bromeliads native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America.">
Aechmea is a genus of about 150 species of bromeliads native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America. Its name comes from the Greek word aichme, which means "spearhead" or "point". In their native habitat, Aechmea are mostly epiphytes although some terrestrial plants can also be found. The roots of Aechmea provide them support on the tree trunks rather than take in food. The leaves are often thorny.
The rosettes of the Aechmea, like most bromeliads, will die after they have flowered, allowing young plants to develop at the base of the dying parent. These plantlets can be broken off for propagation. Aechmea fulgens and Aechmea miniata have fairly thin foliage while Aechmea fasciata has stiff, hard leaves.
Aechmea requires a well-lit, warm place away from direct sunlight. You can mimic their epiphytic environment by allowing them to grow on a block of wood. If you are living in a temperate climate, be sure not to allow the temperature to drop below 15°C. During the flowering season, ensure a temperature of at least 18°C. If your Aechmea refuses to flower, try this: put the plant in a plastic bag with two apples, and leave it there for two days. The gases from the apples will encourage the plant to flower.
Use soft, tepid water with a pH of 4.1 to 4.5. Rain water is excellent for Aechmea. In the summer, you can pour water into the funnel, but in the winter, only the soil ball should be watered. Use a week solution of liquid fertiliser poured into the funnel, half the concentration recommended on the bottle. Every five weeks rinse the funnel with clean water.
As Aechmea dies upon flowering, it doesn't need repotting. New plantlets are best repotted in a compost of sphagnum moss, chopped fern or orchid roots. Add a bit of sharp sand and rotted cow manure. Remove young plantlets from the parent plant when they are half the length of the parent rosette. Start pouring water into their small funnel two weeks before you cut them from their parent. Retain as much root to the plantlets as possible.
If the temperature is too high, the plant may be attacked by scale insects or thrips. Damaged plants are best destroyed to prevent infection.