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Aechmea Bromeliads: Growing and Caring for Urn Plants

Aechmea bromeliads are some of the most popular bromeliads with houseplant lovers for their large, strappy, colorful foliage and bright blossoms.

Some bromeliads have unremarkable flowers, but those in the Aechmea genus have large, colorful flowers worthy of displaying. These can be cylindrical or cone-like, and upright or pendant in colors like red, black, purple, and pink.

Aechmea Bromeliads

Botanically known as inflorescences, these flower spikes can persist for months.

Most of the plants in this genus are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants, though they’re not parasites. As such, their roots are largely used as support structures. This influences how you plant and care for them.

The plants can grow up to three feet tall, and all have a basal rosette of thick, strappy leaves.

  • Family: Bromeliaceae
  • Genus: Aechmea
  • Species: blanchetiana, blumenavii, chantinii, fasciata
  • Native To: Central and South America, Caribbean
  • Sun Exposure: Bright indirect
  • Soil Preference: Well-draining loam or bark and moss
  • Soil pH: 5.0-6.0
  • Blossom Color: red, black, purple, and pink
  • Growing Zones: 9b-11b

Caring for Aechmea:

Aechmea are native from Mexico and throughout South America, along with the Caribbean, these plants hail from warm, moist tropical forests and can’t tolerate frost. Aechmea can survive a brief period down to 45°F, but shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures below 55°F.

Aim to give them moderate absolute humidity, around 50%, but they’re quite adaptable.

Aechmea bromeliads can be mounted or, as is most common, grown in soil.

Use caution when working around some of these plants, which can have beautiful but sharp curving spines.


Most Aechmea plants need bright, indirect light. They can tolerate morning light, but direct sun in the afternoon is too harsh and will burn the leaves. A spot next to an east-facing window or a within a few feet of a south-facing window with sheer curtains would be ideal.

If you’d like to encourage your plant to bloom and it isn’t, try moving it into brighter light or direct morning sun.


To avoid overwatering, use small but heavy containers. The container should only be two to three times as large as the rootball but heavy enough to support the large aerial parts of the plant without tipping over.

Loose, well-draining soil like an orchid or cactus medium is best.


Though they hail from wet, tropical regions, as epiphytes, these plants are accustomed to irregular water and occasional drought. All plants in this genus have tanks, also known as urns or cups, to gather and hold water for times of scarcity. 

When growing them, keep the tank full, but allow the soil to dry out completely. Every few months, flush the cup out with clean water to remove any build-up of minerals.


Feed Aechmea bromeliads lightly during the spring and summer growing seasons using a mild houseplant fertilizer with a 3-1-2 NPK. Dilute it by half in water and feed the soil, not the cup. Alternately, spray the leaves with diluted fertilizer.

Best Species and Cultivars

There are over 200 species in this genus and many hybrids and cultivars. Blanchetiana, blumenavii, chantinii, and fasciata are some of the most common species for home growers.

Zebra plants (A. chantinii), have leaves banded in silver, purple, light green, or dark green, depending on the cultivar. The inflorescences are typically bright red or orange. Popular cultivars include ‘Black,’ with its distinct dark green and silver striping, and ‘DeLeon’ with nearly white zig-zagging bands.

Silver vase plants (A. fasciata) have solid or mottled leaves in silver or shades of green. The species has silver and green mottled matte leaves that look like they’ve been powdered. The inflorescences are bright pink and purple.

Silver King’ has primarily silver leaves with splotches of medium green. Also look for the popular ‘Primera,’ ‘Pink Cascade,’ and ‘Wild Tiger.’


As with all bromeliads, Aechmea species bloom once and then die. Typically, these slow-growing plants will bloom within about five years and die shortly after. 

In order to propagate them, cut off the small pups or offshoots that form at the base of the plant. Place these pups with the base in standard potting soil and keep it moist until they develop roots. You may need to prop them up with chopsticks to support them as they develop roots.

Once new growth has started developing, gently remove it from the soil and check for roots. If some are developing, place the plant in a cactus or orchid medium and water by filling the urn.

Common Problems, Pests, and Diseases

Epiphytes are prone to root rot when grown in soil. Mounted, they are less likely to rot. If you grow them in soil, be mindful not to overwater them. Fill the urn with water but don’t water the soil.

Watch for aphids, mealybugs, and scale pests.