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How to Grow Aechmea

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Aechmea is a rosette-forming mostly tree-growing (epiphytic) evergreen perennial bromeliad. It bears spike-like inflorescences with long-lasting, brightly colored tubular flowers and triangular bracts.

Aechmea has arching leaves that are narrowly strap-shaped or compound. The leaves in a rosette form a cuplike water reservoir. After two years, a flower stalk emerges from the center of the rosette and bears small inconspicuous flowers between long-lasting bracts.

Aechmea can be grown epiphytically in moist subtropical and tropical regions. In cool regions, it is grown in a warm greenhouse or as a houseplant.

Aechmea is a genus of about 200 species native to rainforests in Southern Mexico, Central America, South America, and the West Indies.

Get to know Aechmea 

  • Plant type: Bromeliad
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 12-15
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 12
  • Optimal growing temperature: day, 70°F (21°C); night, 60° to 65°F (16° to 18°C). 
  • Height and width: 16 inches to 4 fet (40cm-1.2m) tall and 12 inches to 24 inches (30cm-60cm) wide depending on the variety.
  • Foliage: Narrow strap-shaped to triangular mid to dark green leaves. Strap-shaped leaves in a rosette form a cuplike water reservoir.
  • Flowers: Spike-like inflorescences with tubular, brightly colored flowers with triangular bracts, rising on a spike from the rosette’s center.
  • Bloom time: Fall or winter
  • Uses: Houseplant, tropical garden
  • Common name: Living-vase Plant 
  • Botanical name: Aechmea
  • Family name:  Bromeliaceae
  • Origin: Rainforests in southern Mexico, Central and Sout America

Where to plant Aechmea  

  • Light: Bright light, no direct sun; indoors from a from southern exposure. Air circulation is important. 
  • Soil: Indoors grow Aechmea in epiphytic bromelaid potting mix.
  • Soil: Outdoors grow epiphytically or in moist, gritty, humus-rich soil.
Silver vase, Aechmea fasciata
Silver vase, Aechmea fasciata

When to plant Aechmea 

  • Set Aechmea outdoors in a frost-free garden at any time.
  • Grow Aechmea outoors in moss fastened in crotches of trees.

Planting and spacing Aechmea 

  • Space Aechmea 12 inches to 24 inches (30cm-60cm) apart.

How to water and feed Aechmea 

  • Water: For soft-leaved species, keep growing medium moist, not soggy. Keep stiff-leaved species moderately dry between waterings. Water when the medium is dry to the touch.
  • Keep fresh water in the plant’s central leaf cup during growing season. Mist several times a week. Humidity, 45% to 60%. 
  • Feeding: Feed Aechmea monthly, with mild all-purpose fertilizer diluted to ½ or ¼ strength. Avoid oil-based products such as fish emulsion. Spray on leaves, add to water in cup or apply to growing medium after watering; never fertilize a dry plant. 

Aechmea care 

  • Aechmea rests in late fall and winter. Place Aechmea in a cool place, 50° to 55°F (10° to 13°C). Keep growing medium barely moist and don’t fill cup with water during the rest period.
  • Aechmea dies within 2 years after flowering. 

Growing Aechmea as a houseplant

  • Grow Aechmea in bright light in a warm room with medium humidity.
  • The growing medium should be coarse, with extra bark or osmunda fiber added; keep the medium evenly moist but not wet.
  • Water should be kept in the cup at the base of the plant.
  • Fertilize Aechmea monthly with a quarter-strength liquid fertilizer solution.

Aechmea pests and diseases 

  • Aechmea is vulnerable to scale insects and mealbugs, especially when flowering.
  • Leaf spot and crown rot can be common; excess water and heavy potting media can contribue to fungal root rots.

Aechmea propagation 

  • Root offsets that form at the base of the plant just before flowering in early summer.
  • Repot offsets in a peat-based soilless mix or in sphagnum moss.
  • Sow seeds at room temperature when ripe. Remove the outer jelly from the seed before owing on the surface of the medium.

Aechmea varieties to grow 

  • Aechmea chantinii. Grows to 36 inches (91cm); dark green leaves edged in silver; flowers range from yellow to red with deep orange bracts. 
  • A. fasciata, silver king. Grows to 24 inches (61 cm); green or gray leaves with black spines and silver scales; light blue flowers change to rose as they mature. Sony bracts are pink and remain colorful for months. Powder blue flowers form between the bracts.
  • A. ‘Foster’s Favorite’. Hybrid with bright wine red, lacquered leaves about 12 inches long; flower clusters in coral red or blue.
  • A. fulgens var. discolor. Grows to 20 inches (50cm) tall; broad green leaves with tiny spines; blue flowers are followed by long-lasting, deep red berries.  
  • A. pectinata. Grows to 36 inches tall; stiff rosettes; leaves are marked pink or red at bloom time; flowers are whitish and green.
  • A. weilbachii: Shiny green leaves with red tones to 3 feet; dull red flwoers.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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