My African violets have a lot of companion plants including nematanthus (goldfish or guppy plant), spider plants, English ivy, anthurium, abutilon (parlor maple) and various herbs and pepper plants. Bromeliads, in particular, thrive in my home given virtually the same care that the gesneriads receive.
Bromeliads are native to North, Central and South America and do very well indoors as house plants. Since there are about 3,000 species in about 56 genera, and thousands of cultivars, identifying an unlabeled purchase can be difficult so I’m usually content just knowing the species and enjoying them as they are.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet on caring for bromeliads.
- Prefers moderate home temperatures of 55-90°F (13-32°C)
- Grow in medium light (indoors)
- Maintain moderately moist soil
- Feed monthly when actively growing
- Avoid cold drafts
Air plants (tillandsia) are bromeliads that require slightly different care since they are epiphytes (they grow on other trees, not in soil). I grow them on a window sill and mist them a couple of times a week. Once in a while I give them a weak dose of fertilizer. Since they don’t need soil you can get very creative with how you want to display them. I have two sitting on top of flower pots:
I just received a variety pack of Tillandsia ionantha from CTS Air Plants – very healthy plants, and some are blushing (which means they will bloom soon). The fun begins – identifying them! I think there are some Ionantha guatamala, Ionantha rubra, maybe Ionantha mexico?
Some of these tillandsia will be mounted on grape wood, some will go into hanging globe terrariums, and some will be attached to the tile in my bathroom near the window (hooks with suction cups work well for this).
Getting air plants to bloom is rewarding, but the best thing about growing bromeliads (in my opinion) is that they reproduce readily – once they bloom they grow offshoots (called ‘pups’) along the base of the plant. You can give them away, trade them, or just grow your collection very quickly.
If you’re looking for easy-care companion plants for your African violets or other gesneriads consider bromeliads. You might just get hooked – they are highly addictive.