Common Names: Brazilian vaseplant, vase plant
Family: Bromeliaceae (bromeliad or pineapple Family)
Perennial Tolerant of Shade and Low Light Conditions Can be Grown in
Containers Grows Well Indoors. Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or
Interesting Foliage Flowers
Aechmea distichantha is a funnel-shaped bromeliad with an erect
rosette of arching strap-shaped leaves an inch wide and up to 3 ft
(0.9 m) long. The leaves are dull green with pointed tips and small
brown spines along the margins. The inflorescence is a
pyramid-shaped cluster of spreading spikes, each with several blue,
white or purple flowers about an inch long and subtended by showy
pink bracts. The stem of the inflorescence is white-wooly and holds
the flower cluster several inches above the center of the rosette.
Bromeliads flower only once, and then they die, but the
inflorescence may last for several weeks. Aechmea distichantha
produces a white-wooly cylindrical berry-like fleshy fruit that
persists for a few more weeks. Like most bromeliads, Aechmea
distichantha produces offsets that replace the parent plant
vegetatively. Var. schlumbergeria, with particularly dense flower
clusters, is commonly cultivated.
Aechmea distichantha is native to southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay
and northern Argentina.
Aechmea distichantha is easy to cultivate either epiphytically or in
an orchid and bromeliad potting mix. The potting medium must be
neutral or slightly acidic - bromeliads do not tolerate limey
conditions. Add additional grit or vermiculite to commercial orchid
potting mix - bromeliads do not tolerate moisture-retentive soils.
To grow epiphytically, wrap the the plant's roots in sphagnum moss
and secure to a piece of driftwood, tree bark or cork with wire or
nylon string. Try to put the roots in a depression to create a
little "soil pocket" on the support. In a few weeks the roots should
take hold and you can remove the string. Bear in mind that bromeliad
roots are mainly for attachment - bromeliads get most of their water
from the rain, and their nutrients from dust and decaying insects
that accumulate in the vase-like rosettes of their leaves.
Light: Like most bromeliads, Aechmea distichantha needs fairly
bright light, but never direct sun. In humid tropical and
subtropical climes, grow outdoors in filtered sun. Indoors, provide
bright, but indirect light. Aechmea distichantha can tolerate light
intensities as low as 250 foot-candles.
Moisture: Water regularly during the warmer months by pouring rain
water or water with low-nitrogen houseplant fertilizer directly into
the center of the rosette. You should also mist the roots and
sphagnum once or twice a week. Don't use water high in calcium ions
(most well water, for example), or water with chlorine. Aechmea
distichantha appreciates a humid environment. Keep dry in winter.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. Aechmea distichantha can be grown
outdoors in zones 9-11, and is usually grown as a house plant
Propagation: Little "pups" or offsets are produced, but these should
not be severed until the mother plant begins to die several weeks
after blooming. Aechmea distichantha is easy to propagate from seed,
so long as it is fresh. Remove the outer jelly-like covering from
the seed and sow on top of the orchid/bromeliad potting mix. Seed
should germinate in 2-3 weeks at 75 F (23.8 C).
The vase plant's inflorescence puts on a spectacular show that lasts
for weeks - this is var. schlumbergeria.
The attractive foliage, long lasting flowers and ease of culture of
Aechmea distichantha make this an attractive and desirable
houseplant. Make a bromeliad "tree" by attaching several different
bromeliads to niches and pockets along an interesting piece of
driftwood. Display it indoors in winter, but hang it out under a
tree in summer. In zones 9-11, attach bromeliads to trees in the
There are about 2000 species in 45 genera of bromeliads, all native
to tropical and subtropical America except for a single species in
Africa. Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) and pineapple (Ananas
comosus) are familiar bromeliads. The genus Aechmea is a very
diverse group of nearly 200 species, including many hybrids and
ornamental cultivars. Most are epiphytic but some are terrestrial,
and some can go either way. Aechmeas come in a range of forms and
sizes from 6 in (15 cm) tall to 5 ft (1.5 m) tall and 10 ft (3 m)
There are many organizations for bromeliad fanciers and
collectors. Check out the Bromeliad Society International for a
gateway into this fascinating group of plants and the people who