With over 100 species and thousands of cultivars, the Neoregelia genus is the largest in the Bromelioideae subfamily. Chances are, if you’ve gone shopping for bromeliads, you’ve come across one. With its characteristic colorful foliage, it’s extremely popular.
Depending on the cultivar, the wide, strappy leaves can be spotted, mottled, banded, have lighter margins, or be randomly variegated in colors like red, pink, copper, purple, brown, or green. The plants can be as small as just a few inches tall or a bit over a foot.
Plants in this genus are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants, though they aren’t parasites. They use the other plant as a means of support, not for food.
- Genus: Neoregelia
- Native To: South America
- Sun Exposure: Typically bright indirect or diffused light
- Soil Preference: Well-draining loam or bark and moss
- Soil pH: 5.0-6.0
- Blossom Color: Purple, white
- Growing Zones: 9-11
Caring for Neoregelia Bromeliads:
Neoregelia bromeliads are adaptable when it comes to temperature, thriving in temps between 50-90°F. They can survive ten degrees more in either direction, but it will stress the plant.
These plants need moderate to high humidity to grow their best, with 50-80% being about right. If you don’t have high humidity in your home, you can use a humidifier or place the plant in a bathroom or near the kitchen sink. They also do well in terrariums or vivariums.
In order to develop brightly colored leaves, these plants must receive enough light. While they might survive in low light, they will be dull and lack contrast. Too much sun can scald the leaves.
Give the plant direct sun for a few hours in the early morning and indirect sun for the rest of the day. Late evening sun is welcome, as well. That means within a few feet of an east-facing window is just right. You could also place the plant in a west-facing window with sheer curtains and leave the curtains open for a few hours in the late evening.
Within a foot of a south-facing window with sheer curtains is acceptable, as well.
Because these plants are epiphytes, they can’t tolerate heavy soil. An orchid or cactus medium is best. Look for something with a pH between 5.0-6.0.
These plants have a water gathering and holding cup at the center of the leaves. These are known as cups, urns, or tanks, and they make watering straightforward. Keep this cup full, and don’t water the soil.
Rainwater, filtered water, or distilled water is best.
Twice a year, flush the cup with fresh water to remove any built-up minerals or debris.
In nature, the plant collects debris like dead insects and plant matter in its cup to use as nutrition. In your home, it’s easier to use a liquid 3-1-2 NPK food three times per year.
Feed once in the spring, summer, and fall at the soil level. This is one time that you want to water the soil rather than in the cup.
Potting or Mounting
If you opt to plant in a pot, choose a small one with good drainage. Remember, the roots are primarily used for support, and they’re prone to rot. A large pot increases the likelihood of overwatering and root rot.
You can also mount the plants on wood. Wrap the roots in sphagnum moss and secure the moss ball to the mount.
Best Species and Cultivars
Carolinae is one of the most popular species, with the forma tricolor being a common one to find in nurseries. The leaves of R. carolinae f. tricolor are cream and green, with blush red at the base.
‘Luna’ is a cultivar with striking dark red leaves, while ‘Flash Dance’ features banding of chartreuse and blood red. ‘Mirage’ has deep red leaves with pink margins, and ‘Green Eyes’ has mottled green and red foliage.
These plants don’t have the tall flower spikes that some other genera do. Instead, their inflorescences form inside or just above the cup at the center of the basal rosette of leaves. The blossoms are small and inconspicuous and are typically white or purple.
When the plant is receiving the correct light, the central leaves will typically turn blush before the flowers emerge.
Once the plant forms flowers, it has completed its lifespan, and it will die. Rather than tossing it out, you can propagate the pups, also known as offsets, that the plant develops toward the end of its life.
Cut these away with a sharp knife once they’re about a fifth of the size of the parent plant. Place the pups in a small container filled with potting soil. The pot should be about half the size of the plant.
Common Problems, Pests, and Diseases
So long as you don’t overwater, these plants are quite hardy. You might occasionally see aphids, mealybugs, or scale. Overwatering can lead to root rot.