By Moyna Prince

This article appeared in the September 2002 edition of The BromeliAdvisory, the newsletter of the Bromeliad Society of South Florida

The weather we've had this year has tried our plants in the extreme. While the winter was mild, drought conditions combined with sunny days stressed them. Then came the monsoon rains and the temperature climbed. These conditions tested the survival abilities of our toughest bromeliads, and it's been interesting to assess those that flourished versus those that needed more protection.

In our garden, there is one bromeliad that is a clear winner in the full-sun category: Hohenbergia castellanosii. You cannot give this bromeliad too much sun. It's a big, tough plant with upright form, and wide green leaves that turn fiery red from the tips down as it gets more sun.

I went to several of our members for suggestions, and listed below are their recommendations. The experts pointed out that most plants that have gone through this year's weather extremes without sunburn had the advantage of being planted in cooler months, thus giving them time to become acclimated. You can't take a plant from a shady spot and place it in direct sun in July without getting some burn or bleaching. Sudden changes, length of sunny periods and humidity can also cause problems, even for well-established plants.

Here are some of the experts' suggestions for full-sun bromeliads:

Aechmea blanchetiana
Aechmea eurycorymbus
Aechmea mexicana (also the albomarginated form)
Aechmea bracteata (all forms)
Aechmea mulfordii
Aechmea rubens
Aechmea 'Little Harv'
Aechmea chantinii (black form)
Aechmea 'Samurai'
Alcantarea vinicolor (tougher than imperialis)
Alcantarea imperialis
Alcantarea regina
Androlepis skinneri
Hohenbergia castellanosii
Portea petropolitana (both var. petropolitana and var. extensa, the more common one)

Aechmea pectinata
Aechmea ornata
Ananus bracteatus
Ananus comosus
Neoregelia cruenta
Neoregelia johannis
Neoregelia compacta
Neoregelia macwilliamsii
Neoregelia marmorata
Quesnelia testudo
Quesnelia arvensis
Wittrockia superba

Aechmea recurvata var. ortgiesii
Neoregelia olens
Neoregelia 'Fireball'
Orthophytum gurkenii
Orthophytum navioides
Orthophytum burle-marxii
Most Dyckias and Hechtias (they'll require more frequent watering).
The genus Pitcairnia is usually very sun-tolerant.

The plants in the above list are the most readily available. More uncommon species, also recommended, are:

Aechmea callichroma
Aechmea mariae-reginae
Aechmea beeriana
Aechmea bromeliifolia
Aechmea aquilega
Aechmea castelnavii
Aechmea distichantha var. schlumbergeri
Aechmea lingulata
Aechmea phanerophlebia
Aechmea tocantina
Hohenbergia stellata
Neoregelia sarmentosa
Neoregelia tigrina
Neoregelia bahiana
xNeotanthus 'Cardboard'
Portea leptantha
Orthophytum magalhaesii
Orthophytum maracasense
Orthophytum rubrum

Steve Correale, who grows and sells tillandsias, suggests the following for the full-sun treatment:
Tillandsia fasciculata, capitata, chiapensis, streptophylla, xerographica, concolor, tricholepis, bulbosa, caput-medusae, ionantha (all forms), stricta, vernicosa, disticha, didisticha. And don't forget Tillandsia usneoides! As with other genera, if your tillandsias have been growing in the shade, move them to direct sun in the fall or winter.

To sum up: If you can provide your plants with a little shade, even from a nearby palm or your patio screen, they'll thank you. If they're going to be in full sun from sunrise to sunset, get them established in the winter. Otherwise, be prepared for at least a little bleaching.

(Thanks to the following who provided suggestions: Harvey Bullis, Nat DeLeon, Lynne Fieber, Peter Kouchalakos, Sandy Roth and Virginia Schrenker.)

TO ALL MEMBERS: Please keep an eye on your own plants, and let me know in the spring how they have fared for a follow-up article. MP