University of Florida

Bromeliads — Common Varieties

There are thousands of different bromeliads that come in an array of shapes and sizes and work in many light conditions, so you’re bound to find a variety that can work for you. More than 28 different genera have been named so far, including these garden favorites:

Aechmea Often called urn plants because of their upright, vase-like shape. The leaves are typically colorful and have small spines along the edges, and the plants can produce colorful flower spikes that can last from a few weeks to six months.

Ananas This genus has thin leaves and includes the commercially grown pineapple plant, Ananas comosus ‘Smooth Cayenne’. Other popular cultivars include A. comosus ‘Sugar Loaf’, which is smaller than ‘Smooth Cayenne’ and produces extremely sweet, juicy fruit, and .A. comosus var. variegata, which has creamy white and pale green striped leaves and has fruit that starts out bright pink.

Billbergia These bromeliads have a tall, narrow vase shape and spiny-edged leaves and are widely grown by gardeners. They can spread easily through garden beds if grown in the right conditions. They can also be grown in trees, which is how they are found in nature.

Cryptanthus Plants in this genus are commonly known as earth stars because of their flat growth and wavy-edged leaves. They are quite popular with many bromeliad enthusiasts, with more than a thousand hybrids. One of the most widely grown is Cryptanthus bivittatus.

Dyckia Known for their hardiness, members of the Dyckia genus are more tolerant of harsh environments and drought than many other bromeliads. They tend to form clumps and can produce yellow or orange flower stalks that are up to 5 feet tall. The sharp spines on the leaf edges can be very decorative.

Guzmania Common as houseplants, Guzmania bromeliads typically have smooth, green leaves and showy flower spikes. Some species are hardy enough to be grown outdoors in frost-free areas.

Neoregelia These bromeliads are grown primarily for their showy foliage with bright colors and interesting patterns, and they are among the most widely hybridized types of bromeliads. Small flowers appear inconspicuously inside of the leaf cup when the plants bloom. These bromeliads are sometimes called "painted fingernail" for the pink markings on their leaves.

Tillandsia This genus has close to 400 species, and is the largest, most diverse and widely distributed genus in the bromeliad family. Most plants in this species are epiphytes, meaning they draw moisture from the air and often grow on other plants. Florida's native bromeliads like Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) fall under this genus. One popular species is T. cyanea, which produces pretty flower spikes and is often sold as a gift plant.

Vriesia Some of these bromeliads can get downright huge. Vriesea hieroglyphica can produce individual leaf rosettes that reach up to five feet across. It has shiny leaves with light and dark green banding. It can work well indoors or outdoors in light shade, and will even tolerate slight frosts if planted under overhanging foliage.

Want to Know More?

If you're captivated by bromeliads, check out "Bromeliads for the Contemporary Garden" by Andrew Steens and published by Timber Press. The book is brimming with detailed information about the many types of bromeliads and how to care for them.