If a survey were taken asking people what a bromeliad is, most people probably wouldn't be able to answer the question. However, if you asked the same people what a pineapple is, a majority of them would have no problem responding correctly.
So, what's the connection between the two? Put simply, a pineapple is a bromeliad. Bromeliads are perennial monocotyledons -- plants that have one seed leaf like lilies or corn, rather than two seed leaves like roses or beans.
Bromeliads commonly grow in the American tropics, and a majority of the species are found in Brazil. Many bromeliads are tough and long-lived, and they will combine comfortably with other plants in your home.
There are about 2,000 bromeliad genera; they vary greatly in size, color, distribution, and ease of growth. Some are small enough to sit on a window sill, while others grow as long or as tall as 30 feet.
Not all bromeliads grow well indoors, but many do. Since many of these plants originally grew in trees, good air circulation and excellent drainage are very important.
When grown indoors, bromeliads do worse with too much water or heat rather than with too little of either.
Actually growing bromeliads is the best way to learn about them; however, members of your local bromeliad society are also great references.
Explore the following articles to learn more about bromeliads and how to care for them:
Aechmea: These plants are some of the best known and most widely grown bromeliads. Aechmea do well in any house temperature, and they prefer to have their vases always filled with water.
Ananas: The ananas comosus -- the pineapple-- is the most well-known ananas plant. In tropical areas, ananas (pineapple) plants are used to make strong and secure hedges.
Billbergia: The billbergia, named after the Swedish botanist Gustave Billberg, are among the fastest and the easiest growing bromeliads. These plants have fewer leaves and usually grow straight up.
Catopsis: These epiphytic plants with soft, spineless, green leaves are found growing from Florida and the West Indies to tropical South America.
Cryptanthus: The cryptanthus, terrestrial bromeliads from Southern Brazil, display beautiful foliage in shades of green, bronze, brown, red, and pink. Since these plants are small, easy to grow, and do well under lights, they are indoor favorites.
Dyckia: The dyckia fosteriana, named in honor of Prince von Salm-Dyck, a succulent plant enthusiast, are all similar in appearance but vary in size. These flowering plants come from Central Brazil and resemble the agave or aloe.
Guzmania: These plants, named after the 18th-century Spanish naturalist Anastasio Guzman, are one of the most beautiful types of bromeliads, especially when the plants are grown in a large clump. The flowers are usually white or yellowish, and the plants grow two or more feet wide.
Neoregelia: Neoregelia were named in honor of Eduard A. von Regel, the 19th-century superintendent of the Botanic Garden in St. Petersburg, Russia. Because neoregelias are easy to grow both indoors and out, they have been favorites in European collections for more than one hundred years.
Nidularium: These native Brazilian plants are usually found growing on the ground and on decaying logs. They get their name from the Latin word, "nidus; nest;" which refers to the nestlike arrangement of short leaves that appears in the center of the plant just before it blooms.
Portea: This small genus of six species from Brazil was named after Dr. Marius Porte, a French plant collector. This type of bromeliad plant grows quite large and needs plenty of room.
Tillandsia: This is the largest genus (about 500 species) in the bromeliad family. Tillandsia, epiphytic bromeliads, are usually found growing on almost anything from the southern United States to southern Argentina. Water and nourishment enter through the grey scales on their leaves, so these plants don't need soil to survive.
Vriesea: These bromeliads from Mexico and Brazil grow well indoors and have been favorites of indoor gardeners for years. Most vrieseas are epiphytic and have definite vases and strap-like, blunt-ended, green leaves. They vary in size from five inches to five feet.