6 Bromeliads With Spectacular Foliage

Author: Celeste BoothNo Comments


Bromeliads are often grown for their beautiful, colorful bracts that accompany flowering, or the unusual and brilliant inflorescence they produce. However, there are many bromeliads that have stunning foliage.

Range in Characteristics

Bromeliad foliage can come in a wide range of colors from deep burgundies to bright greens. The rosette shape of the foliage is also particularly attractive. Leaf shape ranges from thin and grass like to broad and leathery. Bromeliads can have variegation that includes vertical stripes, horizontal banding, and random splotches and speckling.

Bromeliad enthusiasts have worked to create hybrids and varieties of bromeliads that display spectacular foliage and beautiful shape and form. Exact copies of these varieties are easily cultivated because bromeliads produces offshoots called pups that are clones of the original plant. 

Culture and Leaf Color

If you choose to grow a bromeliad for its unique foliage, be aware that your care can directly effect the color of the leaves. In general, most bromeliads prefer dappled shade or indirect sunlight. If exposed to too much light, the leaves will bleach out. They will become a light green color and may lose their variegation or have less defined variegation. If the plant does not get enough light, it will become a deep green color and lose its variegation. There are some exceptions to this rule and some bromeliads require bright, direct light to bring out their brilliant colors. Be sure you know what your plant requires to produce the most attractive foliage.

In addition to light, too much fertilizer can diminish the bright colors of bromeliad foliage. Bromeliads require very little fertilizer. Too much will make the plant grow lanky and become primarily green instead of colored or variegated. In some cases too much fertilizer can also inhibit the production of a flower.


Some genera of bromeliads are more well known for their colorful foliage than others. Neoregelias have flowers that are set deep within the central cup, they are not very showy. However, the foliage of most Neoregelias is spectacular. They often blush bright colors toward the center of the cup. Many have beautiful banding and unique dark colors. Neoregelias are epiphytes. They can be grown attached to a substrate such as a piece of wood. They can also be grown in a potting medium, but take care not to overwater them. Neoregelias also thrive in a lot of humidity so they are ideal for terrariums and vivariums. They provide excellent habitat for frogs and insects.


Cryptanthus are also primarily grown for their foliage and shape. They are commonly know as earth stars because of their form. Unlike many other bromeliads earth stars are not epiphytic. They must be grown in a potting medium. This genus makes ideal container plants. Many of the species are known for their very attractive zebra like horizontal banding.

6 Stunning Bromeliads

In addition to these genera there are many species within other bromeliad genera that have very beautiful foliage. Here are six spectacular cultivars or species including some Neoregelias and Cryptanthus that will dazzle you with their bright colors or intricate variegation.

Neoregelia ‘Marmalade’

Both the form and color of this Neoregelia, sold by specialty grower Tropiflora, are very attractive. The plant grows low and broad up to ten inches tall and two feet wide. The individual leaves are very wide as well growing up to three inches across. The rosette is very symmetrical and flat, tightly overlapping. The leaves are very glossy and a deep rusty red to orange color. They blush darker red toward the center of the plant when flowering. This plant will show the best color in partial shade or indirect sunlight.

Cryptanthus ‘Elaine’

This Cryptanthus is a cultivar of Cryptanthus fosteriana. It is also sold by the online bromeliad store, Tropiflora. It has broad leaves that taper to a point at the end. The margins of the leaves have a slightly scalloped shape, giving it a lightly ruffled appearance. The leaves are a chocolate brown with silvery horizontal banding. The outer edges of the plant are tinged bright pink. Depending on the plant, the entire leaf may have a bright pink tinge. The plant grows more upright than flat and can reach 18 inches tall. This Cryptanthus will handle partial shade to full sun.

Cryptanthus 'Elaine'

Bright Pink Cryptanthus ‘Elaine’

Dyckia ‘Cherry Cola’

Dyckia ‘Cherry Cola’ is a cultivar that like its name has a dark red brown color that resembles cherry cola. It forms a tight rosette with stiff pointed leaves. Dyckias are often noted for their prominent, sharp yet attractive spines that surround the margins of the leaves. ‘Cherry Cola’ can grow up to three feet across as well as three feet tall if given enough space. However, the plant will usually grow as large as the container it is potted in will allow.

The more sun this plant is given the deeper and darker red the leaves will become. Dyckias are adapted to thrive in hot, dry weather and do well planted outdoors in arid climates. They can also withstand temperature that occasionally dip below freezing.

Vriesea fosteriana ‘Rubra’

This Vriesea cultivar has broad strap like leaves. The leaves are a deep burgundy color with creamy horizontal banding. This is a tall plant that can grow up to three feet. The leaves often arch outward. It will do well in light shade to bright indirect sunlight. The intensity of the color will increase as the plant matures.

Vriesea should be planted in a well draining mix, because they are usually epiphytic. Take care not to overwater. This genera also prefers plenty of humidity accompanied with air circulation so that the plant does not rot.

Aechmea blanchetiana

Aechmea blanchteiana is a large bromeliad often in used in landscaping in tropical climates such as south Florida. It tolerates full sun very well, but will also thrive in partial shade. The most notable characteristic of this Aechmea is bright orange foliage. The leaves are broad and glossy. They grow in an upright vase formation. The plant can reach up to three feet tall and wide. In addition to the plant’s bright foliage, it also produces a showy orange red flower that can last for four months. Aechmea should be planted in well draining soil and seldom require water once established in a landscape. If planted in a container, only water when the potting medium is dry a few inches deep.

Vriesea hieroglyphica

This Vriesea has a brilliant green color. The dark green horizontal banding contrasts beautifully on the lighter, bright green leaf. The leaf is broad and stiff as well as very glossy. The plant can grow to two feet tall and two feet across. This plant produces the best color in light shade.

Your Favorites

These are just six of hundreds of bromeliad species and cultivars that have attractive foliage. The many variations of leaf shape, color and variegation create endless combinations of stunning plants. The plants listed above would be interesting additions to both outdoor landscapes or indoor collections. What are your favorite bromeliad cultivars? What foliage characteristics do you like the best?


“Neoregelia ‘Marmalade.’” Tropiflora. <http://www.tropiflora.com/shop.cfm?page=display&ProductID=57574&CategoryID=46&Genus=Neoregelia%20&iPageNbr=5&src=genus>

“Crytpanthus ‘Elaine’” Tropiflora. <http://www.tropiflora.com/shop.cfm?page=display&ProductID=50647&CategoryID=46&Genus=Cryptanthus&iPageNbr=1&src=genus>

“Dyckia Hybrids.” Annie’s Magic Garden. <http://www.anniesmagicgarden.com/home.php?cat=282&page=1>

“Vriesea fosteriana ‘Rubra.’” Kiwi Bromeliads. <http://www.kiwibromeliads.co.nz/collections/classic_fosteriana.htm>

“PlantFiles: Aechmea, Bromeliad Aechmea blanchetiana” Dave’s Garden. <http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/74038/#b>

“Vriesea hieroglyphica” Plantman. <http://www.plantman.co.nz/afawcs0158272/CATID=0/SUBID=150/ID=216/SID=750666993/productdetails.html>



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