Neoregelia carolinae ‘Tricolor’: Fingernail Plant

It is a commonly known fact that bromeliads are among the loveliest of plants for room decoration in the modern home, both for their decorative foliage and flowers. To date, however, minimum use has been made of this family by nurserymen and many species wait to be ‘rediscovered’ — this time for those who appreciate plants of exceptional beauty.

The cultivar is descended from the type species Neoregelia carolinae, sometimes found in nurseries under the wrong name of Nidularium meyendorffii. Neoregelia carolinae is a relatively large, green-leaved bromeliad (the rosettes are as much as 50 to 60 cm [20 to 24 in] across). The sessile, bluish flowers develop from the margin of the cluster inwards (a good identifying character — in the similar genus Nidularium they develop in the opposite direction) and are enclosed by brilliant red bracts. In the cultivar the whole centre of the leaf rosette turns a brilliant red during the flowering period.

Neoregelias include a great many attractive and rewarding house plants, for example N. spectabilis, the painted fingernail plant, with deep green leaves coloured glowing pinkish violet at the tips and violet variegated with brownish red on the underside. This plant really tolerates any conditions and is even hardier than the species. Particularly lovely for those who are fond of the special beauty of epiphytes is N. ampullacea, a small, only about 10- to 12-cm-(4- to 4-3/4in-) high species with leaves forming a ‘vase’ at the base and opening out into a rosette between one- and two-thirds of the way up; they are spotted brownish red on the underside. This species can be grown successfully in an indoor plant-case on bare bark without compost, where it will soon form decorative clumps because it puts out numerous sideshoots from the base.

Practically all members of this genus, including cultivars, can be grown on bark, for all the approximately 35 species (34 of which are native to Brazil) are epiphytes. Plants attain their greatest beauty in warm conditions, in full sun, and if supplied with ample atmospheric moisture — a window glasshouse is ideal for this purpose. Cultivation is easy. All that is necessary is to keep the central ‘vase’ formed by the foliage filled with water. Cultivars of different coloration may be propagated only by means of off-shoots; species are readily multiplied from seed.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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