. This bromeliad has thick, broad leaves.They are green in color with a silvery, horizontal banding. The flower spike is composed of bright pink bracts that can display for several months. Small purple flowers appear from the bracts when in bloom. Urn plants will thrive in almost any indoor environment with little attention. The simply need clean water in their tank and bright, indirect light.
While the urn plant is beautiful, easy, and rewarding. There are many other species and cultivars of Aechmea that a first time bromeliad grower can experiment with. Once you are comfortable growing Aechmea fasciata you may want to consider trying your hand at one of these more unique bromeliads.
Other Effortless Aechmeas
Aechmea chantinii, better known as the Amazonian Zebra Plant, is another common bromeliad grown indoors. It has large dark green leaves with lighter yellow vertical stripes and white to silvery horizontal stripes. The Amazonian Zebra Plant can grow to be 2-3 feet across and 1-3 feet tall. Its flower spike has red or orange bracts with tight red flowers.
Aechmea fosteriana, also known as Foster’s Favorite Aechmea or Lacquered Wine Cup, is also a lovely Aechmea species. There are several different cultivars of Foster’s Favorite. Some have dark green leaves with a shiny, glossed appearance. Others are a deep purple, almost black, throughout the leaves. The bracts are a deep red or wine color. Foster’s Favorite can grow up to 18 inches tall and 18 inches wide. The flower spike is pendant shaped, curving down around the sides of the plant. It produces a red or red and blue tip flower. Foster’s Favorite can handle light shade but will thrive in bright, indirect sunlight.
The Del Mar cultivar has bright light green leaves that are broad and leathery. The leaves are surrounded by small but very sharp spines. The most stunning characteristic of the Del Mar is its flower spike. The flower spike itself is hot pink rising above the foliage in the middle. On the end of the flower spike are brilliant bluish-purple bracts. This cultivar grows to about a foot high and thrives in light shade.
There are many more beautiful and unique varieties of Aechmea. Aechmeas make excellent gifts and can be easily found in decorative containers at florists, nurseries, and garden centers. Their minimal care requirements make them an ideal plant for the beginner bromeliad grower. The Aechmea will reward you with a beautiful, long-lasting flower spike and truly unique foliage.
Which bromeliad did you start with?
Plant Files. “Dave’s Garden.” <http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/>
Bromeliad Encyclopedia. “Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies” <http://fcbs.org/>
Lacquered Wine Cup. “Desert-Tropicals” <http://www.desert-tropicals.com/Plants/Bromeliaceae/Aechmea_fosteriana.html>
“Bromeliad Society International” <http://www.bsi.org/>
Aechmea chantinii photo credit: BotBIn via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aechmea_chantinii_Variegata_BotGardBln1105a.jpg
Aechmea Del Mar photo credit: Bosc d’Anjou via http://www.flickr.com/photos/boscdanjou/7270591998/
Aechmea fasciata featured photo credit: ecos de pedra via http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecosdepedra/406669149/
Aechmea triangularis photo credit: Eric Hunt via http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericinsf/218184331/
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