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Zones 22-24, H1, H2
Partial Sun
Partial
Ample Water
Ample

Aechmea


Evergreen, Perennials

This genus is composed almost entirely of epiphytic plants that grow on the trunks and branches of trees. All have rigid, strap-shaped leaves (often with spiny margins) that form a funnel of foliage around a central tube. In summer, a plume-like flower rises from the center and provides a colorful accent for several months.

In frost-free areas, grow outdoors in pots or hanging baskets filled with gritty soil (commercial orchid mixes work well) or in moss fastened in crotches of trees—always in shaded places with high humidity and good air circulation. Indoors, they need lots of light (such as from an east- or west-facing window) to bloom. Indoors or outdoors, give them fast-draining but moisture-retentive soil. Keep central tube or cup within leaves filled with water (distilled water or rainwater is best); water soil (or moss) when it’s dry. Fertilize monthly with a low-nitrogen plant food; withhold fertilizer for 1 to 2 months during winter.

Aechmea chantinii

Leaves are 1–3 ft. long, green to gray-green, and banded with silver or darker green. Tall flower clusters have orange, pink, or red bracts holding yellow-and-red flowers. Fruit is white or blue.

Aechmea fasciata ‘Variegata’ (photo courtesy of Susan A. Roth)
Aechmea fasciata ‘Variegata’ (photo courtesy of Susan A. Roth)

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Aechmea fasciata

Gray-green leaves cross-banded with silvery white grow to 2 ft. long. From the center grows a cluster of rosy pink bracts in which nestle pale blue flowers that change to deep rose. Look for named varieties with intensely silvery foliage or leaves edged with creamy white bands.

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