At last time to formulate another Newsletter. It has been an exceptionally busy six months both on the home front & the nursery. Apologies to those to whom I have been promising this Newsletter for ages.
We've had a very warm start to winter this year - expect to get a cold snap soon. Already can't wait till Spring when the broms will start to grow & look happy again.
True is attending Bromeliad Judge's Schools which are most enjoyable & a great learning experience. Tip for cleaning plastic pots: Scrub any dirt & white salty residue off with a stiff wire brush & then do final clean with baby oil. This brings up the dirtiest of pots.
Fertilising Neoregelias & Aechmeas: We've given up on using controlled release fertiliser on our Minis Neoregelias. Growth is too long & lanky & plants are green. We get better results using a weak dose of very high potassium (very low nitrogen) foliar fertiliser fortnightly & less often in winter. For larger Neoregelias & most Aechmeas we use a small amount of controlled release plus weak high potassium foliar as for the minis. Keep in mind that others use a different regime & it's important to determine what works best for you in your situation.
Pitcairnias are often overlooked because their foliage is usually green & grass like. However during spring into summer their attractive brightly coloured flower spikes create great interest particularly when clumped which is their normal habit. We love them & are building up a collection which we will release as soon as we have enough stock. There are at least 30 species & hybrids cultivated in Australia.
The genus Pitcairnia belongs to the subfamily Pitcairnioideae & was named after Dr William Pitcairn, an English physican & gardener (1711-1791). It ranks as the second most prolific of the bromeliad family after Tillandsia with recorded species numbering well over 300.
Distribution:They are most abundant in Colombia, Peru & Brazil, but can be found in areas from Cuba & Mexico to Argentina. Most are terrestrial (grow in the ground) or saxicolous (grow on rocks & are called lithophytes) & prefer moist, shady areas. However they are occasionally found growing as epiphytes in trees. Pitcairnia includes the only species that is not native to the Americas. Pitcairnia feliciana grows on rocks & cliff faces in tropical French Guinea in West Africa. It is suspected that the plant found its way to Africa via seed dispersal by migratory birds. The species is small with very thin sparse leaves which have a few spines that increase towards the centre of the rosette.
Characteristics: Typically they form a clump that develops underground rhizomes. Pitcairnias have soft, drooping leaves, a few of which have small spines, while most are spineless. The leaves can be quite variable in length & shape. Some have several types of leaves on the one plant eg a deciduous species such as heterophylla. In that species the 'normal' leaves drop off at the start of the dry season to help conserve moisture. The short brown spikes that remain are a primitive type of leaf that contains no chlorophyll.
Pitcairnias send up tall, brightly coloured flower spikes with tubular flowers that project out at right angles. They are mostly pink, red or orange but sometimes yellow & white. While the flowers last only a day, the inflorescence is long lasting.
Propagation: They can be easily propagated from seed or, for many species, by detaching a piece of underground rhizome with roots attached. Other Pitcainia form bulbous like growths that can be broken apart to provide new plants.
Temperature: Pitcairnia are native to generally mild climates & can be found in humid rain forests as well as more arid highlands. So they usually prefer moderate temperatures around 26 degrees C. Some can handle a bit of frost if protection is provided.
Light: They generally prefer moist but well drained, shady conditions, but can do well in dappled shade. They are unlikely to do well in situations that receive the full afternoon sun especially in summer. They can be grown indoors. Pitcairnia grow well under 50% shadecloth in winter & 75% for the rest of the year.
Pots & Potting Mix: They typically like bigger pots for their size than other bromeliads. Pitcairnia require the usual free draining potting mix yet need to be kept moist but not soggy. One suggestion is to put a small amount of sphagnum moss in the base of the pot & cover the surface with mulch, particularly in summer.
Water: Keep moist but not soggy. Water thoroughly at least three times a week in summer. Twice a week in winter should be enough except during periods of low humidity.
Fertiliser: Controlled release in or on top of the potting mix - higher potassium or potassium similar to nitrogen (rate as for indoor plants). We also use foliar with balanced N & K.
Pests: Generally pest free, but can be affected by mealy bug or aphids. Grasshoppers can attack young leaves.
Below is a photo of Pitcairnia hitchcockiana
We hope this stimulates your interest in Pitcairnias if you are not already hooked.
With kind regards,
True & Bob