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How to Bromeliad Your Trees

Selby Gardens is featured weekly on ABC7 News at Noon. Tune in Thursdays to see more informative segments like this one.

Adding beautiful tropical plants to large pots and in your landscape are great ways to boost your homes curb appeal. But a new trend is forming and it involves…dressing up your trees?

Bromeliads are a common site in Florida gardens. Though many people grow their bromeliads in their landscapes and pots, they’re actually happiest when freely hanging from something. They’re epiphytes after all, taking in all of the water and nutrients they need from rain, fallen leaves, even animal waste. So if you have a tree in your yard you’d like to spruce up, or even a stump, do your bromeliads a favor and tie them to it….then watch them take-off!

Bromeliads originate in diverse habitats, from treetops in full sun to shaded swamps so match the plant to its specific needs. Genera such as Neoregelia, Billbergia and Tillandsia all have species which survive in either sunny or shady conditions. Be sure to choose the proper sun exposure for the species you have. A general rule is that stiff, thorny leaved bromeliads take more sun, and soft, smooth leaved bromeliads take more shade. Remember that morning sun is much more gentle than afternoon, and that the sun shifts position throughout the year. And when selecting a tree, rough bark is an asset, though not essential, and old citrus trees work just as well as oaks and cedars.

When mounting your epiphyte, you’ll have to keep the base of the plant, where the new roots emerge, secure against the tree for a few months. Pantyhose or wire do a good job, but don’t use copper wire. Bromeliads are really sensitive to copper. Place the plant in an area with proper light exposure, on the top of a branch or in a curve, so that the roots will receive water from morning dew and when it rains. If there’s new growth on the plant, orient that growth toward the stem. You’ll want the bromeliad to grow onto the tree, not away from it.

Water by hand for the first six months or so, and supplemental watering is always a good idea during our dry season. Make sure bromeliads always have water in their tanks. Remember, it’s easiest to establish new epiphytes at the beginning of the growing season. This will allow the plant to quickly root to its host. Once the roots have grown onto the host to hold the plant upright, the mounting material can be removed. Never leave wire wrapped around a tree for more than a year.

One of the most interesting things you can do in a Florida landscape is plant bromeliads in the trees. It’s probably the easiest, and for sure the most eye-catching way to grow these plants in our humid climate, and one of the quickest ways to achieve that sought-after “tropical” look in any garden. Selby sure has it going on…and we look forward to seeing you in the gardens. If you have additional questions, we would love to hear from you…simply stop by the gardens and ask one of knowledgeable volunteers or visit our Facebook page!