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From the jungle to your front door: "air plants" in wreaths.

From the jungle to your front door: "air plants' in wreaths

Flowers of the sky: in their native habitats of Central and South America, many bromeliads and tillandsias grow in tree canopies or on rocks as epiphytes ("air plants') that derive their moisture and nourishment from the air. Because many kinds naturally flower this time of year, and some flowers come in shades of vivid red to scarlet, they make handsome accents for holiday wreaths.

Since roots of many bromeliads and most tillandsias serve the plant primarily as an anchor, soil isn't necessary; you simply glue or wire plants in place on a wreath base of straw, woven vines, foam, or welded wire covered with moss. Given proper care, most tillandsias and bromeliads can live indefinitely on a wreath.

Wreaths like those pictured here cost $10 to $25, including the plant, and require about a half-hour each to assemble.

Look for plants in well-stocked general nurseries or specialty nurseries. Choose plants whose size, color, and appearance suit the wreath you are making.

Assembling your wreath

Florist's supply shops offer a variety of wreath materials.

The wreath at the far left was built of two halves of welded wire frame. Unmilled green sphagnum peat moss was packed between the two halves. Florist's wire fastens the halves of the frame together and holds the plant in place. More complicated to assemble than the others pictured, this wreath has the advantage of much greater moisture-holding ability--important for bromeliads that need more moisture around their roots.

Wreaths of coiled vines or twigs are easy to make. Clean the areas where the plants' roots are to go by scraping with fine sandpaper. Use scissors to cut off any dead roots. Use hot glue from a glue gun to weld each plant in place; hold it about 30 seconds until the glue sets.

A festive addition to a vine or twig wreath, as in the picture at the bottom of the opposite page, is a string of miniature lights. Using the shortest coil available, work lights in from the back side toward the front, so most of the wire is concealed. Battery-powered lights are also available.

The foam wreath shown directly above, covered with gray Spanish moss, was first sprayed with a special adhesive that doesn't melt foam but does hold the moss in place. (Ask for the adhesive at florist's suppliers.) Using a pencil or screwdriver, make a hole in the foam for the main root of the plant or plants you add. Then use florist's wire for lateral support.

How to grow bromeliads and tillandsias

Most bromeliads and tillandsias can adapt to dry indoor air and typical neglect better than most house plants. Bright but indirect light is best: if you can grow a Ficus benjamina indoors, you have enough light for these plants. A gentle misting twice a week is usually enough water. On hot summer days, mist daily. Keep water in the bromeliad leaf cup.

Generally, the greener, softer-leaved bromeliads and tillandsias require less sun, more water, and cooler environments. The grayer, stiffer-leafed kinds need more light, less moisture, and more warmth.

Bromeliads and tillandsias are susceptible to cold. If you live where winter night temperatures routinely drop below freezing, plan to keep your living wreath indoors --or in a protected area outdoors.

You can encourage a bromeliad or tillandsia to flower by covering the plant with a plastic bag. Leave an apple in the bag with the plant for four days. Six to 14 weeks later, a flower will develop.

Photo: Pink quill tillandsia (T. cyanea) on grapevine wreath bears waxy plume above its grassy foliage. Pink plume lasts months past the holidays; fragrant royal blue flowers will emerge along its edge

Photo: Guzmania "Empire' blazes its Christmas colors from wire wreath packed with unmilled green sphagnum peat moss

Photo: Tubular scarlet blooms of Tillandsia tenuifolia add color to light-adorned vine wreath

Photo: Loop florist's wire around base of T. purpurea to fix it to foam-core wreath, after you glue on Spanish moss

Photo: Tuck roots between vines and glue them in place; the glue holds the plants securely but doesn't damage their roots
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1987
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