Aechema is one of the most popular house plant bromeliads available on the current market. This is a very stately looking plant that has strappy, wide green leaves that appear to be lightly powdered. The leaves offer backward curing spines that can hurt if you touch them, so be careful when you pick them up.
Although the plants look beautiful, the long-lasting flower bracts are what is stunning on this plant. They’re usually pink, and they rise above the plant in a spiky crown with smaller purple flowers that emerge during the year. It’s not unusual for the aechmea flower spike to persist for months, especially with the correct growing conditions. We’ll outline them below for you.
Aechema looks like it would be a very difficult plant to grow and keep healthy, but this isn’t the case. As long as you get the growing conditions correct, this plant can be happy for years.
General Information About Aechema
It’s good to know what to expect when you purchase this plant, especially if it’s your first aechmea. It’s an exotic-looking specimen that isn’t difficult to keep happy, and you should look for:
- Flowers – This plant definitely grows flowers. Although the inflorescence or flowering bract that is the real draw for this plant, the true flowers it produces are very short-lived and small. They’re usually a blueish-purple color and poke out of the bright pink flowering bract so they can be difficult to see at a glance. Once the flowering bract is finished, it will start to look unattractive. At this point, you can remove it without hurting the plants. It’s best to buy them in the flowering stage. However, if you have a younger plant, the flowers will appear when the plant is roughly five years old.
- Height and Spread – The final height of your aechmea plant can vary, but they usually get around 23 inches wide and 18 inches tall.
- Speed of Growth – How quickly the aechmea grows depends, but most of them have a slow growth habit. Fully grown plants may not produce any new leaves as long as you have it in your home.
Aechmea Growing Conditions
Aechmea, like many other Bromeliads get their nutrients from any matter that falls from the plants above them in the wild. For this reason, it’s a good idea to spray the fertilizer onto the plant’s foliage and on the growing medium’s surface. You can use an all-purpose orchid food that you dilute to ½ strength, or you can get an air plant-specific fertilizer.
Many people skip fertilizing their Bromeliads because they usually don’t need it. If this plant does, just make sure that you don’t add too much fertilizer at one time because the salts will build up and cause issues for your plant. If you do choose to fertilize it, do so in the spring and summer only.
As a potting soil, you want to get a bromeliad mix or an orchid potting soil mix. You can also mix up your own by adding equal parts of peat moss, coarse sand, and leaf mold. Another option is to mix equal parts of peat moss, sharp sand or perlite, and fir bark.
When the plant is on the younger side, you want to put it in a four to six-inch pot. You’ll repot it once the pups mature after three or four years. When this happens, move it to an eight inch pot and keep it there for the rest of the plant’s life. Because they have small root systems, aechmea thrive in their small pots when they’re root bound. You want to pick out a pot that is heavy enough to stay upright under the plant’s weight.
Humidity and Temperature
Average temperatures and humidity levels suit aechmea just fine, as long as you have great air circulation. If you live by a body of water like an ocean, they can appreciate growing outside with a little more moisture in the air. If your home tends to be really dry, you can mist your plant once a week. This will give them enough moisture and raise the humidity level around them enough to keep them happy.
You don’t want to soak the growing medium or the plant, but it does like higher humidity levels so you may want to mist it every week or so.
Almost all bromeliads are epiphytic, and this means that they tend to thrive when they grow on bigger plants, like trees. If you want to picture how this plant tends to grow in the wild, think of it grabbing on halfway up the tree’s trunk. So, this will put it away from the very dark spots at the tree’s base but below the canopy and away from the direct, harsh sunlight.
When you grow aechmea, pink quill plant, or any bromeliads in your home, try to mimic this lighting condition. So, give it indirect but bright sunlight. It will do well in light shade too, but you need to avoid deep shade conditions like rooms with no widows. If you’re attempting to grow this plant at the flowering stage, increase the light exposure. You want to avoid exposure to harsh direct sunlight as this can result in scorched leaves that ruin your plant’s look.
Aechmeas are epiphytes, and they attach to rocks or other trees when they grow in nature. They get the majority of their nutrients and moisture through the foliage. So, it’s best to keep the cup, vase, urn, or tank (this is the center of the flower where the flower stalk comes out of) ¼ to ½ full of water. We’ve found that the center of the plant will start to rot over time if you keep it 100% full, especially during the winter months. Be sure you flush out the vase once over one or two months with fresh water to avoid bacteria buildup.
You can water the growing medium every one or two months, depending on the temperatures. Just be sure that you let the water drain very thoroughly out of the pot. If your water is full of nutrients and it’s hard, you should consider using purified or distilled water. Aechmea would also welcome spraying once in a while on the foliage.
Aechmeas are very easily propagated using pups, and these are babies that the mother plant produces. One thing you need to be aware of is that the flower and the stalk will eventually die and turn brown. You should cut the stalk completely off. When you do, you should see the pups starting to form at the base of the mother plant, and the plant will start to die very slowly.
You can cut away the foliage of the mother plant after it gets completely dry and dead, making sure you leave the pups in the same pot. You can also remove the pups after they get between four and six inches tall to another pot. This will start the plant’s life cycle over. FInally, they grow well attached to bark or driftwood if you don’t want to go in a traditional pot.
It’s very easy to propagate this plant because it produces pups.
Most bromeliads, aechmea included, don’t have a very extensive root system. So, most of the water and nutrient absorption that the plant does happens through the foliage and not through the root system. If you’ve inherited or bought an adult plant, this means that you may never have to repot it. However, if you’re growing a pup or a young plant, repot and upsize the pot every few years. YOu can use a range of different growing mediums, from orchid bark to garden compost.
Encouraging Aechmea to Bloom
Once the small pop has grown and reached blooming size, you really want to see that hot pink flower spike. Commercial growers force the plants to the flowering stage using ethylene gas, and you can encourage your plant to bloom by using a clear plastic bag and a ripe apple. To do so, you:
- Put your aechmea in the large plastic bag
- Put the apple in the bag
- Close the bag with both inside
- Put the bag and apple in a shaded area for 7 to 10 days, making sure to avoid direct sunlight
- The apply will induce your aechmea to flower by releasing ethylene gas
- Remove the plant from your bag and wait four to six weeks for the flower to develop
- HappyDIYHome Note: Grocery stores used to display their flowers right in the produce section. Most have move them away from the ripe produce today to put off flowering.
Aechmea Pest or Disease Problems
Since this plant tends to hold water, it’s very attractive to pests like gnats. It can also attract mosquitoes. If rot sets in or the plant has a scale problem, mealybugs will show up and cause issues. Again, since this plant likes higher humidity levels and holds water, it can have issues with fungal infections or diseases like rust disease, leaf spot, root rot, or crown rot. If the soil gets too dry, or the plant is in an area that is too cold, you’ll start to see brown leaf tips.
Generally speaking, aechmea is a very low-maintenance plant that can survive for years. It’s easy to propagate via pups, and it provides a hot pink flower spike for months at a time that lends a very exotic look.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.