Common names : Vase plant, Aechmea bromeliad, Urn plant
Have you ever wondered why the leaves of aechmea are always arranged in a rosette? In the wild most aechmeas are epiphytic i.e. it grown on some other plant but not as parasite and gets its food from air, rain and things around it and the leaves have adapted to their environment, and are always arranged in a rosette, shaped to capture and hold water. All species of this large genus come from humid tropical areas. The Leaves of some kinds are clasped tightly together so as to form long tubes, in others the rosette is looser. But there is invariably a cuplike center in which water accumulates, and the flower stalk rises from this center, which should not be allowed to dry out.
Image Credit: Wiki
All aechmeas flower only when mature, and only once from each rosette, after which the rosette slowly dies. The foliage and colorful inflorescence remain decorative for several months after the small blooms have faded, however. During this period offsets appear around the base of the old rosette. Many indoor gardeners simulate natural conditions by growing these bromeliads on “epiphyte branches”.
Growing and caring for aechmea
All potted aechmeas grow best in full sunlight. They will not flower successfully if kept at a distance from a sunny window.
These plants like temperatures of over 60°F, coupled with high humidity throughout the year. Pots should be stood on trays of moist pebbles. Aechmeas with thick, scaly leaves tolerate cool positions and dry air better than, do those with soft, shiny foliage. Most of these plants, however, can survive short periods of cold without suffering unduly.
Water moderately, enough to make the potting mixture thoroughly moist, but allow the top half- inch to dry out between waterings. In addition, make sure that the cup— like centers of plants have a constant supply of fresh water. Cups should be emptied and replenished periodically, to prevent water from becoming stale and smelly. In hardwater areas it is advisable to put aechmeas out in the soft rain from time to time (but only in mild periods), hard water disfigures the leaves by building up lime deposits.
Except in midwinter (when these plants may take a brief rest) provide half-strength standard liquid fertilizer once every two weeks. Apply the fertilizer not only at the roots but over foliage and into central cup.
Pots and Repotting
An equal parts mixture of leaf mold, peat moss, and coarse sand or perllte is suitable. Most aechmeas produce rather little root, and therefore do best in small pots. Smaller plants will flower in 4— inch pots, and the 5—inch size suffices for most others. Repotting, if done at all, should take place just as new growth begins.. To avoid top— heaviness, use clay pots rather than plastic ones.
How to propagate aechmea
When the offsets that appear around the base of a plant are about half the size of the parent plant, they can be cleanly detached preferably in spring and planted in 2 to 3 inch pots of the recommended potting mixture for adult aechmeas. If all offset has already produced roots of its own, they should he retained. For roughly the first four months, each little plant should he kept in bright but filtered light and should be watered very sparingly—just enough to keep the potting mixture barely moist. When it is well established, the young aechmea call be moved into direct sunhght and it can then he treated as a mature specimen.
Steps for propagation:
– Detach on offset for propagation that is about half the size of parent plant.
– If the offset has already developed small roots be careful not to damage them.
– Press the offset gently but firmly into a pot of the mixture for adult aechmeas.
Aechmea growing tips
After a plant has flowered, some growers prefer not to remove offsets for propagation but to make room for the new rosettes to develop in the original pot. This is easily done by using a sharp kitchen knife to cut off the old rosette at the lowest possible point when it has become shabby and started to wither. Pots containing two or more rosettes can he exceptionally beautiful, particularly when in flower.
A. chantinii has tough, arching leaves up to 18 inches long, which are gray-green, spiny-edged, and powdered with minute silvery white scales in crosswise bands. The inflorescence consists of a cluster of pointed, orange— red bracts, which droop as they open, to reveal a number of branched flower stems with upright yellow-and-red flowers. Ac. ‘Pink Goddess’ and Ac. ‘Red Goddess’ are varieties with pink and red bracts respectively.
A. fasciata (sometimes known as A. rhodocyanea or Billbergia rhodocyanea, commonly called urn plant) is the most popular aechmea. Its arching, gray-green, spiny leaves, which are cross-banded with sprinkllngs of white powder, can attain a length of 2 feet. When fully mature (usually after three or four years’ growth), the plant sends up a strong flower stalk bearing a pink inflorescence up to 6 inches long. The large inflorescence consists mainly of bracts from between which emerge small, pale blue flowers that soon turn red. These disappear quickly, but the pink bracts remain dccorative for up to six months. There are two variegated forms: Af ‘Albomarginata,’ which has cream colored bands bordering each leaf, and Af ‘Variegata,’ whose leaves have lengthwise cream stripes.
A. fulgens has broad leaves tip to 16 inches long, which form a rather fiat, Opel, rosette. Only one variety, A.f. discolor, has become a common house plant. Its leaves are glossy olive green above, and deep wine purple dusted over with whitish powder on the underside. As the dark purple flowers die, attractive red berries appear, and these remain on the plant for several months at a time.
A. racinac (Christmasjewels) has soft, glossy, green leaves about ia inches long and r inch wide arranged in a small, loose rosette. It normally flowers at Christmastirne, when it produces a drooping flower stalk ia—18 inches long, bearing a cluster of about 12 oval, bright red, berrylike flowers with bright yellow and black petals projecting through the tip of the red oval. The flowers are followed by brilliant orange-red berries, which remain attractive for months.
Two of the most attractive small aechmcas—neither with leaves longer than 8 inches are hybrids. A. ‘Foster’s Favorite’ has shiny, deep wine red leaves forming a narrow tube but fanning out for about half their length. The flower spike, which tends to droop, carries deep purple flowers, which give way to dark red berries. The flowers are short—lived, but the berries last for two or three months. The leaves of A. ‘Royal Wine’ are ollive green on top and wine—colored on the underside, and both surfaces look highly polished. Flowers are blue and berries orange. These two hybrids are extremely easy to grow indoors.