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Mounting Bromeliads

Reprinted from the Bromeliad Society International website www.bsi.org

Mounting plays such an important role in the displaying of our beautiful bromeliads. After all, there are very few plant families that have plants that will grow as epiphytes so we need to take advantage of this capability in our displays. We really need to have more quality mountings entered in our shows so the public can see the full capabilities of bromeliads.

This ability to grow on wood is one of the qualities that attracted me to bromeliads so I am sure that many others have had the same experience. So let's create some exciting conversation pieces ourselves and maybe we can attract some more of our friends to grow bromeliads. Growing, working and sharing plants with friends becomes the most enjoyable experience we have in our hobby.

The first steps are to find some good mounts and some good plants that are ready to be mounted. I will select my mount first because those resources are usually more limited. Once you get started mounting you will always be on the look out for good mounting material. Mount material should be rot resistant, salt free and contain no wood preservative. Some good woods to use are cedar, juniper, oak, mesquite and rosewood. Tree fern slabs and cork bark also make good mounts. Some of the most beautiful mounts that I have found are stumps from juniper or cedar trees. You can also purchase some interesting designs made from tree fern and grape vines at some of the nurseries and pot places.

Once you have selected your mount, take a little time deciding which plants you are going to use. Pick something that will improve in appearance as it is allowed to grow and multiply on your mount. Most tillandsias and billbergias form attractive clumps. Other genera such as neoregelias, aechmeas, canistrums and vrieseas that have stolons will make nice displays. The mount for your selected plant should provide balance between it and the plant(s) and space for the plant to form its natural shape. I prefer to mount pups so I must visualize how they will look when they have matured and multiplied.

The reason I prefer to mount pups is because, when mounted, they will form a small number of hard strong roots that just serve as holders and do not provide nutrients to the plant. When grown in soil they form large, soft root systems which provide additional nutrients to the plant. If you choose to mount a plant that has already formed the soft root system, the mount should be able to accommodate the plant's root ball. This root ball should be covered with sphagnum moss and will need to be watered regularly to continue the nutrient flow to the plant.

Once I have selected my mount and plant I must decide the best way to achieve a good firm fit. This is important because roots will not attach to the mount if the plant is loose. Larger plants are easier to mount if they have stolons. I attach these plants by nailing two staples around their stolons into the mount. Several sizes of staples are available to accommodate the different sizes of stolons. I use juniper or cedar mostly which is so hard that I have to drill holes for the staples to penetrate deep enough to hold the plant tight. I will use some pantyhose strips on larger plants for extra support. When using tree fern slabs or cork bark it is best to put holes in the mount and tie the plant on using plastic coated wire.

Most of your smaller tillandsias can be attached by only using hot glue, liquid nails or plumber's goop. You can also use these to secure any existing roots on all your mounts. When using the hot glue be careful not to damage the plant. Apply the glue to the mount and allow to cool a few seconds before pressing the plants roots against it. Do not glue the tender part of the plant above its roots. Now that you have the basics, all that is left is to practise. Each mounting you do will be better than the one before; each artistic masterpiece will please you more than previous one.

Choosing the right bromeliads for mounting does not just mean tillandsias. Aechmeas and the stoloniferous types are most suitable because they are truly epiphytic plants and in a very short time spread their new pups over the logs etc. Think about Ae, fulgens and the lovely miniata v. discolor, Royal Wine, Red Wine, Red Ribbon, Fosters Favourite, orlandiana and the many variegated forms of this. Ae. Bert also makes an excellent subject as do the small neoregelias i.e. Fireball of which there are many lovely hybrids we can use. I have seen Neoregelia Meyendorffii - the small neo of the carolinae range - used effectively too. And remember, we do have competitions throughout the year for mounted bromeliads. ED.

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