In recent years, Bromeliads have really come into their own for the home gardener. They provide amazing colour in shady areas or where the soil is shallow due to roots or rocks. They are relatively pest free and while they thrive on humidity, will still look great with the natural rainfall of the sub-tropics.
One member of this family of plants is the Vresia, a genus from South and Central America with about 250 species. They are well known for their striking foliage color and patterns as well as their floral display. There are no spines on the leaves of Vresia’ making them safe for handling.
The flowers are generally white and appear at night. It is the bracts, however, which provide the showiest display, with colors ranging from scarlet red through to canary yellow. These spikes can be as small as 10 cm to as tall as 2 metres. After a plant blooms, it will die. Remove any old foliage to allow more room for the new pups to grow.
Vresia prefer bright light but not direct sunlight. This will help the foliage achieve the best colour. If they are grown in full shade, many varieties will revert to simple green foliage. Most varieties can handle fairly low temperatures as long as they are not subject to frost.
Being an epiphytic plant, that is, they would naturally be found growing with no direct contact with the ground, Vresia’ prefer well a drained growing media. Materials which do not decompose too quickly are the best. You can use an Orchid mix or blend your own using pine bark, perlite, vermiculite, course sand or charcoal.
Vresia’ absorb all their nutrients through the rosette of leaves. Normally this would be in the form of rotting leaves, dead insects or frog droppings. In fact, the “roots” appearing at the stem of a Vresia are only there to provide anchorage. Any additional fertilizing should be provided at half the recommended rate or less.
To avoid the plant rotting if grown in the ground, try mounding up the growing media to provide adequate drainage or planting in pots and burying the pots in the ground. The plastic of the pots can be hidden by a layer of mulch.
Propagation can be seed or cutting off pups which grow out from the base of the parent plant. In nature, the seed is released with a small “parachute”, like a dandelion, allowing it to float to a new suitable spot in another tree. Seed propagation is used by breeders to produce new cultivars. It is a slow process with unknown results. For the home gardener, the pups are the best way to ensure more plants with the same characteristics.
Add some Vresia to your garden for a splash of year round colour.