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GETTING THE LIGHT RIGHT

Do your Neoregelias not colour up well? Or have you planted out a Bromeliad recently and it has developed brown leaves. Most probably, these plants are not in the optimal light conditions. With summer approaching new Bromeliad gardens need to be planned well.

Bromeliads come from a wide range of environments, from the High Andes to the depths of a tropical rain forest, so their light requirements range from very high to very low. New Zealand has high light levels for most of the year, so generally, finding shady areas for Bromeliads is more important than finding sunny spots.

Too much shade will slow plant growth down and produce leaves which are longer, thinner and greener. This may be OK for green leafed shade lovers such as Nidulariums, but you will lose the stunning effect of coloured varieties such as Neoregelias. On the other hand, Neoregelias in sunny conditions will produce shorter, thicker leaves with more intense colours.

Excess sun will bleach the colour of some varieties, particularly coloured Nidulariums and may produce more yellowing or reddening in the leaves of other varieties. Extremely high light levels may cause leaf scorching. This also occurs where a plant has been grown in low light and is shifted into high light without acclimatizing it first.

As a guide, most species fit into the following categories:

Genus Approximate Summer Shade Level
Puya Full sun
Dyckia Full sun
Tillandsia
(Silver leaved types)
30% shading to full sun
Aechmea
(Silver leaved types)
10% to 30% shading
Billbergia 30% shading to full sun
Cryptanthus 30% to 40% shading
Aechmea
(Green leaved types)
30% to 40% shading
Neoregelia 30% to 40% shading
Tillandsia
(Green leaved types)
40% shading
Nidularium 40% to 50% shading
Guzmania 40% to 50% shading
Vriesea 50% shading

In general, the varieties that need 30% or more shading will not cope with midday sun, so plant them under overhanging foliage, such as Punga ferns, citrus trees, palms and open shrubs. Varieties that need 40% or more shading can also cope with total shade, so are ideal for heavily planted areas or for the South side of the house.