Gardener's Notebook - Always something to do in the garden

The weather changes so rapidly now, and most of our gardening tasks are over. We’ve probably almost finished tidying up our yards and perhaps moving some perennials. Doesn’t it always seem like there are still one or two more things to do? Gardeners don’t give up until the first snowflakes fall!

The Yorkton and District Hort Society still has no meetings planned; visit us at www.yorktonhort.ca and we’ll keep you posted on the news!

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Some very dear friends recently gave us a bromeliad. Not sure how to care for it, I did some homework and this is what I learned.

While I always thought that bromeliads were a plant that is meant for a greenhouse, I was surprised to discover that in spite of their exotic appearance, bromeliads are a very easy-going houseplant! Ours is a beautiful plant, resembling a large pineapple, with a stunning scarlet-red flower spike.

Bromeliads come from a large and interesting family. There are over 3000 species of the family all over the world, and like all families, the members can look quite different. The wispy Spanish moss that we see hanging from trees in pictures of the Deep South is a member of the bromeliad, and so is its tropical cousin, the pineapple!

The plants look very different because each plant member adapts to the places where they live and the growing conditions that they call home. Some have the ability to trap water for future use, just by the way their leaves overlap or how their flowers face upwards. This big family has members that grow on other plants (epiphytes), in rocks (lithophytes) or in the ground.

So now that we know something about the relatives, how do we care for our bromeliad houseplant?

Bromeliads like bright, but not direct light. They should be in soil that drains well, but will still hold some moisture. They like to be watered once a week, but we should never let their feet stand in water. In winter we can even reduce their water a little, since this is a time when they rest. But during growing season we can give them a treat of weak fertilizer.

If the plants are placed where it is warmer, it would be a good idea to increase the humidity around them by placing a cup or bowl of water close by.

And here’s an interesting factoid! To get a bromeliad to bloom, it helps if they are exposed to ethylene gas. But we don’t need to don lab coats and create home laboratories to produce this! We just need to put our plant in a plastic bag with an apple for about a week to ten days. The apple gives off ethylene gas. (Because of this trait of apples, we should never store tulip bulbs in a fridge drawer with apples: the gas from the apples will cause the tulips to be unable to bloom).

Now, a pop quiz! You know those lovely little “air plants” that we see once in a while? Are they bromeliads? Yes, they are, but they belong to the epiphyte part of the family, because they get their moisture and nutrients from the air. And another interesting factoid: if our bromeliads send out a new little side shoot, it is called a pup!

So if you were thinking that those elegant and exotic bromeliads are difficult to grow, think again! As long as we can provide good light, they are beautiful plants to introduce into our homes and enjoy for years.

© Copyright Yorkton This Week

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