Guzmania houseplants are commonly known as Bromeliads or Bromeliaceae. They have been cultivated since ancient times. There are many varieties of these plants, but they all belong to the genus Phalaenopsis (Phalaenopsis means “broom flower”). These plants have three main parts: leaves, flowers and fruit.
The plant itself is not poisonous; it contains no alkaloids. However, the leaves contain oxalates which cause gouty arthritis when eaten in large quantities. The fruits contain cyanide and can kill if ingested in large amounts. Most people don’t eat them because they’re toxic to humans, but some eat them anyway just to get their hands on the seeds and pods.
Seeds and pods are used as food for birds, lizards, frogs etc.
In the wild, the plant grows only in tropical areas. Its native range includes India, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The species is found mainly in moist forests and savannas. Some species grow up to 10 feet tall with a wide spread of colors from pale yellowish green to deep reds and oranges.
Bromeliads are very drought tolerant plants, though they do require regular watering during hot dry periods. They can be grown in a wide variety of potting media. A coarse mix works best as the plant’s roots have a tendency to become entangled if the mixture is too fine. The plant needs good drainage, so a coarse mix will work best here as well.
Guzmanias like humid air and bright light, but no direct sun which can burn the leaves. They do not require fertilizer, but should be given an occasional dose of plant food at one-quarter the recommended strength.
The flowers of the Guzmania are spectacular. They come in a wide range of colors. The most common are red and yellow and are the easiest to identify. Many others are green or brown and can only be identified by their leaves.
Guzmanias begin blooming when they are about four years old. They bloom for several months each year.
Guzmania lingulata (syn.Melicophyllum tussilaginoides) is a common species of bromeliad that is native to northern South America. Common names include Spanish flag, honeycomb, and tongue plant. The plant is found in wet forests and along riverbanks in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and northwestern Brazil.
The Spanish flag is an offsetting species that will send out pups around its base. It is a small sized plant that normally will reach a mature size of about 10 inches tall. The leaves are a glossy green with purple markings and will take on a pinkish hue in good light. The flowers are red with yellow petals and are supported by a yellow banner.
Guzmania lingulata grows best mounted on tree fern slabs or cork rounds. It can also be potted in a coarse medium. It prefers high light, such as found in a greenhouse or on a windowsill, and should be watered with care so as not to allow the pot to stand in water. This species is widely available and fairly inexpensive.
Guzmania testudinaria is an epiphytic bromeliad native to southern Mexico through Central America to northern South America. Common names include turtle tongue, serpent’s tongue, and elephant ear. Like many bromeliads, it has a swollen underground root stock which may be why some people think of it as a sort of “epiphytic” elephant ear.
The plant is used extensively in the floral industry. It is grown commercially in open fields in Hawaii and is shipped from there around the world. Guzmania testudinaria was brought into cultivation in 1828.
Though popular and easy to grow, this species is less tolerant of dry air than other common bromeliads. Guzmania testudinaria requires regular watering and should never be allowed to sit in water. It does best mounted on tree fern slabs or cork rounds in a well-drained medium. This medium should be mixed with sand or fine bark for good aeration.
Sources & references used in this article:
Guzmania plant named ‘GUZ 230’ by JC Kent – US Patent App. 09/950,890, 2002 – Google Patents
Guzmania plant named ‘GUZ 224’ by JC Kent – US Patent App. 09/247,341, 2001 – Google Patents
Guzmania plant named ‘GUZ 201’ by JC Kent – US Patent App. 09/247,342, 2001 – Google Patents
Guzmania plant named ‘GUZ 222’ by B Pleasant – 2005 – Storey Publishing
Bromeliad plant namedGUZ 216 by JC Kent – US Patent App. 09/248,491, 2001 – Google Patents
Bromeliad plant named ‘GUZ 227’ by JC Kent – US Patent App. 09/115,194, 2000 – Google Patents