What to Plant in March

Today is the first day of autumn and this is the first Planting Guide of the season.

The following is a list of vegetables and herbs that  you can plant in March in Sydney, a temperate zone. Just click on the name for the growing guide for each vegetable:

Plant of the Month – Matchstick Bromiliad-(Aechmea gamosepala-‘Lucky Stripe’)

IMG_20210212_125031-Matchstick bromiliad2

The variegated matchstick bromeliad, Aechmea gamosepala ‘Lucky Stipe’ is an attractive herbaceous perennial with a clumping habit suitable for borders and pots.

All the images on this post can be enlarged to see the detail by clicking on the image.

It is an easy care plant, native to Argentina and Brazil, which needs little attention once placed in a suitable location.

The matchstick bromeliad has lovely striped slender leaves that are a rich green with yellow and white margins. Like other bromeliads, the leaves form a rosette and an urn at the base where water collects.

It is an epiphytic it can be grown in the fork of a tree so is used to humidity and great drainage.

Aechmea gamosepala prefers a location with in the shade to partial shade. They survive short morning sun facing east but do better in the dappled light under trees.  If in full sun the leaves will get burnt so some protection is best for locations with extreme heat.  My plant is growing in a pot under wide eaves, receives morning sun and then part shade to total shade in the afternoon. It has thrived even with Sydney’s hot climate. Keeping it moist is the key. This years rainy summer has provided the humidity it might have in its native forests and two of the plants have flowered in the space of few months.

Choose a light, well drained soil and do not allow it to dry out, flushing the urn at the centre of the plant to keep it fresh.

Keep moist. Water more sparingly over winter and only when the top layer of the soil is dry. Never leave water in a saucer below if potted.

The matchstick bromeliad plant flowers only once, it is monocarpic, but at that time it produces side pups that will in turn flower one day.  The mother plant eventually dies but if the pups  are left attached they will grow faster using the parent’s energy.

It usually flowers from spring to summer in optimal conditions.

At flowering the inflourecence emerges and rises up to 30cm with the top third having the bracts on which the flowers form.

IMG_20190728_113927-matchstick bromiliad flower emerging
The inflourescence with imature bracts just emerging from the centre of the plant.

The bracts around the inflourence change from pale pink to bright pink with three petalled light blue flowers that turn to brilliant blue before opening.

IMG_20210205_132458-Matchstick bromiliad spike just opened
The inflourescence spike has just emerged and the colour of the bracts are a light pink and the flowers are light blue

Before the flowers open the bracts look like matchsticks hence the name matchstick bromeliad.  

After flowering finishes the plant produces small berries.

In the next image you can see the bracts with the three petalled flower at the terminal that are just opening. The arrangement of bracts around the spike gives the plant the best opportunity for its flowers to be pollinated. Click on link for greater detail.IMG_20210212_125031-matchstick flower open

The pups are formed on stolens (runners) and after flowering occurs, the Matchstick bromeliad will form attractive spreading clumps that form excellent ground cover. The original plant will stop producing leaves and feed the growing side pups, lasting another two years. In this way, once established, new plants will continue forming as the original plant dies.

The image below shows the plant after rain and in the morning sun. It faces east and later in the day is in the shade. This is good because Sydney summers have many days of extreme heat.

IMG_20210210_103427-Matchstick bromiliad in morning sun

Propogate the Matchstick bromeliad by division or by removing the pups with a sharp knife when they are about 1/2 the size of the mother plant. Plant the pups at a new location or grow them in pots.  For more information read the information at the following link:

http://www.bromeliads.info/beginners-guide-bromeliad-pups/

After the petals have gone the bracts hold their colour for a while and the image below shows what it will look like.

IMG_20200813_113703-matchstick bromiliad after flowering

Late after flowering the plant has lost its colour and the bracts have turned green. IMG_20210228_154022-matchstick plant after flowering

My love affair with this stunning plant began with one plant in a pot given to me by a friend and it has flowered and the pups have grown up and flowered as well. It is always a lovely surprise to see the spike appear and watch the bracts and flowers change colour from mild to stunning pink and flourescent blue. Even when not in flower its lovely varigated leaves make it an attractive addition to my garden.

 

 

 

 

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