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Bromeliads for cool spots

I LIVE on a sunny site on a hill near Nelson and wondered if the cold climate would suit some bromeliads. There are some frost-free areas, one being protected from harsh winds with palms, succulents and ferns growing. But I need an injection of colour. Would I be best to grow them in pots and bring them on to a covered veranda for winter?


LIKE orchids, the bromeliad family contains some species that require warm conditions to thrive and others that are adapted to cooler temperatures. Unfortunately, the hardiest types, such as puya and dyckia, which can tolerate several degrees frost, are generally not very colourful and tend to be rather prickly.

You could try the slightly less prickly varieties of Aechmea recurvata which have colourful flowers and at the same time the surrounding foliage becomes brightly coloured. Varieties of neoregelia with colourful foliage should also do well - 'Sharlock', 'Fireball' and 'Noble Descent' are just a few of the many hundreds of hybrids available that grow in a range of sizes.

For impact as well as colour, you could try some of the more stately varieties of vriesea such as V. fosteriana, V. platynema, V. hieroglyphica and their hybrids, which are becoming more in demand as gardeners realise their potential. Also worth considering are varieties of alcantarea, though they can get quite large. Check out www.kiwibromeliads.co.nz for more information on vrieseas and alcantareas.

Most of the above will grow quite happily planted in the ground in frost-free spots, but they're also great container plants. It sounds as if the area under your palms is an ideal spot to try your first planting of bromeliads. As a general rule, aechmeas can stand full sun, neoregelias can tolerate some sun, while vrieseas vary in their light tolerance, depending on variety. For example V. hieroglyphica is best in light shade, while some of the vriesea hybrids are best in quite strong light yet sheltered from direct hot summer sun.

Weekend Gardener, Issue 174, 2005, Page 28

Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH.

Andrew Maloy Weekend Gardener

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Last updated: October 25, 2005