Nature at Home
Tank Bromeliads Composting for a Healthy Garden & Environment Bromeliads comprise an entire order of flowering plants called Bromeliales, native to tropical North and South America, which also includes some of the most interesting plants of the rainforest—the tank bromeliads.

There are nearly 200 species of tank bromeliads. They have broadly bowl-shaped rosettes with arching leaves. The leathery, strap-like leaves may be solid, spotted, striped or banded. The cylindrical, cone-like upright or pendant inflorescences have large, colorful bracts that remain in color for weeks or even months. They are often red, pink or orange, with blue, yellow or black flowers The flowers are often followed by fleshy, bright red or blue berries.

The tank bromeliads have relationships with a wide variety of organisms, including some tree frogs who court and mate within the bromeliads’ water bowls. The water held in the leaf rosette of a tank bromeliad forms a virtual aquarium, which may contain up to two gallons of water. Several hundred species of aquatic organisms can be found in these habitats, and some are found nowhere else except in bromeliad pools.

Most are easy to grow but need bright light as they derive energy from photosynthesis, water from rain, and nutrients mainly from falling debris and windblown dust.

Light: Bromeliads should receive 12 to 16 hours daily of relatively bright light. Different species vary in their requirements, but the general rule is to give a plant as much light as it can tolerate without burning or bleaching.

Temperature: The optimal temperature range is where temperatures fluctuate by at least 10 degrees daily because most bromeliads have a special type of photosynthesis that requires day-night temperature variations.

Humidity: Bromeliads prefer relative humidity of 50 to 75% and need the higher levels as temperatures increase. But too high humidity seems to inhibit the formation of leaf scales, which may make some plants less attractive under these conditions.

Water: Bromeliads prefer water on the acid side, but rainwater is best as very pure water can draw nutrients out of the leaves.

Fertilization: Bromeliads can be fertilized with acidic, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to 1/4 to 1/8 strength. Drench the potting medium, foliage and central tank with the mixture. However, over fertilization will result in loss of color and can also produce overgrown rosettes with poor form.

Potting: The main function of the potting mix is to hold the plant steady, not to provide water and nutrients to the roots (except for terrestrial species). Orchid bark mixed with coarse perlite and humus (Cymbidium orchid mix) is good for most bromeliads.

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