The Florida East Coast Bromeliad Society

Next regularly scheduled meeting Sunday, Nov.14th, 1999 - 1:30p.m.

Nov., 1999

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and hurricane season is just about over - now there's something to give thanks for!

President - Jay Thurrott - 904/761-4804

Vice President - Bud Martin - 407/321-0838

Secretary - Bob Roberts - 904/446-8626

Treasurer - Ted Nuse - 904/673-2648


Yes, we've made it through another hurricane season unscathed, although we did get a bit of a scare from that close call with hurricane Floyd. We boarded up our windows in Port Orange and evacuated for the first time ever when it looked like we might be hit with 120+mph winds. I, for one, have no desire to observe the aerodynamics of bromeliads as they fly through the air in such a storm and the idea of bringing them into the house for protection when it's questionable if the house can withstand such winds didn't make a lot of sense, so my plants were left to fend for themselves. We were lucky, there's no doubt about it, and I think my family did the right thing by seeking more secure shelter. What is your hurricane plan? It's not too soon for each of you to begin planning for the "millenium" hurricane season. Here's hoping that we are as fortunate next year!

This month's meeting
November's meeting should be a good one - Bud Martin will continue where Geoff Johnson left off. Pay attention. You may be tested on your bromeliad knowledge!

Show and Tell - Bring in your poor, your weak, your ailing bromeliads and let's have a look at them for show and tell! We've all seen those choice, blue ribbon plants - now let's see some of your plants that look more like mine. You know, the one's the dog ate, the squirrels shredded, the sun scorched - those "real world" bromeliads.

Where was everybody in October? Attendance at the October meeting was really poorly attended and we had a great program for you. Geoff Johnson showed some beautiful slides from his collection and passed on some of his wealth of information on bromeliads. If you have any questions that need answering about bromeliads, Geoff is your man. He helped identify one of those plants that was acquired without a tag and I kind of felt it was one thing, but the bloom matched a description for another, you know what I mean.

One of the most remarkable characteristics of bromeliads is their apparent indifference to their surroundings. Many of these plants will grow to maturity and produce a beautiful bloom whether they are placed in a 8" flower pot filled with the richest potting soil available or if they are glued to a sterile, 8" slab of granite. Given reasonably good care, they will thrive equally well in either of these two very different situations. The purchase of a new pot to contain your bromeliad should then be a simple, straightforward activity, right? Unfortunately, pots are available in a bewildering array of styles, colors, sizes, and materials in most garden centers. Experienced growers are not distracted by the variety available and rely on past experience and personal preference in making their purchases, but the less experienced hobbyist is often left agonizing over a selection. Although there is no best pot for your bromeliad, there are some distinct differences to be aware of when you make your selection.

1. Plastic vs. Clay - Clay pots , both glazed and unglazed, have been used for centuries by home gardeners and for good reason. Despite outward appearances, clay is actually a porous material that allows moisture to evaporate from the potting medium. Because of this characteristic, clay pots can be very helpful for those who tend to overwater plants. Overwatering encourages the development of "foot rot" organisms in the media. This is easily diagnosed when a prized bromeliad suddenly separates itself from its roots and falls over dead. Unfortunately, clay pots can look absolutely dreadful after moss and mold become established on outside surfaces or salts leach through the sides. If treated early enough, most of these deposits can be removed by a good scrubbing with a stiff brush and some detergent. More stubborn stains can sometimes be removed by using tri-sodium phosphate or any of the lime deposit removal products found in hardware stores. Make sure you read and follow the instructions when you do this! Clay pots are also heavy and fragile - two qualities that immediately come to mind when they are dropped on a hand, foot or head. A word about glazed pots: Glazed pots may catch your eye, but be cautious in their use. In addition to not "breathing" like unglazed pots, many of these decorative ceramics come from remote lands where toxic compounds like lead, copper and arsenic are not as strictly regulated as they are in this country.

Plastic pots are easily kept clean and neat looking, although some plastics withstand sunlight and general weathering much better than others. If you are prone to forgetting to water your plants for long periods of time, plastic pots may prevent the medium from drying out quite as quickly as it might in clay pots since plastic does not "breathe". If your bromeliads are kept outdoors in plastic pots, heavy or frequent rainstorms may not coincide with their optimal watering needs. If the plastic pot selected either does not have a drainage hole in the bottom or you feel that the hole is insufficient for proper drainage, additional holes can be easily drilled or even melted through the plastic using a heated wire. Plastic pots are very lightweight, can be easily stacked and handled in large numbers and are very easy to clean and disinfect with soap and water when it comes time for them to be reused. Plastic pots also are inexpensive compared to similar sized clay pots - a deciding factor for many gardeners when making a purchase. On the negative side, plastic pots in darker colors may absorb significant amounts of heat when placed in the sun. This can result in an overall decline in health of an otherwise vigorous plant during our long, hot summers.

2. Pot Size -Selection of pot size is often a matter of aesthetics. Size should be chosen to complement the size and conformation of the mature bromeliad. A 3 foot tall bromeliad in a 4" pot can look as unbalanced as a 3" tall plant in a 8" pot. 4" pots look well matched with many of the small to medium sized plants and 6" to 8" pots will accommodate most of the larger species. As a rule of thumb, immature bromeliads prefer to be "underpotted" or crowded in their pots, so, if faced with a choice of two or more sizes, select the smaller pot. When your plants keep toppling over in the slightest breeze, take that as a sign that it's time move up to a larger pot size.

3. Shape - Obviously, the amount of decoration on a plastic pot or the colored glaze on a clay pot will have little effect on the plant grown in that pot (outside of reflecting or absorbing heat). Pot shape and proportion however, may influence growth and overall health of a bromeliad. Generally, low form pots (sometimes referred to as "azalea style") are well suited for many bromeliads since roots form at the caudex or base of the plant near the surface of the potting medium and tend to be very shallow. Any potting media not occupied by roots is not only wasted, but can become a source of fungus or disease if kept wet. Taller style pots not only have a high center of gravity and are easily tipped over, but will also have a larger proportion of media unused by the plant-a potentially unhealthy situation. Decorative bulbous or vase-shaped pots may pose a problem in regulating consistent moisture levels throughout the medium. The surface and bottom of the medium may appear dry while excessive water is retained at mid-levels in the pot. This problem is especially aggravataed in plastic pots since plastic does not lose moisture through its walls like clay pots. Unconventional, non-standard pots can be used very effectively with bromeliads, but special attention should be given to watering practices. This is probably a good spot to stop in our discussion on pots (they are also fun to use in anagrams)

What's blooming?
It's the right time of year for Ae. gamosepala and the variegated versions to send up its matchstick spikes. For some reason, my Ae. 'Lucky Stripes' don't seem to bloom at the same time as the nonvariegated forms - they're about six months apart. I'm looking forward to seeing when the nonvariegated seedlings from 'Lucky Stripes' bloom. Which plant will it take after? Some of the smaller Vrieseas are sending up feathers now as well. It's a little early yet for the Billbergias. I expect to see them next month.

Bromeliad Supplies
Do you need any supplies for your hobby? If you need pots, tags, fertilizer, potting soil, perlite, etc., let us know. We can buy in quantity and pass the price break on to you.

Upcoming Events
It will be our turn to co-host the Halifax Council of Garden Clubs on Monday, Dec. 13th along with the Kawa Bonsai Society. This usually involves preparing coffee and providing some snacks. We could use some help here! Let me know if you are available or if you can donate some cookies or brownies - you know, that kind of thing. I am also available to pre-taste test any goodies that you have prepared!

The Seminole Bromeliad Society has again invited us to join them for their annual Christmas party. This affair is a lot of fun and includes a plant gift exchange. Everyone who brings a plant(wrapped or concealed in some fashion) gets to pick a plant from the exchange table. More on this at the November meeting or call Bud Martin at 407-321-0838 for further details.

The Volusia County Fair began its 55th annual run on Nov. 4 through the 14th at the Volusia County Fair Grounds (just off I-4). You may remember that we used to have a show and sales table there. There are still see a few bromeliads in the horticulture area and the orchid society, as usual, has a real eye-popper of a display! It's good to see some of our orchid-grower friends there each year.

On Nov. 20th and 21st the Treasure Coast Bromeliad Society will have their show and sale. I'll have more details for you as the date approaches.

March 16th - 19th, Don't forget! Mark it on your calendars now. That will be the flower show at the Ocean Center (I never have been able to get the name straight). Everybody's Flower Show, the Daytona Flower Show, the Home and Garden Show - whatever its called - plan on entering plants for judging and plan on bringing plants for sale. We'll be staffing our sales booth there and we need your support - even if it's only moral support. Plan on helping out in some form! We'll need volunteers for "security" for the horticulture display area (you can't wear a badge or carry a gun, but you can speak sternly to those patron who insist on pinching leaves from plants). We need sales people for the booth and help in setting it up and, you guessed it, taking it down again. Join the party! It really is a lot of fun!

Thanks - Everyone who helped out in September with the planting of a bromeliad garden at the Garden Center - you did a great job and I've gotten many comments on how nice it looks. Let's make this a continuing project and add to it or change out plants before our meetings each month!