About Succulents & Bromeliads

This information is intended as a guide only, and in no way represents a full set of rules under which all succulents,cacti &/or bromeliads are guaranteed to live.

Succulents* & Cacti:
Succulent plants come in all shapes and sizes from the tiny Frailea genera whose flowers are some times larger than their body, in the Cactaceae family, to the very 'huggable' Brachychiton rupestris or Australian bottle tree. Their uses in the garden or growers' potted collections are as varied.Most of the succulent plants, including Cacti come from dry areas where seasonal rainfall can be random, so, keeping this in mind, if you are wanting to grow succulent plants in your garden on the east coast of Australia, make sure the area is well drained. If not naturally, then build up the area using terracing if on a slope or digging in course sand or fine gravel to raise the level giving better drainage.If you want to grow your succulent plants in containers then make sure the potting mix drains freely. A general rule is to use 2/3 potting mix to 1/3 drainage material, course sand or fine, sharp gravel generally being readily available. Also make sure there are drainage holes in the containers used. When using a quick draining potting mix remember that any nutrient will be draining away quickly too so you may have to fertilise more frequently (yes you do have to fertilise succulent plants).When using any fertiliser or insecticides on your succulent plants be guided by all instructions on the labels attached to the packaging.Succulents growing in the garden situation do not need much care regarding watering and fertilising however, once you confine ANY plant to a container you must meet its needs with feeding, pest control and watering. The best advice regarding watering is to let the container dry out completely between watering.Not all succulent plants love the sun, yes, a lot grow in dry, semi desert situations however even here there are shady places where the smaller succulents spend their whole lives. Like under shrubs or amongst boulders. So if adding new plants to your collection (garden or container) place it in a morning sun situation first then gradually move into the sunny position if you choose.Did you know that some very beautiful succulent plants are Bromeliads. Succulent Bromeliads like the Orthophytums, Deuterocohnias and Dyckias. These are terrestrial Bromeliads which make stunning containers plants or are robust in the well-drained garden situation. There are thousands of succulent plants available and many of them DO have special growing requirements, so, the notes above can only be considered as a helpful guide. If you are having problems with a special plant talk to one of the members at the Gold Coast Succulent & Bromeliad Society.

* "Our Society recognises a succulent plant as one which has the capacity to store moisture in its leaves, stems or roots or combinations of these." (This is for the purposes of defining member plant sales and for our show and competitions.)

Bromeliad is the name for a family of plants that are incredibly diverse. They are mostly from the tropical and subtropical forests of Central and South America and come in a wonderful variety of sizes, shapes and foliage colours. They may appear strange and exotic, but are not difficult to grow in our SEQ climate. Many bromeliads are epiphytes (ie they live on other plants but do not parasitise those plants), living up in the forks of tree branches and surviving mainly on the moisture and nutrients they obtain from the air. However there are bromeliads for every situation - some make very good indoor plants, while others can be quite spectacular simply grown in the garden.
Outdoor Bromeliad CareAlmost all bromeliads are native to tropical climates. Their original habitat was humid, shady forest floors or attached to trees. This means bromeliads are adapted for warm, wet, shady climates. If you live in an area that will not freeze you can safely plant you bromeliad outside. However, make sure you have a space that will not expose your bromeliad to large amounts of direct sunlight. A bromeliad can experience leaf burn if exposed to too much direct light. Different varieties have different tolerances for exposure to sun. Monitor your site and determine how much direct sun it gets and at what times of day and then purchase a bromeliad whose needs align with your site specifications. It is also important that your bromeliad remains moist.
Indoor Bromeliad CareBromeliads make great indoor plants. They have few needs and very few problem pests. With the right care you can enjoy bromeliads in your home year round.
Pots and Potting MediaPots and potting media can directly affect the moisture levels in the bromeliad. Never use soil to pot you bromeliad - it is too dense and will become soggy. Instead you can use potting mixes specially formulated for bromeliads or mix your own using porous materials.
WaterThe first care concern is water. Bromeliads are adapted to withstand drought, but cannot survive root rot that comes from being over watered. It is important that your bromeliad is planted in a medium that allows for fast drainage and that your pot allows water to move through easily. Each time you water the potting medium thoroughly soak it so that the water runs out the drainage holes. This will remove any salt build up in the potting media. Don't water the bromeliad again until the potting media is dry. Any more often than this and the plant will be sitting in too much water and could succumb to root rot. Many bromeliads also have what is often called a tank. This is the part of the plant where the leaves meet together and form a sort of cup. Bromeliads can also take in water by filling the tank. However, if you fill the tank you should flush it out also. This prevents a salt build up and removes any fungus. Simply add water in the tank area until the water overflows down onto any other leaf layers, and finally into the potting mix.If you have an epiphytic bromeliad, meaning a bromeliad that is growing on a rock, tree bark or other mount instead of in a pot with potting media, watering is a bit different. You can simply keep the plant moist by misting or lightly spraying it regularly. It is important to never use metal containers to water a bromeliad - they are very sensitive to metal & the results could be devastating to your plant.
HumidityAnother moisture concern is humidity. Misting the garden hose over/near your bromeliads can suffice in increasing the humidity. Another option is to place/display your plants together, but not squashed closely together. This closeness can also increase humidity in the vicinity. Be sure to mist & water during times of the day when the leaves will be dry before they are exposed to any direct sun.
LightBromeliads have a wide range of tolerance for light. Some varieties prefer bright light while others thrive in almost constant shade. For the most part bromeliads like bright sunny spaces, but not direct sun. Exposure to a lot of direct sunlight for an extended period of time can cause damage to the leaves.
FertilizingIt is not necessary to fertilize bromeliads very often. You can occasionally use a water soluble fertilizer, but be careful to watch for salt build up. If you want to encourage the production of pups (offshoots of the mother plant that can eventually be re-potted on their own) then fertilize slightly more frequently.
FloweringBromeliads flower only once. The brightly coloured leaves that are often mistaken for flowers are actually bracts or modified leaves. Typically small flowers grow within these attractive bracts. Some species send up a flower spike that extends well above the plant. Once a Bromeliad has flowered it will no longer produce new leaves. It will, or already has, produced offsets (pups). The flower on a bromeliad can last 2-3 months or more and the colourful bracts even longer. You can cut back the flower once it becomes unsightly. Eventually the parent plant will also die. Offsets can be allowed to grow with the parent plant, or once they have grown to about 1/3 to 1/2 the parent plant's size they can be re-potted and allowed to grow into an individual plant.
Following these few simple tips should help you keep enjoying bromeliads, both indoors and out, for several seasons.
- Make sure the plants stay moist but not soggy by providing adequate drainage.
- Provide bright light without direct sun.
- Maintain optimal humidity.
- Keep air flowing around the plants.
- Fertilize sparingly.

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