Bromeliad 'Painted Fingernails' Neoregelia spectabilis

Useful for : Frog and Insect habitat, deep shade ornamental. Non-edible. Native to Brazil.
     Although not a lot of information can be found on this low growing, shade loving plant, it is still worth mentioning here because it is extremely easy to grow in the right spot. It needs no care or watering beyond planting in a very shady site, as the natural rainfall in Florida is more than enough for this plant. It can be grown epiphytically, or in the trees, by either suspending or attached to a crook in the branches. If grown in the soil it should never need fertilizing, which I am not a big fan of anyway.

A small parent (right) with pup (left) showing signs of moisture stress. Notice the curling inward of the leaves.

     This plant would make a good choice for a shady pond border, as it will benefit from the increased humidity and provide animal habits. A bromeliad suffering from lack of water will curl its leaves, so be wary when purchasing. Neoregelias become deep green with the pink leaf tips very pronounced in the shade, a yellower tinge probably indicates too much sun. Never buy a sunburned plant, as they rarely (never in my experience) recover or produce pups.
     Bromeliads reproduce vegetatively by producing pups from the larger rootstem a healthy adult will develop. When the pup is about two thirds the height of the parent is a general rule of thumb for division, it helps to break some of the root as well if at all possible. I have had some mild success with root cutting propagation, but the adult plant has to have an exceptionally large and well-developed root to regrow those leaves. It is said they can be grown from seed and seedling reproduction is used by breeders to develop new varieties.
     Conventional bromeliad care would say to plant them in any medium you would grow an orchid in. University of Missouri says bromeliads enjoy any medium that cacti thrive in, which is true in my experience. They do not seem to like potting soil from a bag loaded with peat moss, as the peat holds moisture for too long if that can be believed. Like my parrots, they prefer short misty showers instead of heavy rains which leave the dirt muddy. I grow all my bromeliads in plain garden sand and mulch. No fertilizers, no sterilizing of the soil. Infections and insects really aren't a problem for bromeliads. In containers, I will put some old leaves from outside in the bottom of the pot to cover the drainage hole, then sand, then coffee grounds or used tea minus the bags and filters if I have it, then about 4 inches from the rim nothing but the plants and mulch.
Three of five adult Ladyfingers available for trade

     I have owned many different varieties of bromeliads, and it has been my experience that the thicker-leaved Neoregelias can handle more drought and colder temperatures. As beautiful as the other varieties are, I would only plant a thicker-leaved Neoregelia variety in the yard. Since I am cleaning up my yard to eliminate plants that have no forage value for those that do, I have several bromeliads to trade.
     Also it should be noted that the reason broms are so expensive is because they are very slow growing. One plant may produce one pup a year, if you are lucky, then it will probably take another year for that pup to be large enough to transplant.
     The ASPCA website reports that fingernail plant is nontoxic to dogs and cats. In my experience large dogs may enjoy a cool drink from the water found in the cups. No information can be found about whether animals like rabbits forage on bromeliads.

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