Aechmea is a rosette-forming mostly tree-growing (epiphytic) evergreen perennial bromeliad. It bears spike-like inflorescences with long-lasting, brightly colored tubular flowers and triangular bracts.
Aechmea has arching leaves that are narrowly strap-shaped or compound. The leaves in a rosette form a cuplike water reservoir. After two years, a flower stalk emerges from the center of the rosette and bears small inconspicuous flowers between long-lasting bracts.
Aechmea can be grown epiphytically in moist subtropical and tropical regions. In cool regions, it is grown in a warm greenhouse or as a houseplant.
Aechmea is a genus of about 200 species native to rainforests in Southern Mexico, Central America, South America, and the West Indies.
Get to Know Aechmea
- Plant type: Bromeliad
- Growing zones and range: Zones 12-15
- Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 12
- Optimal growing temperature: day, 70°F (21°C); night, 60° to 65°F (16° to 18°C).
- Height and width: 16 inches to 4 fet (40cm-1.2m) tall and 12 inches to 24 inches (30cm-60cm) wide depending on the variety.
- Foliage: Narrow strap-shaped to triangular mid to dark green leaves. Strap-shaped leaves in a rosette form a cuplike water reservoir.
- Flowers: Spike-like inflorescences with tubular, brightly colored flowers with triangular bracts, rising on a spike from the rosette’s center.
- Bloom time: Fall or winter
- Uses: Houseplant, tropical garden
- Common name: Living-vase Plant
- Botanical name: Aechmea
- Family name: Bromeliaceae
- Origin: Rainforests in southern Mexico, Central and Sout America
Where to Plant Aechmea
- Light: Bright light, no direct sun; indoors from a from southern exposure. Air circulation is important.
- Soil: Indoors grow Aechmea in epiphytic bromelaid potting mix.
- Soil: Outdoors grow epiphytically or in moist, gritty, humus-rich soil.
When to Plant Aechmea
- Set Aechmea outdoors in a frost-free garden at any time.
- Grow Aechmea outoors in moss fastened in crotches of trees.
Planting and Spacing Aechmea
- Space Aechmea 12 inches to 24 inches (30cm-60cm) apart.
How to Water and Feed Aechmea
- Water: For soft-leaved species, keep growing medium moist, not soggy. Keep stiff-leaved species moderately dry between waterings. Water when the medium is dry to the touch.
- Keep fresh water in the plant’s central leaf cup during growing season. Mist several times a week. Humidity, 45% to 60%.
- Feeding: Feed Aechmea monthly, with mild all-purpose fertilizer diluted to ½ or ¼ strength. Avoid oil-based products such as fish emulsion. Spray on leaves, add to water in cup or apply to growing medium after watering; never fertilize a dry plant.
- Aechmea rests in late fall and winter. Place Aechmea in a cool place, 50° to 55°F (10° to 13°C). Keep growing medium barely moist and don’t fill cup with water during the rest period.
- Aechmea dies within 2 years after flowering.
Growing Aechmea as a Houseplant
- Grow Aechmea in bright light in a warm room with medium humidity.
- The growing medium should be coarse, with extra bark or osmunda fiber added; keep the medium evenly moist but not wet.
- Water should be kept in the cup at the base of the plant.
- Fertilize Aechmea monthly with a quarter-strength liquid fertilizer solution.
Aechmea Pests and Diseases
- Aechmea is vulnerable to scale insects and mealbugs, especially when flowering.
- Leaf spot and crown rot can be common; excess water and heavy potting media can contribue to fungal root rots.
- Root offsets that form at the base of the plant just before flowering in early summer.
- Repot offsets in a peat-based soilless mix or in sphagnum moss.
- Sow seeds at room temperature when ripe. Remove the outer jelly from the seed before owing on the surface of the medium.
Aechmea Varieties to Grow
- Aechmea chantinii. Grows to 36 inches (91cm); dark green leaves edged in silver; flowers range from yellow to red with deep orange bracts.
- A. fasciata, silver king. Grows to 24 inches (61 cm); green or gray leaves with black spines and silver scales; light blue flowers change to rose as they mature. Sony bracts are pink and remain colorful for months. Powder blue flowers form between the bracts.
- A. ‘Foster’s Favorite’. Hybrid with bright wine red, lacquered leaves about 12 inches long; flower clusters in coral red or blue.
- A. fulgens var. discolor. Grows to 20 inches (50cm) tall; broad green leaves with tiny spines; blue flowers are followed by long-lasting, deep red berries.
- A. pectinata. Grows to 36 inches tall; stiff rosettes; leaves are marked pink or red at bloom time; flowers are whitish and green.
- A. weilbachii: Shiny green leaves with red tones to 3 feet; dull red flwoers.