Though most bromeliads require ample light this large family also includes plants that tolerate or need permanent shade, among them being most members of the genus Nidularium. For these, full sunlight is definitely detrimental.
Some 23 species grow as epiphytes or petrophytes (on stones or rocks) in southern and eastern Brazil. They are all much alike: the leaves form a dense ground rosette with sessileappearing in the centre of the ‘vase’. The chief decorative feature of this genus are the central leaves which often turn bright crimson during the flowering period. In some species the central leaves do not change colour, for example in N. burchellii. Nevertheless, this plant is commonly found in cultivation for its hardiness and lovely orange fruits.
Nidularium innocentii, native to Brazil, makes flat rosettes of leaves approximately 25 cm (10 in) long, 5 cm (2 in) across, and edged thickly with delicate spines. They are green on the upper side, purple or reddish violet on the underside; in the variety wittmackianum they are entirely green. The central leaves are various shades of red, the flowers white. Very lovely are the cultivars ‘Lineatum’ and ‘Striatum’; the first has the leaves longitudinally striped with white, the second with yellow.
Most often found in cultivation, besides the species, is N. fulgens — somewhat larger, with pale green leaves irregularly spotted with dark green, central leaves coloured brilliant red, and flowers a mixture of white, red, and violet.
Though nidulariums are basically epiphytes, their root system is not well developed and they may also be grown successfully as potted plants in a mixture composed mainly of peat and sand. They must be syringed frequently and the compost kept permanently slightly moist. The fruit, a berry, contains a large number of tiny, dark seeds that should be sown on the surface of sterile peat. The seedlings will reach flower-bearing size in two years; variegated cultivars, of course, can be propagated only by detaching the side rosettes.