The Florida East Coast Bromeliad Society

Next regularly scheduled meeting Sunday, June 13, 2004 – 1:30p.m.

June, 2004

Summer is Here! (How much

Longer Until Winter?)

President Linda Stagnol – 386/760-6842

Vice President – Jay Thurrott – 386/761-4804

Secretary – Calandra Thurrott - 386/761-4804

Treasurer - Ted Nuse - 386/673-2648


So, there I was, minding my own business – enjoying this great Spring weather…and all of the sudden I looked at my thermometer and it was reading 99 degrees! What happened? They’re definitely upon us – those ‘lazy, hazy, crazy’ (and hot)! days of Summer. If you haven’t already, you should take a good look at your plants throughout the day to make sure that they’re not getting too much sun. If they are, it’s time to move them into a little more shade. That movement of the sun from season to season can really fool you at times. Plants that were receiving just the right amount of light may suddenly be in full sun as the sun’s angle in the sky changes and shadows that protected against full sun now shrink away. It doesn’t take long for sunburn to show up on leaves and once it thappens– the damage is there to stay, so…be warned!

Wasn’t that a great program last month by Jim Steele of Kerry’s Bromeliads! I think everyone came away from that meeting with a little more knowledge about growing bromeliads. It’s amazing how problems experienced by such a large commercial grower can be related to our little collections and our own growing techniques.

This month’s meeting:

One of the more enjoyable features of growing bromeliads is being able to attach them to just about anything and have them continue to grow to maturity and produce a bloom. In bromeliad shows these are categorized as "horticultural displays" and judged separately from plants grown in pots. Some years ago I saw a full grown bromeliad attached to a bowling ball and, although I don’t think that would be the mounting medium of choice for most of us, it suggests that our imagination is the only limitation in developing a nice display piece. This month we’ll have a workshop and go over some of the more common techniques used in mounting bromeliads on wood and rock – starting with the "spike" method. If you aren’t familiar with this one, you take a 10 penny nail, and using a large hammer, spike the nail through the base of a plant into a 2 by 4 (non-pressure treated of course). There’s your mounted display! Quick, easy, and surprisingly effective.

Show and Tell

Don’t forget the Show and Tell portion of our program this month! You must have a plant that you are particularly proud of or one that you are especially ashamed of – either way, bring it in and let’s have a look at it! What have you got in bloom? Share your experiences with the rest of the group.

If I Only Had a…

There comes a time in every bromeliad hobbyist’s life when the thought of having a greenhouse becomes very attractive. This can happen at any time, but it often starts shortly after you have cleaned the one millionth oak leaf out of your favorite bromeliad and notice that that gentle breeze is causing even more leaves to fall. It can happen after you have moved all of your bromeliad collection into the living room on the advice of the weatherman on the 11 o’clock news because a freeze is predicted…only to haul them out again the next day when the temperature soars into the 70’s…and then drops unexpectedly into the 30’s the next night. Or it may be when you notice that one of the leaves of that prized plant you intended to enter in the show is split and has a fallen twig protruding at right angles from the center of the leaf. Talk of greenhouses may be like the weather – everyone talks about it, but nobody (or at least hardly anyone) does anything about it. It seems to me that if we are all dreaming of greenhouses, then maybe we should devote a little space in the newsletter to discussing what to consider prior to building something, what materials to use, and how much we may expect to spend before we proclaim this project done. Who knows? You may just decide to build something!

(Part One)

First of all, we don’t usually have greenhouses in Central Florida in the traditional sense. Those Victorian style glass houses may look very picturesque in the garden supply catalogues, but our summer sun beating through glass or fiberglass panels can produce some truly awesome temperatures that test the mettle of even the toughest of cactuses and quickly reduce bromeliads to steaming compost. That’s not to say that glass greenhouses can’t be constructed to house bromeliads, it’s just that the technology to make this work is beyond most of our casual growers. Frank Cowan used to tell me that before I built anything to see him first and he would tell me of all of his misadventures in building greenhouses. I took him up on this and was both enlightened and entertained by his stories of the continually evolving structures that housed his extensive Tillandsia collection. He had some failures, he had some success, and he enjoyed the challenges posed by what he wanted to build versus the local building codes.

Rule #1 of Frank’s advice concernng shadehouses – don’t ask the local authorities if a permit is required. I learned a long time ago that if you don’t think you are going to like the answer, don’t ask the question. Of course you are going to need a building permit if you are building a new house or an addition to your house, but for something that is just large enough to house your bromeliad collection…

Rule #2 – put it where it can’t be seen from the road.

When it comes to both security and good relations with neighbors - nothing beats putting structures where they can’t be readily seen. We don’t like to think of it, but bad people do steal plants and what they can’t see, they are less apt to steal. Also keep in mind that although a structure draped in shade cloth may be the prettiest thing you ever saw, your neighbors may disagree, so try your best to avoid any confrontations by putting your shadehouse where they won’t have to look at it. It’s just common courtesy. If it turns out that they share your appreciation for shade houses, invite them over, share some plants…and invite them to the next club meeting. We always welcome guests and new members!

Rule #3 - don’t use pressure treated lumber anywhere that water may drip, splash, or otherwise spill onto the leaves of bromeliads.

This is a somewhat controversial subject and it really shouldn’t be. Pressure treated wood was developed for use in the outdoor environment and resists rot organisms and termites quite well. Drive a non-pressure treated lumber stake in the ground anywhere in this area and it will fall over due to attacks by termites in a matter of months. Use non-pressure treated lumber in constructing an outdoor deck and rot organisms will turn the wood into wood chips within a couple of years. So why not use pressure treated wood in a shadehouse? Pressure treated lumber, until very recently, is wood that has been treated with cupric arsenite. Copper and arsenic are both toxic to bromeliads. Water, either rainwater or irrigation water, will pick up enough copper and arsenic from flowing over treated wood to harm your plants– end of story! …Or it should be, but there’s always someone who will tell you that he uses pressure treated wood around his plants and everything is just fine. I’m sure that person isn’t lying – there are always exceptions to rules. Just don’t do it – there are plenty of other building materials available for home use.

Rule #4 – your collection will expand to fill any size area available to house it.

When is comes to laying out plans for a shade house and you are faced with choices for dimensions, always give yourself as much room as possible – you won’t regret it later. Everyone has their own space limitations and most of us don’t have a lot of spare ground available to put up a large structure, but if you are considering two possible sizes of shadehouse, go with the larger one. Maybe you won’t outgrow it quite so quickly.

Tales from the Web

Not everyone has a computer or access to the Internet, so every now and then when I become aware of an interesting article or discussion on the web, I’ll try to pass it along to our members. An issue came up for discussion on mealy bugs. A new hobbyist mentioned that he was troubled by mealy bugs and black flies on his bromeliads. One responder said that he had never seen mealy bugs on bromeliads. (on a personal note - I’ve had these critters turn up on occasion just at the soil line on some of my larger potted Vrieseas. Safer soap seems to take care of the problem.). Following are comments from two of the members of the discussion group:

I have had Mealy Bug on a range of different Broms, and found that I can control localised outbreaks by soaking the broms in our equivalent to Safer soap. I submerge them in a bucket for an hour or two, then scrub the
infected area (usually around the base), then rinse the plant off and repot
it. However if the outbreak is across a good part of my collection a systemic
pesticide such as Rogor seems to be the best solution. This is a more effective way of dealing with the problem.
The flies and mealy problems would lead me to thinking that Derek may be
right in thinking that you should increase ventilation.

I hope that helps.

A second commentor provided these remarks:

I don't have problems with mealybugs, but scale is another matter. The two
are sometimes spoken of together; both are sucking insects. If you see ants
on the plants, they are likely the cause for mealybugs as the two have a
strange symbiotic relationship. Scale is the tougher opponent having a waxy
coating that repels most insecticides. Bromeliads being adpet
(adept) at ingesting
things through the leaves respond well to systemic insecticides. (I don't
think the epiphytic Bromeliads would like soap on their leaves for the same
reason.) Systemics work like the new miracle drops you can use on pets to
rid them of fleas and ticks. The material essentially makes the plants
poisonous, killing the insects as they begin to dine. I have good luck using
Isotox (orthene). Many like Cygon but I find the odor overpowering. Isotox
is bad enough. There are many alternates.
Your best bet is to stay ahead of the pests. Have a regular spraying program
in-place. Like most things, pest control is easy when you're in the
preventative stage, not the eradication stage.

Upcoming Events

June 25, 26 – Sarasota Bromeliad Society.s show and sale at Selby Gardens in Sarasota

August 9th-15th Sixteenth World Bromeliad Conference in Chicago, Illinois

Oct. 23rd Extravaganza hosted by the Florida West Coast Bromeliad Society. Make your plans now! The plant sale will be held at the Florida botanical Gardens in Largo. A rare plant auction and banquet will be at the host hotel – Holiday Inn Select, 3535 Ulmerton Road in Clearwater. Room rate is $75/night. The banquet will be $19.95/plate.

Oct. 30, 31 – Caloosahatchee Bromeliad Society’s annual sale at Terry Park in Ft. Meyers.