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April 2012

Guzmania conifera
Photograph by Jarka Rehak
Guzmania lingulata ‘Superb’
Photograph by Jarka Rehak

- Articles appearing in this issue of NEWSLINK are for information purposes only and are not necessarily endorsed by the Committee or the Illawarra Bromeliad Society.
- The Society is, by the holding of meetings, displays and competitions, to provide a forum for the people of the Illawarra region who are interested in the culture and collection of bromeliads.
- Under the provisions of the Privacy Act, use of names and references to private details, such as illness, holidays, birthdays and items of a similar nature, may only be published with the written permission of the person concerned.


A very warm welcome to Laila and Stephen Astill, Robyn Firth, Michael Leggett and Monica De Clouett who joined at our February and March meetings. We wish them a long and happy association with our Society.


Meri Stefanidakis, Jim Beverstock, Christa Thomas, Peter Netting, Ian Chinnock
Noel Kennon, Gino Di Cesare, Janine Varley, Rhonda Patterson, Colleen Claydon
Judy Schutz, Jim Clague, Sylvia Clare, Joan Banks, Maureen Wheeler
Vicki Joannou, Anna Stewart, Phillip Robinson, Steve Morgan, Hetty Kerstholt

In the January 2012 edition of Newslink April 28-29 were incorrectly listed as the dates for the above Show. It should have read May 5-6, 2012.

Another one of our popular workshops will be held on Thursday, May 17 at Maureen Wheeler’s home at 4 Lendine Street, Barrack Heights (Phone: {02} 4243-1778). The usual times will apply—from 10.00 am until 2.00 pm. BYO lunch but tea and coffee will be supplied. These workshops are very nice informal occasions when members have a chance to get to know each other, and where, as one member told me, she felt comfortable enough to ask questions, something she felt a little intimidated to do at our regular monthly meetings. So, to our newer members, a special invitation to attend our workshop next month. This is usually a hands-on learning experience in dividing and potting up plants, learning which kinds of potting mixtures to use, and often going home with new plants (for free) to add to your collection.

It seems that at long last we have been able to recognise all of the effort that Graham and Elizabeth have put in over the years by awarding them Lifetime Membership at our March meeting. Always the first to arrive and last to leave for any meeting, in the early days when we met at the Education/Discovery Centre at the Wollongong Botanic Garden, it was always a mighty job to set up—and then at the conclusion of our meetings replace everything as it had been found. Not for nothing was it called the Education/Discovery Centre as often there were some very large displays and other paraphernalia which the children worked on which needed to be moved around (without damaging) so that our little group could fit in. Then there’ve been our Christmas and Christmas in July parties (how could we have managed those without all of Elizabeth’s work behind the scenes—the shopping, the buying, the organising of venues, and the cleanup, not to mention Graham’s terrific job on the barbecue). Also, at our annual Shows they are among the first to arrive and the last to leave. In fact it’s not all over for them even then as I think it takes Graham another couple of days to ferry everything back to where it belongs. (Rena is always such a great help at Show time, too, opening up her garage and yard to hold what Graham can’t get home on the Sunday.) They so willingly open up their home for committee meetings, where Elizabeth always provides such a delicious lunch, as well as preparing something special for our afternoon teas at our monthly meetings. Graham and Elizabeth were also the main organisers of the Conference - Brom-a-Warra - which we hosted in 2001 and Graham reminded us at our March gathering how Elizabeth, as Treasurer, with the help of Phillip, at the end of the Conference was working out in the parking lot of the Sea Spray venue in Shellharbour, finalising all of the plant sales monies so that sellers would have their money to take home with them.

I could probably go on and on, but you get the picture that they have been the backbone of our Society since Graham was elected President, and Elizabeth Treasurer, at our August 2001 AGM. Congratulations—and a huge ‘Thank You’ to you both.

These are due and payable by June 30th of each year. Remember that you must be a financial member to be eligible to vote, to be elected to the committee, enter plants into competition, receive our quarterly newsletter, etc.

Well, personally, I thought it was a great meeting and I would like to thank everyone who came and participated. The Sales and Competition tables were groaning under their magnificent display of plants and we should feel so proud of the number of members present and how very pretty the room looked with such a beautiful show of bromeliads. I have heard some very positive feedback from people who enjoyed learning about the early days, and special thanks must go to Margaret Bartley (whose late husband Jeff was our first President) who travelled all the way down from Mackay to help celebrate with us and who gave such an interesting presentation on how our Society got off to a running start with devoted and enthusiastic members. Beth Churton was another of our inaugural members who attended and she made the long trip, along with Pat McIntyre, from Culburra Beach. Pat, for some years, provided us with the bus and drivers for our bus trips, and Beth who was, for quite a long time, in charge of organising such bus trips, also organised the sales of books, pots, badges, etc. We must also thank Elizabeth for organising our celebratory cake, which, as well as matching our January Newslink cover and special invitations, was delicious! Below I have reprinted a letter from Margaret.

18 March 2012
Dear friends and members,
It was with great anticipation and pleasure that I was able to be with you all to celebrate the occasion of the Illawarra Bromeliad Society’s 20th birthday.
My sincere thanks for making me so welcome. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with you.
The Society has grown to amazing strength since the departure of my dear late husband Jeff (the inaugural President of the Society) and myself to a beautiful seaside location at ‘paradise’ in Mackay.
Illawarra Bromeliad Society always had a warmth and friendliness atmosphere under the leadership of Jeff. His task of getting the Society “off the ground” involved an immense amount of work and time indeed but his task was made much easier by the dedication and hard work of the then committee and members alike, some of whom are still members and involved today.
The point of this is for all to work congenially together for the sake of the Society and keep up the wonderful reputation your Society has.
If vacancies come up on the committee, don’t be afraid to take on a position; it would be most rewarding and help always at hand. Remember everything has been set up and in place to run the Society.
Congratulations to the committee and all helpers for the wonderful work you are doing as well as the enthusiasm of members for displaying such an array of outstanding plants on the monthly competition table. I was very impressed indeed.
In closing, I wish to apologize to my dear friends if I missed a special mention or point of interest. As you all may be aware “a lot of water flowed under the bridge” during the first eight years. I did my best to cover the history of those years as briefly as I could in such a short time.
Thank you once more, sincere congratulations to all, and best wishes for many happy and successful years ahead for the Society, one I am most proud, as past Secretary, to be associated with.

Yours in bromeliad friendship,
Marg Bartley

• Try to avoid removing pups until winter is definitely over. Pups taken off during the period from mid September to late April will usually develop roots and commence active growth more quickly than pups removed during winter. Losses due to rot and other problems are also likely to be less.


March 31 - April 22
Friends of Botanic Gardens present BOTANICA 2012–THE MASTERS & MOORE
A spectacular exhibition of contemporary botanical art – MAIDEN THEATRE and MOORE ROOM, ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN – 10 am – 4 pm. Entry Free
April 5 - 18
Royal Easter Show, HOMEBUSH – Participation by New South Wales Society
April 28 – 29
BROMELIADS AUSTRALIA (Gleness, Robert, Jamie and Jennifer LARNACH)
OPEN DAY – 49 Rutleys Road, WYEE POINT – 9 AM – 4 PM Ph: (02)-4359-3356/0418-471-754
PLEASE NOTE: No EFTPOS or Credit Card Facilities
May 5 - 6
June 9 - 10
Sep. 8 - 9
Oct. 13 - 14
Oct. 27 - 28

20TH World Bromeliad Conference - Orlando, Florida - Caribe Royale Hotel
September 24 – October 1, 2012
Registrations March 1-August 24, 2012: Member US$175/Non-member US$225
After 25 August 2012 and at the door: Member US$200/Non-member US$250


Register your interest at: for all the latest conference news or visit
World Class Conference Presenters Already Confirmed: Elton Leme [renowned author and collector of bromeliads], Brazil
Michael Kiehl [growing, creating and supplying wonderful bromeliads for over 20 years], USA
Jose Manzanares [author of the beautiful books, Jewels of the Jungle], Ecuador.
Andrew Maloy [New Zealand’s leading hybridizer of exotic patterned leaf vrieseas]
Also, Harry Luther, USA, Nigel Thomson, Australia, and Hawi Winter, New Zealand

PLANT RESULTS - February 4, 2012

1st = Ted Clare = Neoregelia Orange Flush
1st = John Carthew = Vriesea gigantean var. seideliana (labelled as V. ‘Nova’—see note below)
1st = Ann Kennon = Orthophytum vagans (Variegated)
2nd = Chris Butler = Billbergia brasiliensis
3rd = Ann Kennon = Nidularium Madonna
3rd = Ann Kennon = Nidularium fulgens
3rd = Graham Bevan = xNeophytum ‘Galactic Warrior’
3rd = Chris Butler = Catopsis compacta
3rd = Chris Butler = Guzmania wittmackii (Variegated)

1st = Freda Kennedy = Guzmania Focus
2nd = Freda Kennedy = Nidularium Ruby Lee
3rd = Anna Stewart = Neoregelia Inferno

1st = Chris Butler = lieboldiana
2nd = Chris Butler = fasciculata X tricolor
2nd = Graham Bevan = calcicola

PLANT RESULTS - March 3, 2012
1st = Chris Butler = Vriesea elata
2nd = Sandra Southwell = Vriesea ‘Snow-White’
3rd = Jørgen Jakobsen = Guzmania Pink

1st = Freda Kennedy = Neoregelia Pink Sensation (?)
2nd = Lydia Chinnock = Neoregelia hybrid
2nd = Yvonne Perinotti = Vriesea ‘Splenriet’
2nd = Sandra Southwell = Neoregelia Buccaneer
3rd = Sandra Southwell = Billbergia ‘Perriam’s Pride’

1st = Sandra Southwell = brachycaulos X flabellata
2nd = Freda Kennedy = cyanea
3rd = Lydia Chinnock = cyanea

Vriesea gigantea var. seideliana (once known as V. tessellate ‘Nova’ and sometimes referred to as V. ‘Nova’ and V. gigantea ‘Nova’). Andrew Steens, in his book* referenced below, tells us: “Vriesea gigantean is another species that has been hacked about taxonomically, although the species itself is clear enough. This plant has sturdy, broad glaucous {covered in grayish powder} leaves of olive green, forming a large rosette up to 1 metre across. The leaves are marked with a faint network of light green, almost white markings. However, V. gigantean var. seideliana is a different story. As can be seen from the photographs {in his book} it is a very different plant from V. gigantean, with thinner, more prolific foliage and much more intense patterning. Because of this it is much more sought after by collectors than the species, although I would consider both to be a spectacular specimen in any garden. As with many of the big foliage vrieseas, they are very much at home in warm temperate and subtropical gardens, but definitely need shade in the tropics during the hotter months.”
*Steens, A. (2007) In: Bromeliads the connoisseur’s guide, A GODWIT book, publisher Florilegium, Glebe, NSW.

Tillandsia jalisco-monticola: Steve brought his lovely plant to our March meeting, but with everything that was going on I’m not sure if everyone got to have a good look at it. However, he has let me know that he will bring it again in June and it should be just as beautiful then because the colour in the inflorescence of this species can last up to a year! Named for the Mexican state of Jalisco—and “monticola” meaning lover of mountains—it occurs in the mountains behind Cabo Corrientes {where the air is somewhat cooler than on the coast itself}, just south of the beautiful resort town of Puerto Vallarta, situated on the central Pacific coast of Mexico.

This is one of the most spectacular tillandsias when in bloom, the plant and inflorescence being very large for an epiphytic, xeric growing species. The inflorescence can present as a single, fat paddle, or can be branched, although the latter is more rare. The leaves, up to 30-70 cm in length form an attractive rosette, although they are also quite stiff and brittle and can be easily broken if bent too far. Steve tells me that it likes lots of sun (although he grows his under 50% green shade cloth) and also tolerates lots of water.

Vriesea Snow-White: Sandra brought her very pretty little plant to our March meeting and, while it is one we haven’t seen much of before, Chris mentioned at the time that he has several pots with overflowing clumps. When I looked for some information on it I came across an article by Derek Butcher which appears on the site under “Uncle Derek Says”.

Vriesea ‘Snow-White’ . . . for now, but is it really a species? Some years ago Cheryl Basic imported a Vriesea sp.53 from Pam Koide at BirdRock in California but it remained unidentified. Recently when Mick Romanowski was marauding in Queensland he was rather taken by this dainty vriesea in Cheryl’s collection that did not fit the description of V. corcovadensis or V. lubbersii. My wife, Margaret, took an interest in this plant in Mick’s collection on one of our trips to Melbourne and we scrounged an offset. Mick said it was reticent to flower! In 2008 it started to produce a flower scape. In 2009 we brought it indoors during the infamous heat wave. It flowered, so I took photos from all angles and even got permission from Margaret to remove ONE flower to scan. I was ready for a telephone brag to Mick when he said, “All mine are in flower too!” An email was sent to Harry Luther.

You love challenges and have a good memory. This plant came to Australia from the USA several years ago as ‘sp’ but no-one queried it until now. I think it is a species rather than a hybrid. You will remember the saga of the corcovadensis versus lubbersii. The main problem is the white petals which lean me towards corcovadensis but the leaves lean me to lubbersii. I have given up on the distichousness of the flowers! Have you seen this around Florida? Any thoughts?

And the answer: Derek,
A far as I can see, Vriesea lubbersii, not the old, broader leaf clone. Several Floridians collected it in the 90s or late 80s. There is also a V. aff lubbersii that I think is just a very large clone (more than 30 cm tall) that I’ve never seen flower. Vriesea corcovadensis seems more delicate or thinner but I’ve not seen enough of either.
Harry Luther
PS: Why don’t you ask Elton Leme?

So I asked Elton and he replied:
You cannot imagine how many different plants of this group I have collected, all of them with specific discrepancies, which make identification inaccurate. At this very moment I have some of them flowering and I gave up trying to identify most of them. Apparently, few of them are new. Others look to be just variations of different populations. I agree with you that your plant looks closer to Vriesea corcovadensis, and I would not be much concerned with the rosette conformation at this point of the available knowledge. There is a PhD student trying to understand this group right now, so we wait to see what conclusions she makes.
Best, Elton"

This information made me decide to bite the bullet because it is better to identify this clone with a cultivar name than just Vriesea sp. Margaret came up with ‘Snow-White’. Anyone who knows their nursery stories will know that Snow-White had white skin and dressed in white (white petals), had ruby lips (red floral bracts), and black hair (colour of the leaf sheaths). Plant 20 cm diam. x 15 cm high, flowering to 30 cm high. We will be linking this name to both V. corcovadensis and V. lubbersii in the Cultivar Register for possible amendment in the future.

By Bob Reilly
(Reprinted from Hunter District Bromeliad Society newsletter October, 2011—which states: This is part of an article reprinted with acknowledgement from BROMELETTER, Journal Bromeliad Society of Australia, May/June 2010)

Guzmania was established as a genus in 1802. While there are about 200 species, many beautiful hybrids have also been developed. Virtually all hybrids have been developed in either Europe or the United States of America. Guzmanias are mainly grown for their spectacular and long-lasting inflorescences. For those people who have internet access, pictures of many of these plants are available in the Photo Index section of the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies’ website

In nature they are usually found in heavily shaded areas of humid rainforests. Virtually all grow as epiphytes rather than terrestrials. These two factors are the key to growing them successfully.

Guzmanias perform best when grown in pots in a shadehouse, although a few of the hardier ones will be happy in well shaded (but not dark), damp areas in the garden. They like to be covered by 70% to 75% shadecloth for most of the year, with some additional protection, if possible, during the hottest part of the year (mid November to end of February in southern coastal Queensland). If it isn’t practical to provide some extra shade cloth during the hottest part of the year, try relocating them to the shadiest part of the shadehouse—for example, where a tree shades the shadehouse from early afternoon onwards. Plants which have a “bleached” appearance are receiving too much sunlight.

Guzmanias prefer to be spaced out so that the leaves of plants are just touching each other (if the bottom leaves of a plant are dying off, they are probably too crowded). This density helps to achieve good air circulation which guzmanias, given their epiphytic nature, strongly prefer.

During winter one heavy watering a week is sufficient. Over summer two heavy waterings per week are necessary and, desirably, daily light watering as well when the maximum temperature exceeds 300C. (A heavy watering results in the “vase” formed by the plant’s leaves overflowing for several minutes, while a light watering is sufficient to fill the vase and wet all the plant’s leaves.) During winter aim to water plants between 8 am and 10 am (and then only on warm days), while in summer water between 6 am and 8 am and 4 pm and 6 pm. Try to keep the humidity high in the shadehouse at all times (covering the floor with pine bark chips which are regularly watered helps achieve this outcome).

Guzmanias need a potting mixture which drains readily, but retains moisture between waterings. One mixture which achieves good results is composted pine bark combined with some peat moss or Cocopeat. (Composted pine bark can be bought from some landscaping centres. You can make your own by buying some of the smaller sizes of commercially available pine bark and allowing it to “weather” in the open air for 6 to 12 months.) A continuous release fertilizer such as Osmocote or Nutricote should be added to each pot when the plants are potted.

Another good mixture is bark chunks, such as those used to grow cymbidium orchids, which have been treated with a special type of fertilizer dissolved in water. (The bark chunks can be bought in 50 litre bags, while the fertilizer is sold by the Bromeliad Society of Queensland.) The mixture can be improved by adding charcoal to it, in the ratio of 1 part charcoal to 7 parts treated bark. However, this potting mixture is more expensive than the other approach.

So far the approach described for growing guzmanias is similar to that used for many ferns. However, a major difference is the use of liquid fertilizers once the plant is potted. Guzmanias could be described as the liquid fertilizer “guzzlers” of the bromeliad family. They love it! Use a liquid fertilizer such as Phostrogen (in the concentration recommended by the manufacturer for indoor plants) at least once a fortnight. Ideally, foliar feed them every week. Not only will this give strong, healthy plants but it is essential to achieving large inflorescences. Apply liquid fertilizer throughout the year, but ensure the plants’ leaves are wet beforehand. Guzmanias have few pests and diseases, although sometimes they are subject to scale attack. Scale can be treated with insecticides such as Folimate. Guzmanias reproduce readily through offsets (pups). Pups should be one third to one half the height of the parent plant when they are removed. Avoid the coldest, and the hottest, time of the year when removing offsets. The best times (in southern coastal Queensland) are October to early November and mid February to late March.

Guzmanias usually produce two “batches” of offsets. Give the parent plant a continuous release fertilizer such as Nutricote or Osmocote after removing the first batch of pups. Continue to apply liquid fertilizer, and the second batch of three to four strong pups will often be produced. Plant the pups directly into one of the potting mixtures described previously, ensuring they are firmly held by the mixture.

By Victoria Padilla, JBS March-April 1989 Vol. 39(2)

One of the most popular of the genus Guzmania is probably G. lingulata, for it is not only comparatively easy to obtain, but is not difficult to grow and propagate. Its inflorescence lasts in bright colour for many months and its bright green foliage is at all times attractive. However, it is also one of the most variable of the genus, differing widely in size and colouration of the inflorescence, so it is generally wise to buy the plant in bloom.

There are five recognized varieties according to Dr. Lyman B. Smith:
• var. lingulata is found growing from Central America and the West Indies to Colombia, Guiana, Ecuador, and southwestern Brazil, where it grows epiphytically in hot, humid jungles from 200 to 3,500 foot elevations. The plants are large, the leaves concolorous, 12 to 16 inches long. The inflorescence, about 3 inches wide, is flattened, the floral bracts, red or pink, spreading out like a star around a cluster of white flowers.
• var. splendens is a native of the Greater Antilles and Guyana. It is a handsome plant, about 2 feet in diameter, the leaves marked with red-purple longitudinal stripes. The inflorescence terminates in a funnel-shaped, purplish red spike. It formerly went by the name of G. peacockii.
• var. cardinalis is considered to be the largest and most brilliant of all the varieties: otherwise it is similar to the type plant. It was discovered by André in the wettest valleys of the western Andes of Colombia at elevations of 3,000 to 6,000 feet.
• var. minor is, as its name implies, almost a miniature. The leaves are narrow, not more than a half-inch in width, and not more than a foot in length. It is found growing at sea level to 3,600 feet from Guatemala to Colombia and northeastern Brazil. The inflorescence, which appears at the end of a short, stout stem, is a raised cup of yellow to red bracts and whitish yellow flowers. One form known as flammea is noteworthy for its brilliant scarlet bracts that are white tipped.

Guzmania lingulata has been used extensively in hybridizing, Louis Dutrie leading the way with a number of magnificent crosses. Best known is his beautiful G. X Lingulzahnii, a cross between G. lingulata var. splendens and G. zahnii. Gulz of Germany, more recently, remade the cross and obtained a handsome red-leaved plant which he called. G. X Symfonie. Walter Richter has created several beautiful crossbreeds, the most outstanding being G. lingulata ‘Magnifica’ a cross between G. lingulata var. cardinalis X G. lingulata var. minor.

By Nat DeLeon (Miami, Florida) (From JBS January/February 1983 Vol. XXXIII(1))

The shaded portion of the driveway leading to my house is lined with many plants of Guzmania lingulata. This form, from Ecuador, is quite floriferous. At almost any time of the year there will be plants in various stages of flowering, producing many shades of red to red-orange.

Some years ago, while working in one of the beds, I stumbled across a young offshoot with a single creamy white stripe down the centre of the leaf. The stripe was quite pronounced, being more than a quarter of an inch wide. The sucker was carefully removed form the parent plant and placed in a pot. As the plant grew this single stripe continued to appear, but only on one side of the plant, giving it a lopsided appearance. At maturity the plant flowered in the usual manner and I knew that once the plant started to produce offshoots the true test would begin. Since theoretically if a bromeliad lives long enough it is capable of producing an offshoot for each leaf made during its life cycle, it seemed there was a good chance that I would get one coming from the variegated side of the plant. If any of the suckers appeared from between any of the leaves that were variegated, then the chances were even greater that the variegation could be perpetuated. The first two appeared from between all green leaves and showed no sign of variegation. Just as soon as I was certain of this, the very young offshoots were cut away from the parent plant, thus hastening further suckering. Then at last the third sucker appeared from the variegated portion of the plant and there it was, a nice clean white stripe down the middle of the leaf. Finally another appeared from the variegated side and it too bore a single stripe.

Both offshoots grew rather slowly for I was afraid to fertilize them. I did not know how stable the variegation might be. As they grew, I noticed an increase in the width of variegation on one of the plants. From this plant several suckers were obtained, one of which was outstanding. It was from this plant that all the offshoots obtained were of a very fine and uniform variegation. The next step was to test the stability of the variegation and this was accomplished by feeding one of the plants with Peters 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer once a week for six months. The end result was a plant more than three feet in diameter with long straggling leaves, but the variegation held true in every leaf. So it had taken three generations with a lot of luck to produce a truly outstanding bromeliad.

Guzmania lingulata ‘Superb’ generally grows to about eighteen inches in diameter at maturity, depending on culture. The leaves are more than an inch and a half at the widest point. An area of creamy white overlaid with green lineations extends down the centre of the leaf and is bordered by green margins. At flowering the primary bracts of the emerging inflorescence are also variegated, but this disappears after several weeks as the rising inflorescence intensifies in colour. Guzmania lingulata is among the easiest of the genus to grow, requiring no special treatment, and its variegated counterpart is just as easy. The only time the variegation is not crisp and clear is when it is being grown under very dark conditions. This plant should be a welcome addition to any collection.

It should be noted that I have used the name ‘Superb’ rather than follow the usual erroneous practice of naming the plant variegate, medio-picta, lineate and so on. The rules of nomenclature by which we are all governed clearly state that seedling or vegetative sports of species in cultivation be given cultivar names. Since cultivar names are NEVER Latinized, that means that more than 90% of all variegated bromeliads in cultivation today are improperly named. One catalogue lists no fewer than fifty-six improperly named variegated bromeliads. It is not unusual to see the somewhat rapid increase in variegated bromeliads, for as more and more bromels are cultivated and more and more of them are grown from seed, the chances for variegation increase. Unfortunately, nurserymen have chosen to take the short cut of giving their plants the more descriptive Latinized names and I am sure it helps to sell plants, but is that the only consideration? The person who gave one of his plants the name Aechmea fulgens var. discoloralbo marginata’ ‘rosea lineate’ should be made to write the name a thousand times and even then should have his mouth washed out with soap. One of the more recent entries into cultivation is Aechmea orlandiana variegate. It is somewhat ironic that this improperly named vegetative sport comes from Aechmea orlandiana ‘Ensign’, a properly named seedling variant. Have we not learned anything in the more than fifteen years since its introduction? Can we live within the rules? Ask any serious grower what Aechmea orlandiana ‘Ensign’ and Aechmea lueddemanniana ‘MEND’ are and right away they can conjure up a mental picture of beautiful variegated bromeliads. The grower has the perfect vehicle to launch his new plant by using the Journal. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then all that is needed to properly name and spread the word is a good picture and a brief descriptive article in our Journal. If a bromeliad is worth cultivating, it is worth naming properly.

By Barry Osborne
(Reprinted from Bromelcairns, 2012 #1, bimonthly newsletter of Cairns Bromeliad Society)

Trying to get the right sunlight conditions for bromeliads is not straightforward. Aechmeas blanchetiana and ‘Bert’ are fairly easy to accommodate in our tropical setting. So when I started filling in my small front garden bed that already had a 3.5 metre tall lilly pilly central to the bed, I simply placed a blanchetiana at either end in full sun and ‘Bert’ beside one of them. They all thrived and I placed a few more shade lovers closer to the trunk of the lilly pilly. And all was well for the bromeliads for quite a while but slowly the lilly pilly died.

Undeterred, I planted a lovely advanced callistemon in its place and left the bromeliads to continue to thrive for another couple of years. Then the callistemon, after quite rapid growth, began to die.

I suspected that bromeliads kill Australia’s native trees, but not directly. The real culprit seems to be the little bit of fertilizer I give my broms when I first pot them up. It is high in phosphorus, which Australian natives do not tolerate.

So my bromeliads, or rather their teaspoon full of fertilizer, slaughtered the trees. Fortunately the serial count was only two!

Third time around I am using four crotons, ‘Mad Painter’, very common but lovely green leaves with splashes of yellow—just like a painter has flicked excess paint from her brush onto her palette.

(Extracted, by Eileen Killingley, from the Sydney Environmental & Soil Laboratory publication, Feeding Native Plants,

When people observe poor or negative responses of natives to fertilizer it is often due to either simple excessive use or to the phenomenon of phosphorus toxicity. Phosphorus toxicity, in certain native species, is really confined to the Proteaceae {banksia, dryandra, grevillea, hakea, etc.}, Rutaceae {those with pungent, scented foliage—e.g., boronia, crowea, correa, periostemon}, some Fabaceae {the pea family, including hardenbergia, hovea, kennedia}, and many Mimosaceae (wattles). Most of these plants have become adapted to growing in very low P soils and have developed mechanisms to extract otherwise unavailable P. When presented with abundant P they cannot prevent excessive uptake and an interaction with trace elements occurs, upsetting their metabolism.

However, research has established that this toxicity effect is influenced by other nutrients, particularly iron, and symptoms can be reduced and prevented by supplementing iron as iron sulphate or chelated iron.

There is nursery evidence that species such as Acacia or Banksia will respond well to N, K, and S in high amounts in a fertilizer program but if P becomes too available they rapidly die. When people observe this they often falsely conclude that the plants don’t like fertilizer and proceed not to feed them, to the great detriment of growth rates.

Soils also respond differently to P fertilizer. Some soils such as red clay-type soils can lock up almost any amount of P you give them without P sensitive plants suffering. However, others, usually of a more sandy nature with limited P fixation ability, cause P toxicity problems with exactly the same amount of P added, simply because more of it is available.

Almost all natives will respond to fertilizer and responses are most profound in instances of very poor soil lacking in N, P, K and a range of possible other combinations, and in cases of N drawdown due to the use of woody mulches. As a general rule fertilizers can and often should be used to speed the growth of potted and soil-grown P sensitive plants as well. It is also true that the great majority of native plants are not sensitive to high P levels and will respond well to added phosphorus. However, since the lists of known sensitive plants are incomplete and many landscape plantings contain mixtures of plants, some of which are going to be P sensitive, caution should be exercised in using fertilizers. Through experience we have found the following soil improvers and fertilizers to be particularly dangerous and recommend that they be entirely avoided for the growing of native gardens where a proportion of the plants are P sensitive.

AVOID: - Mushroom compost
- Composted or raw sewage sludges
- Poultry manure or litter bulk or pelletised
- Cow, Horse, or Sheep manure
- Compost containing rich wastes such as food wastes
- Worm castings

The best advice we can give on feeding is that fertilizers low in water soluble P and low in total P are to be preferred. Fertilizers supplying insoluble P in the form of bone are routinely used by Protea growers with few ill effects, but the same P amount applied as soluble phosphate would almost certainly kill them rapidly. Various native plant fertilizers are available and P levels are usually less than 2%, preferably as blood and bone. P should not be supplied as water or citrate soluble P in these formulations. A suitable home made mixture might be:
- Sulphate of ammonium 1 part
- Blood and Bone 1 part
- Sulphate of potash 1 part
- Sulphate of iron 1 part

For improving poor soils the choice of organic matters is often difficult. The only products low enough in P are usually composted sawdusts, barks and some pure green waste products. Suitable slow release fertilizers are low P Osmocotes, or no P Nutricote for the most sensitive plants. Nutricote generally is considered reasonably safe since it contains a rather insoluble P source. A recent nutricote product which appears to give good results across a wide range of sensitivities is Nutricote Total.

Where soils are alkaline or naturally low in iron (such as sands) the addition of sulphate of iron at 100g/sqm is advised to improve iron supply.


• If you are mounting tillandsias onto wooden or cork mounts, try to do this well before the plant flowers as this will improve the chances of the plant sending out roots onto the mount, as flowering plants often do not do this. Instead, flowering plants are probably using their energy to make flowers, then seeds and pups. • Treat your mounting wood with citric acid to acidify the wood and encourage shy rooting plants to put out roots.
• You will find that the cork bark used for mounting tillandsias is much easier to work with when it is wet because it is softer. Soak the cork in a plastic container of water the day before you plan to use it and you will find it much easier to break. Cork looks softer and more natural if broken rather than cut. Score the cork on the back to make it easier to break. Of course, if using glue when mounting, you will have to ensure that the cork has dried out completely before applying the adhesive.
• Before applying liquid fertilizer to bromeliads, thoroughly wet the leaves with water as this helps to ensure the leaves are in the best condition to absorb the nutrients in the liquid fertilizer.
• When preparing soluble fertilizers, a dash of vinegar or a small amount of sphagnum or peat can be added to the water before the fertilizer; this will acidify the water and increase its ability to dissolve the fertilizer.
• When dividing Neoregelia ‘Fireball’, pups put directly into new potting mix have a tendency to turn green. Try rooting them in a tray of moist perlite. When a good root ball is formed, pot in soil but do not shake off all the perlite from the new roots. This way the new plants will not lose colour.

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Updated 11/04/12