Can you identify this photo? No, these are not the tendrils of a sci-fi monster, or the top of a giant pink bug.
Anticipation has been crackling in the air over here since this aechmea flower was discovered emerging from one of the urns in my silver urn plant. It was a few years ago when my mother sent me home with a few wispy offset pups in a large plastic plant pot. I had read that aechmea pups can take 3 to 4 years to flower after transplanting. It’s true.
Now finally we have two pale pink flowers emerging from the center of leaves. The flowers will eventually reach a foot long and about 6 inches across at the top. The leaves are about three feet long with a faint silver stripe. The edges of the leaves and the flowers have tiny but very sharp spikes.
Aechmeas are in the bromeliaceae family and are native to Central and South America. The Sunset Western Garden Book lists them for Zones 22 -24, or (USDA Zone 10 or above or hardy to about 40 degrees). They also recommend keeping the urns filled with water or peat moss. I suppose in the growing in the wilds of a rainforest tree they would be filled with moss or water. I have not done that, and my plant seems fine.
Aechmea likes deep to light shade. Sunburn will show up as round brown patches. The burned leaf will become dry and papery. Try moving your plant to less sunlight. The patch won’t clear up, but you shouldn’t get any new ones. Urn plants make excellent houseplants and prefer to be grown in bright indirect sunlight indoors. Propagation is easiest by planting the small offset plants.
Title note: apologies to former Organic Gardening Magazine editor, humorist and all-around great guy, Mike McGrath. He’s known for his alluring alliteration and for getting me hooked on gardening.