The Florida East Coast Bromeliad Society

Next regularly scheduled meeting Sunday, September 9th, 2001 - 1:30p.m.

September, 2001

Winter is on it’s way –
Are you ready?

President - Jay Thurrott - 386/761-4804

Vice President - Bud Martin - 407/321-0838

Secretary - Bob Roberts - 386/446-8626

Treasurer - Ted Nuse - 386/673-2648


Isn’t that a scary thought! Here it is, the first part of September, temperatures are hovering in the 90’s each day and we’re talking about winter? That’s right! In fact, now is the time to begin making plans to protect your plants from those blasts of cold air that sweep through our area each year– and usually with little advance notice. Don’t wait until the last minute (like I usually do) and then race around frantically gathering up bromeliads from your yard and trying to find enough space in your house or garage to accommodate your collection.

What’s that you say? You had enough room in the house last winter for your plants? Who among us has the same number of plants that they cared for a year ago? Anybody who has ever been bitten by the bromeliad bug ends up with a larger collection each year…and they have the same amount of room to house it. This means that if you managed to come up with enough room to protect your plants from the cold last year, chances are pretty good that this year you will come up short. So what should you do? Stop accumulating more bromeliads? That will never happen!

For starters, you should begin thinking about your winterization plans each September. This should give you enough time to build what you need to build, buy what you need to buy, or clear out an area in your garage presently occupied by less important items (such as your car, the washer/dryer, your tools, or the cat’s litter box). What worked well for you last year? What turned out to be a problem that you have been meaning to work on ever since? Now is the time to consider these things.

Don’t know where to start? How about deciding which plants need cold-weather protection and which ones can ride out a cold snap without harm? This will help give you a better idea about how much room you will need to protect the cold-sensitive plants in your collection. We recently had a speaker from Gainesville talk to us about cold hardy plants and we all have the hand-out that Al Muzzel developed from his recent experiences with bromeliads and cold weather – make use of that information!

Now that you’ve identified those plants in your collection that will need help when the weather man says to "cover those plants", decide whether you will bring them into a shelter (a.k.a garage or living room) or if you will leave them outside to be protected. It’s a simple matter to match the number of plants to be brought inside with the amount of space you have available…although there are a few plant sales coming up between now and Feb., soooo…that number may increase somewhat.

If you decide to leave your plants outside to be protected, decide whether you will cover them and use ground heat to keep them comfortable or if you will provide a supplemental heat source. If you choose to cover them, there are a number of options available to you. Avoid using clear plastic films (visqueen) to cover anything unless you intend to remove them at the first light of day – these materials can focus the sun’s rays onto your plants and cause some severe leaf burning as well as retain enough heat from the sun to cook anything underneath them. Opaque tarps. are a good choice, but you can run into the other extreme of preventing all light from reaching your plants. This is ok for a few days, but the plants will suffer eventually. A relatively new product that has received a lot of attention is "freeze cloth" that not only insulates plants against low temperatures, but also allows the passage of water both from the outside in as well as from the inside out. This is now available at a number of garden centers in our area. Check it out.

Finally, there is the option of adding a little supplemental heat to a storage area or shelving that you have covered with a tarp. It doesn’t take very much heat to make the difference between frozen plants and those with little or no leaf damage. You can purchase heat strips or use some low voltage light bulbs – even Christmas lights can work well to provide that little bit of heat to keep temperatures above freezing. The goal is to provide some heat, but not so much as to risk burning the leaves on your plants. Winter isn’t here yet, but it’s on the way and if you aren’t prepared when that first blast of Arctic air hits, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

I didn’t see you …

The Seminole Society’s annual show/sale at the County Fairgrounds was really outstanding this year. I didn’t see too many of our members there and it’s a shame – the selection of plants for sale was mind-boggling! Most remarkable was the number of member plants for sale. Make sure you attend this event next year.

Bromeliads for Sale!

I have been contacted by an individual in Tallahassee who has reluctantly decided to sell her entire bromeliad collection, as well as a number of orchids, botanical prints, wrought iron plant holders and other odds and ends (she even has a 10’ tall ponytail palm for sale). This is the result of 20 years of collecting bromeliads, so you might imagine there to be quite a variety! Let me know if you are interested and I’ll pass along a phone number to set up a visit.

Upcoming events:

October 21 – 2nd annual zoo day and picnic (Zoorama II)

October 27th – Bromeliad Extravaganza, hosted by the Bromeliad Society of Central Fl. To be held at the Maitland Civic Center. Call (407)647-2039 for additional information.

November 18th – Field trip to Plants and Things nursery in Ocala

December 16 – Annual Holiday Party and Dinner hosted by the Seminole Bromeliad Society at the Sanford Garden Club

March 14th – 17th, 2002 – The Daytona Flower Show at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach

April 27th and 28th, 2002 – Sarasota Bromeliad Show

May 14th-19th, 2002 -15th World Bromeliad Conference will be held at the St. Petersburg Hilton Hotel.

What’s blooming?

There seem to be a lot Vrieseas in bloom in my yard at the moment – which always makes the summer a favorite time. One small discolor plant acquired some time ago with the name tag of V. triligulata now is apparently getting a second look by those who pass out the names for bromeliads and it seems to be an undescribed species. For the time being its going by the name "Seidel 981". It still looks the same to me and I still enjoy the bright yellow flowers that open each year in August.

Vriesea ‘Polonia’ is looking great also with its bright orange bracts and bright yellow flowers – it’s a real eye-catcher! Vriesea sucreii and V. erythrodactylon x V. sucreii are both looking very nice at the moment. I especially like the latter! V. scalaris is also in bloom and although its not an exceptionally pretty plant, I like the little flowers arranged step-wise as though the inflorescence was a dangling ladder. It’s a well behaved little plant and tough as nails when it comes to cold weather.

Tillandsia crocata is one of those plants in my collection that just seems to linger. I don’t know what I do wrong in its care, but it never really seems to flourish in my yard. I just picked up a new plant to replace it at the Seminole sale and last week I notice that my old beat up T. crocata has sent up a stalk with those pretty little three petalled yellow flowers. And fragrant…you can smell it from quite a distance.

T. stricta was right on time again this year. Every year this cluster of little stiff leafed plants blooms during the same month in the same week and this year was no exception!

I was very sorry to hear that Whit Merrin had recently passed away. Whit was the epitome of the real Southern gentleman and was extremely knowledgeable in bromeliads. He spoke to our group on several occasions and I found his stories and hints on bromeliad culture to be fascinating. Whit lived in an area outside of Lakeland where the temperatures often take a real dive in the winter and I was amazed at the plants that he had in his landscape that thrived under these conditions. Since this issue’s topic is the approaching winter weather, I thought that the following, from the November 2000 issue of the Caloosahatchee Meristem (Caloosahatchee Bromeliad Society), would be appropriate:

Excerpt from Whit Merrin

Backyard Bromeliads, December 1993

(An editor’s note in the article states that the original author of the article is unknown)

The area of Florida in which Whit lives can have temperatures into the teens or twenties during the Winter, so over the years it has pretty much weeded out any tender bromeliads he might have acquired. But it has also shown him a number of bromeliads will survive such weather, provided it doesn’t last too long.

Aechmea fulgens var. discolor and Neoregelia eleutheropetala proved to be very cold sensitive and didn’t survive. Surprisingly, Aechmea chantinii seemed to be able to stand cold weather right down to freezing, but if they did freeze or even suffered frost damage it would seem to put them into shock and they would never come out of it.

Whit says there are two types of freezes. In the first the air will be quite still, clear and no humidity. The warm air next to the earth will rise and cold air from above will settle. This is called air inversion. In open areas it will get very cold, but under a tree canopy the ground heat will be held in and the cold is held off. He has measured a difference of 5 to 10 degrees under his oak tree canopy from the temperature in the open areas of his yard during these types of freezes.

The other type of freeze is accompanied by strong winds and the cold just blows right in under the trees, so they afford little protection.

Billbergia vittata, distachia, nutans and pyramidalis; Neoregelia spectabilis, Dexter’s Pride and Catherine Wilson; Aechmea ornata, nationalis and caudata have survived the mid-20’s. They were severely damaged but when they had a good network of old stems, offsets came back out. Vriesea x Marie has even gone through a freeze and still comes back in time to bloom when they were supposed to.

Quite often after a severe Winter, the Spring will be rather dry and the plants won’t come out of the damage quickly. He has found that supplemental watering seems to quicken their recovery in that case.

So remember, even if your plant is damaged back to the stub, hang on to it. It just might give you an offset before it goes.

In this type of growing condition, you have to take the good with the bad. The occasional freeze severely damages the plants, but if it doesn’t last more than a few hours, the plants that come back seem to be more robust when living outdoors.