By: Carol Johnson

August 1998 FCBS newsletter

Climate, moisture, light. Florida has all these and we grow beautiful bromeliads. We do not, however , have altitude, which is important in the growing of nearly 50% of bromneliad species on record. We can protect our plants from the cold and water them when they are dry. There is no remedy for our low altitude. The highest point in Florida is probably under 600 feet, which is less than 200 meters. One of the recent BSI Journals had as it's cover plant a newly discovered, beautiful Tillandsia. Reading the description, it was revealed that the plant grows at 2,500 meters. A meter is 39", or 3 ft., 3 inches, so the Tillandsia grows at over 8,000 feet. It would be a miracle for it to survive or do well in Florida.

There was also a recent cover picture of Till. imperialis, which should never, never be grown in Florida. It is akin to commiting murder. Many of us also try to grow T. deppeana, multicaulis, and complanata. These plants are borderline and their rebellion is in the form of refusing to bloom or make offsets.

There are genera which are reliable and at no risk in Florida except for cold or drought. These include Nidularium, Cannistrum, Portea, Hohenbergia, Aechmea, Quesnelia, Neoregelia, Billbergia, Dyckia, Alcantarea and of course, low altitude Tillandsias. Nearly all genera and species from Southeastern Brazil do very well in Florida, and this makes sense, since they have seasonal weather changes much like we do. Some Brazilian Vrieseas have given me trouble (Ex: Vr. guttata), but that is probably my fault. Amazonian species do well in Florida. Their habitat is sea level, like ours. They are, however, extremely sensitive to cold.

How can you know which plants will do well in Florida? Determine habitat altitude, ask questions or do like I did, try them all and grieve for those you put to death.

Puya. I know, I know, they are enjoying a certain popularity now, but they are so beautiful in habitat and so scrungy when grown in Florida. Leave them be.
Catopsis. Low altitude and native Florida Catopsis are great, but many species are high altitude and last only through one growing.
Werauhia. This genera was split out from Vriesea in recent years and includes high altitude plants from Costa Rica and the Caribbean. My first trip to Costa Rica I came home loaded down with them. Some made it all the way home, some didn't and all were dead within 3 months.
Navia. It is possible to get one bloom from plants of this genus, but I have never had one survive through two bloomings.

Vrieseas and Guzmanias will have to be considered one at a time. They grow wherever there are bromeliads, high and low. My Vrieseas from Brazil are the most reliable, but Guzmanias from Western South America are risky and fickle in Florida. I must also mention the Pitcairnias. They grow on Caribbean islands and up to 10,000 meters elsewhere, but are somewhat adaptable, so take them one at a time.

Some of our failures are our own fault. We put all genera together in the greenhouse and treat them all the same, whereas their habitats and cultural needs may be variable.