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Aechmea is a flowering bromeliad plant in the Bromelioideae family. The leaves have a thick, waxy texture and grow in a spiral shape from the center of the plant. When the plant reaches maturity, a flower stalk and flower emerges from the center of the leaves. Aechmea is native to Brazil. Common names for aechmea fasciata are silver vase plant and urn plant.
Aechmea is a tropical epiphytic plant that thrives in high-heat and high-humidity environments. The leaves form a cup-shaped trough in the center, where water collects. In tropical rainforests, aechmea plants grow high in the forest canopies, attached to the trunks of trees. The roots attach to the bark and absorb nutrients and moisture from the air. The cup-shaped center collects water, creating a mini ecosystem in which insects and larvae attract larger predators.
The leaves are sword shaped with sharp barbs along the edges. Each leaf grows from the center in a rosette-shaped pattern. The individual leaves are from 18 inches to 24 inches (about 45 cm to 60 cm). The leaf color ranges from a deep blue-green color to a light silver-gray. Some varieties have leaves with white markings.
Each plant produces a single flower from the center of the plant. The flowers are pink, orange or salmon in color and bloom in the spring and summer. Indoor plants often live in semi-stressed conditions for many years before producing a flower.
In sub-tropical and temperate climates, aechmea can be grown as a potted plant. During the summer, when the weather is above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (about 12 C), it will grow well outside in a sunny or partly shady spot. In the winter, the pot should be brought inside and placed in a sunny window or on a covered, heated porch.
The roots of bromeliads, including aechmea, are prone to rot if the soil environment is heavy or perpetually wet. A growing medium composed of equal parts peat moss and potting soil creates a well-draining environment. Mixtures of sand, coconut husks, perlite and vermiculite are also suitable growing mediums.
Aechmea plants produce "pups" from the base of the stem under the lowest layer of foliage. The pups are miniature clones of the parent plant. The pups should be removed when they are a few inches tall. They are only loosely attached to the stem of the parent plant and can be gently worked free and replanted in a new pot.
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