Aechmea is a genus in the bromeliad family from the tropical Americas. These plants are easy to care for as houseplants and can be grown in the garden in frost-free areas. Aechmeas are also known as urn plants because they grow as a funnel-shaped rosette of leaves. The stiff leaves have toothed margins and are very variable between species. Some aechmeas are pure green while others are silvery grey with bands and speckles. Like most bromeliads, aechmeas absorb water and nutrients from a pool of water trapped by their leaves rather than through their roots.
Place your aechmea bromeliad in a bright location in the home, such as a south- or west-facing window that receives indirect sunshine. Choose a spot with a minimum temperature no lower than 15.6 degrees Celsius.
Water your aechmea by keeping the pool of water trapped in its crown full. Turn your plant upside down to clear out the water every three months. This prevents rotting and removes any mineral build-up. Water the soil in its pot only when it is almost completely dry and allow it to drain completely.
Fertilise your aechmea during the warm summer months with liquid fertiliser diluted to 1/3 of the recommended strength. Apply fertiliser once every six weeks. You can also fertilise your aechmea by misting its leaves with diluted fertiliser.
Repot your plant when its roots have completely filled its container or when it has become top-heavy. Use a pot only one size larger than the original as too much soil is prone to becoming waterlogged. Use a peat-based compost mixed with 1/3 bark chips and 1/3 perlite or sharp sand.
Monitor your aechmea for signs of scale insect infestation. Scale insects look like small raised bumps or scales on the leaves. Treat scale by painting them directly with rubbing alcohol or with a systemic insecticide spray.
Encourage your aechmea to flower by draining the water from its crown and placing it in a sealed plastic bag along with a ripe apple for 10 days. The apple will release ethylene gas which triggers flowering in bromeliads. Plant aechmea species such as A. blanchetiana outdoors in a semi-shaded site with well-drained soil. Space individual plants 18 to 24 inches apart.
Never place potted bromeliads in a saucer of water as they are very vulnerable to rotting.