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PROPAGATION FROM SEED

After successful pollination, seed forms. In Bromeliads, the seed is usually very small. Sometimes it is held in little berries (Aechmea species for example). These types are spread by birds and small animals, eating and excreting them. In other species the seeds are attached to little "parachutes" and are enclosed in capsules (Vriesea species for example). These types are spread long distances by wind. A third type are the winged seeds (Puya species for example) which are spread short distances by wind. The next problem is to get the seeds to germinate. Unfortunately, this is not always easy, for several reasons:

  1. On some species, it is very difficult to tell when the seed is mature. Immature seed doesn't germinate.

  2. Harvested Bromeliad seed loses its' viability quickly. With the winged types, this can happen within weeks of harvest.

  3. The different types of seed need different germination media, as they are adapted to many different situations, from cold alpine areas to rocky soils in near deserts and wet tree trunks in the jungles.

  4. Germination of some types is very slow, sometimes over a month. During this time, many are lost to disease or unidentified failure.
Seed Room 2At Exotica, we use a climate controlled room, specially designed for Bromeliad seed germination. Each pod of seeds is grown in a separate container, to prevent cross infection and allow for different media and conditions.

Once the seed has germinated, the real work begins. It can take 2-15 years to produce a mature plant, depending on the species.. Fast growing plants such as Aechmea gamosepala can be pricked out into seed trays within 3 months of germination. Slow species such as Vriesea hieroglyphica can take 12 months before they are big enough to prick out (at only 1cm high!). During this time, many more are lost through disease, insects and algae growth. It is not unusual to lose 50% of a line of plants between germination and pricking out.

This is the reason that some Bromeliads are so expensive. Compared to other plants, Bromeliads are generally very slow to grow from seed. However, as offshoot production is so slow for commercial bulking up, this is still the best method (apart from tissue culture) for a commercial nursery. Once they are pricked out, the plants are moved into another area, where climate is still partially controlled. They can stay in the cell trays for another 3-9 months, depending on the species.

Seed Room 1Once they have formed a good root system, the plants are moved into the greenhouse and made ready for potting. Potting up is probably the most satisfying stage for the commercial grower.. Once the plants are at this stage, losses become much less, usually less than 10%. This is the stage where the grower can finally count on getting some plants back for the time and effort expended.

At potting, the plants may already be between 6 - 21 months old, depending on the species. The plants are still usually only 2-3cm high, but are big enough to handle greenhouse conditions. At Exotica, they are planted in composted Pine Bark and given a teaspoon full of slow release fertiliser to get them growing. Then the plants are placed in their rows, chosen beforehand for the light level that each species needs. Low light requiring plants go under 50% shadecloth, partial shade lovers under 20-30% shadecloth and full sun lovers under 0-10% shade.

From there it is just a case of keeping them free of pests and diseases and making sure they are watered and fed when needed. At this stage, it can take between 1 - 8 years to produce a mature plant, depending on the species.

For further information see our book:


Book by Andrew Steens BROMELIADS FOR THE CONTEMPORARY GARDEN
AVAILABLE NOW

This sumptuous book has been written for all gardeners who love gardening with Bromeliads. Masses of information on landscaping with Bromeliads, in shady or sunny gardens, as epiphytes on trees or rocks, as greenhouse plants or in pots. Glorious photos of garden scenes complement the text.

More book information HERE