The dramatic bromeliads

These pineapple relatives are easy to grow, whether in patio pots or indoors or - in the mildest of climates - in borders

The dramatic bromeliads

Guzmanias come in dozens of brilliant colors such as yellow orange red and hot pink.

Steven Gunther

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  • The dramatic bromeliads

    Guzmania limones bears clusters of yellow buds.

Guzmanias and vrieseas - two popular members of the Bromeliaceae family - are almost as low-maintenance as plastic plants. In fact, at times, you'd swear they were plastic. Water spots don't burn any of these plants, and bugs don't chomp them. Their straplike leaves, smooth, shiny, and thick, fan out symmetrically around a central cup (called a tank) to form a neat rosette. Their dramatic flower heads have the same tough perfection. Shaped like tubes, arrowheads, or stars, they come in fluorescent shades of red, pink, orange, and yellow, and they last for months without fading or wilting. Often, vrieseas also have variegated foliage, with stripes (sometimes horizontal) or blotches.

During their bloom period, these bromeliads can do well on very little care. Just fill up their tanks with water occasionally. Mist, if you remember. If you only intend to keep the plants as long as they're in bloom, which is what many people do - the mother plant dies after it finishes blooming - that's pretty much the extent of care. If, however, you want to try for another generation, you can; mother plants produce new plants called offsets, or pups, before they die. But you'll have to give the plants slightly better treatment to keep them going.

Guzmanias and vrieseas make ideal container plants for indoors or for shady patios. In frost-free climates such as Hawaii or coastal California, you can plant them in the ground in lightly shaded spots. Dr. Leonard Kent, founder of Kent's Bromeliad Nursery, has filled his garden in Vista, California, with naturalized bromeliads. "I didn't amend the soil, I rarely feed them, and they don't need to be watered very often," he says. "If you don't have to worry about frost, they're incredibly easy."



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