Native to eastern Brazil, there are about 90 species of neoregelia. Beyond that, there are hundreds of hybrids, with an amazing variety of size, form, and color. Neoregelias range from the very large, almost statuesque bromeliads, to the squat and colorful landscape plants seen throughout the tropics. Indoors, the most common neoregelia species don't have the towering flower bracts of other bromeliads—their flowers stay closer to the central cup and the newer leaves flush different colors.
Nevertheless, these are beautiful plants in their own right.
- Light: Indirect light or moderate shade. They can be acclimated to higher light levels.
- Water: Keep water in the central cup. Change water frequently with clean water to prevent odor and bacteria.
- Temperature: Somewhat more cold hardy, but prefer 55ºF or higher. They can survive to 40ºF.
- Soil: Any soil mix. These are technically air plants that use their roots for support.
- Fertilizer: Fertilizer very sparingly with a liquid fertilizer in the central cup during growing season.
Neoregelia, like all bromeliads, spread by producing offsets or plantlets around the base of mature plants. After the mature plant has flowered, the mother plant will gradually die back as the pups take over. These can be potted into their own pots.
Mature bromeliads should not be repotted. Smaller bromeliads can be potted into small containers until they are established, then moved into 4" or 6" pots until they flower.
Neoregelia are somewhat lower, broader plants than some of the other bromeliads (like guzmania and aechmea) so are less likely to topple over in their new pots.
By far the most common neoregelia seen in garden centers is the N. carolinae, which grows in larger rosettes of strappy, narrow leaves, often with beautiful variegation.
As the plant flowers, the center of the cup blushes red and small flowers emerge. Mature plants are usually under one foot in height and will spread up to 20 inches. Many other neoregelia species are available, but these are considerably rarer.
Neoregelia are not difficult bromeliads to grow, but they are somewhat more dependent on strong light to develop deep, vivid colors in their leaves. They can even withstand some gentle direct sunlight, such as eastern morning exposure. As with other bromeliads, avoid tap water in the central cup if possible and don't overfeed. Provide ample humidity during the summer growing season by misting.