There are a few indoor gardeners that sympathize so much with the neglected, dilapidated and near-death plants at greenhouses, garden centers, supermarkets and wherever else, that they often purchase and take them home, with the well-meaning intention of restoring their health and providing them with a warm and caring environment where they can flourish and live happily ever after. In simpler terms, they feel compelled to save them.
It might sound awful but I don’t feel the same way as those more caring souls do. Whenever I encounter plants on clearance racks that look like their days (if not hours) are numbered, I do sympathize with them and I might even remark on their sorry state, but I never feel obligated to save any of them. I don’t know whether my lack of interest in adopting dilapidated plants makes me a compassionless person or not, but that’s just the way it is. I do have my reasons, though, for not doing plant rescues, and these are the top three:
1. The plant is weak and may not survive in the long run despite added effort.
2. An unhealthy plant is more likely to be plagued by pests or disease.
3. I do not have enough free time to play nurse to a new addition that may or may not make it.
So I don’t do plant rescues. Not really. This doesn’t mean that I’ve never taken home a plant on its last legs, a plant that’s noticeably neglected or a plant that’s been at the supermarket for such a long time that you wonder how in the world it’s still hanging on. I have. But it’s not out of sympathy; it’s out of self-interest. I only pick up destitute plants that are rarely ever available for sale, or plants that are on my wish list, so my plant rescues are purely for selfish reasons. Yes folks, those are the only times I ever rescue a plant – to fulfill my own needs not theirs. There I said it, and I don’t feel guilty. Well, not really. Okay, maybe just a bit.
I couldn’t resist this gorgeous Bromeliad (from one of my favourite plant families) anymore. And besides, this specimen was definitely a survivor and worthy of a few extra bucks. So I (less grudgingly) spent a little more than I allow myself to spend for plants and took it home. Therefore I did, to some extent, rescue a plant from an uncertain (but most probably dismal) future. I won’t deny that I did it for selfish reasons (my own) rather than selfless ones (for the plant’s sake). I did. But, oh well.
Caring For The Blushing Bromeliad
Native to the tropical forests of South America, the blushing Bromeliad is a member of the Neoregelia group, a genus belonging to the Bromeliaceae family of plants. Like many of its relatives, the blushing Bromeliad is an epiphyte (an organism that grows on another plant for physical support but is not parasitic to its host) and does not require soil. Epiphytes manufacture their own food the same way that other green plants do (photosynthesis), but they derive moisture and nutrients from the air rather than from the soil.
Neoregelia carolinae is among the hardiest tank type Bromeliads available commercially (this applies to the entire Neoregelia genus). With its ease of cultivation and its accommodating nature, it is able to endure extended periods of neglect: insufficient light, watering blunders, low humidity. It’s no wonder the one I picked up lasted so long at Wal-Mart, and retained its health despite poor growing conditions. Although this lovely plant can survive for long periods in a less than ideal environment, it’s a shame to neglect it. With proper care that involves very little effort, the Neoregelia carolinae ‘Tricolor’ is one of the most ornamental Bromeliads.
As a tank-style Neoregelia carolinae ‘Tricolor’ can be watered exclusively through the funnel of leaves. You don’t need to concern yourself with the potting medium if you keep the central rosette (cup) filled with fresh water. Flush the tank periodically (every 1 – 2 months) to remove salt buildup and prevent stagnation, and refill it with fresh water. Even though this Bromeliad is equipped with a central rosette, it does not mean that you can’t water through the soil (a style you might be more comfortable with), you can. Allow the potting medium to dry out considerably and then water thoroughly until it runs out of the bottom. Dump the excess water; never allow the pot to sit on a saucer full of water for extended periods.
Bromeliads can tolerate and survive periods of drought, therefore it’s preferable to underwater these plants than to drown them with excess moisture. This plant family is prone to root rot easily if the planting medium is kept too wet too often, so be careful with that watering can.
Give your Neoregelia carolinae ‘Tricolor’ as much light as possible; choose a southern, western or eastern location that offers bright, indirect light. Although the plant should be protected against the strong rays of midday sun, some early morning or late afternoon sunshine is very beneficial - and very much appreciated. Low light areas are tolerated for awhile, but the plant should be grown in brighter light to be at its best.
Average household room temperatures between 15°C (60°F) to 24°C (75°F) are satisfactory. Increase humidity by placing the plant on a pebble tray or by adding a humidifier nearby. If your plant is actively growing, feed it about once a month with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer that is diluted to half strength or less. Do not fertilize during the winter months or if the plant is grown in low light. If you are watering exclusively through the tank, fill a spray bottle with a very weak fertilizer solution and mist the leaves lightly.
I have to admit that I was quite surprised that a plant as lovely as the Neoregelia carolinae ‘Tricolor’ had not been snatched up as quickly as I would have expected. I would guess that the hefty price tag played a major role in its rejection. Since a wide selection of eye-catching plants at large retailers such as Wal-Mart or Home Depot are available at a more attractive price ($2.00 - $10.00), a Bromeliad tagged close to $20.00 loses its appeal quickly, despite its beauty. Lucky for this Neoregelia that I am weak when it comes to leaving Bromeliads behind. Let’s face it, it was only a matter of time before I caved in and brought it home.