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Behind the Scenes: Building Our Annual Bromeliad Tree


It’s hard to miss the holiday Bromeliad Tree near Payne Mansion on our Downtown Sarasota campus! Rising over 20 feet tall, this beloved annual tradition has become a special part of our Lights in Bloom® light show, as well as a festive attraction for daytime visitors to the Gardens.

Have you ever wondered how our Bromeliad Tree is created each year?

The initial design begins as a digital rendering. Along with creating the year’s signature pattern, Selby Gardens’ senior director of gardens horticulture, Christopher Elenstar, uses a software program called SketchUp to create a digital model of the design to scale.

After the rendering has been finalized, the Selby Gardens Horticulture team orders the plants needed for assembly — nearly 800 bromeliads!

The team incorporates different types of bromeliads, so the tree has a diverse array of colors and textures. This year’s tree includes seven different types of bromeliads:

    • Neoregelia ‘Fireball’
    • Neo. ‘Super Fireball’
    • Neo. ‘Casablanca’
    • Neo. ‘Lambert’s Pride’
    • Neo. ‘Tossed Salad’
    • Neo. ‘Avalon’
    • Neo. ‘Hawaii’

Once December nears, it’s all hands on deck for the installation! Our talented team and a group of their dedicated volunteers begin the assembly process:






















The Bromeliad Tree frame is divided into three segments, so each piece is accessible from the ground (for now!). Once the design pattern is marked out on the frames, the team begins to place potted bromeliads into their appropriate spots. The pattern for the tree changes every year, so each plant’s placement is always unique!

By the end of Day 1, all three segments of the tree frame are filled with beautiful, colorful bromeliads. The vision begins to come to life!


Installation Day 2 means it’s time to break out the heavy-duty equipment to stack the tree frames on top of one another. Christopher operates the tractor forklift while the team takes care to bolt each segment together.

Check out this video of the Bromeliad Tree going vertical:


The Horticulture team fills in any final gaps between each segment with more bromeliads so the tree looks picture-perfect. And, for the finishing touch, our friends at Affairs in the Air install twinkling holiday lights amid the nearly 800 bromeliads to illuminate our beautiful tree for the holiday season!

Bravo to Christopher and our very talented Horticulture team for an amazing job well done (again)! And, from all of us at Selby Gardens, happy holidays!