Vriesea (pronounced vah-REEZ-ee-ah) are a tropical bromeliad that grow outdoors in warm, frost-free landscapes or as houseplants. They have lance-shaped strappy leaves arranged in a circular rosette, with short-lived flowers held on a colourful, long-lasting bract. Outdoor culturing requires high humidity, moist, well-draining soil or humus, and bright, indirect light to partial sun, depending on the species. Indoor culturing requires a container with moist potting media and very bright light for best foliage.
Plant in a region that does not succumb to winter frosts or freezes, which are USDA hardiness zones 10 through 15. Determine your zone by visiting the National Gardening Association website, listed below.
Provide a moist, well-draining medium in which to grow the vriesea. A sandy soil with compost or humus is ideal. Do not use topsoil or heavy potting mix, as the roots of these bromeliads are tiny and are for support rather than water uptake.
Ensure the vriesea is protected from the direct sunlight, especially in the middle of the day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Locate the plant under shade trees or a pergola, arbor or awning that casts shade.
Monitor the soil moisture so that it remains moist, never bone dry or soggy.
Water the bromeliad by using air-temperature, nonchlorinated water or collected rainwater by filling up the rosette. The "vase" of the bromeliad holds water and small debris at the collective bases of the strappy foliage.
Allow small bits of debris, such as fallen leaf bits, dust and dead insects to remain in the vase of the bromeliad. As this debris decays, it provides the only necessary nutrients needed by the plant.
Cut plants at their stem base after their long-lasting flower structures fade. All vriesea plants will slowly degrade after they complete their one-time flowering. Use care when removing the plant, as there will be small new plants, called pups, rising from the base of the dying mother plant. Preserve these pups and allow them to grow.
Preserve pup shoots at the bases of larger bromeliad plants and allow them to grow. Once these pups elongate and spread out their leaves, they may be cut from the main stem base and wedged into the surrounding soil, enough so it remains firmly upright.
Position the containerised vriesea in a brightly lit spot, such as a table near a window that never gets direct sun. Avoid the dim light of a northern window.
Maintain the potting soil media at a moist level, never bone dry and especially not soggy.
Add room-temperature, nonchlorinated water every 10 to 18 days to the "vase" of the bromeliad foliage, so the leaf bases hold water like a reservoir.
Allow dust to accumulate in the bases of the foliage, in the water. Place small bits of bark or leaf bits in the bromeliad vase too, as nutrients are pulled from it by the plant. This eliminates any need for fertiliser.
Wipe down the foliage, as needed, with a soft, damp cloth to remove dust that may look unattractive or reduce leaf lustre.
Note Steps 7 and 8 above in the "Growing Vriesea Outdoors" section for additional guidelines.
Select a vriesea that has spotted or colourful foliage so it is visually striking even when it is not in flower. Use very small pots to avoid rotting. A 4- to 6-inch pot is adequate.
Some species of vriesea have silvery or whitish green foliage. Such species do not have the same growing requirements as listed here. They generally need direct sunlight and must not be planted in soil, but instead mounted on a tree branch or in a hanging basket.