By Ralph E. Mitchell
Many gardeners treasure bromeliads because of their adaptation to very shady areas. This characteristic help brighten up dark, shady sites. However, what if you have all sun and still want a bromeliad? Are you going to have to risk the plants suffering sunburn or simply failing altogether? There is a solution called Aechmea blanchetiana, a beautiful and dramatic Brazilian bromeliad built for the sun or partial shade if you need. Right plant, right place – this is it!
Aechmea blanchetiana, is a beautiful vase-shaped bromeliad growing up to four-foot tall and two-feet wide. Large even as an individual plant, side-shoots soon increase the overall mass of the bromeliad colony. In the full sun, the leaves become orange with red tips and highlights. The more shade it receives, the more greenish it appears. I have one planted just on a sunny edge near a tree and other perennial foliage. As the canopy has grown over the years, the Aechmea blanchetiana has become pretty much all-green. The strap-like leaf margin is edged with spines and can give you a good cut, so wear heavy gloves when working with this plant. Mine has caused blood-shed more than once!
One additional great feature about this bromeliad is the long-lasting flower display that starts in Spring and lasts for months. The flower is really a series of red and yellow bracts arranged on a spikey stem. Not your typical flower, but it does nicely complement and enhance this large plant. You can even cut the flowers and use them as in exotic floral arrangements.
Again, this species does fine in full sun sites and is ideal for containers, as a drought-tolerant mass planting, or a tall groundcover spaced eighteen to twenty-four inches apart. If you lack garden space, the Aechmea blanchetiana, can make an excellent epiphytic specimen where it can be carefully wired with sphagnum peat moss to tree trunks for an above-ground display.
While Aechmea blanchetiana can be propagated from seeds, it is more commonly reproduced via the division of offsets from the mother plant – copious pups are produced. This bromeliad is best grown in hardiness 10B to 11, but home gardeners have had their plants experience winter temperatures in the mid-twenties with only minor damage.
With a universe of bromeliads to choose from, the Aechmea blanchetiana is a good selection for sunny areas begging for color and that exotic look! For more information on all types of bromeliad suitable for our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/media/sfylifasufledu/charlotte/docs/pdf/Plant-Clinics-Schedule1.pdf. Our Eastport Environmental Demonstration Garden is always open to the public outside the gate at 25550 Harbor View Road. Master Gardener volunteers tend this garden on Tuesday mornings from 8 to 10 am and are available for questions. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gilman, E. F. Klein, R. W. & Hansen, G. (2017) Aechmea blanchetiana: Bromeliad. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS
Haehle, R. (2004) SPINY BROMELIAD LOOKS VERY SHARP. SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL – http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-2004-11-05-0411031153-story.html
Dave’s Garden (2019) Aechmea Bromeliad, Urn Plant – Aechmea blanchetiana https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/74038/
Hubbuch, C. (2019) Gardening in the Coastal Southeast The Genus Aechmea Family Bromeliaceae.