Aechmea fasciata: Urn plant

Family: Bromeliaceae
Common name: Urn plant, Vase plant, Silver vase

Urn plants are very beautiful, unique additions to your garden that can live for many years, through offsets from the parent plant. They only grow 50-90 cms in height with broad, leathery, glossy leaves radiating outwards from a central point.

These rosette-like leaves are usually green, while some variants have pink leaves, pink-tipped leaves, or variegated leaves in green and white. The leaves are mostly erect, the lower ones slanting downwards and newer ones curving upwards.

They can be grown in pots or on the ground, though they are capable of growing as epiphytes on branches of tall trees, and on rocky cliffs.

The central rosette of leaves form a closed, water-tight cup or urn-shaped pattern that can hold rainwater inside for the plant to use. Even when growing it at home, one has to ensure that the central part is kept moist. Urn plants do not have elaborate roots to absorb water, and mostly rely on the water stored inside the urn.

This water also helps small insects, algae, and other organisms that survive in this moist environment. Urn plants do not like bright sunlight and can show browning of leaf tips in extreme sun.

They need partial shade and well-drained soil for the plant to grow and thrive. Urn plant is a Bromeliad characterized by its large showy flowers.

Flowers are produced only after 3-5 years of existence; bold, exotic, super-sized bracts that look like flowers, and produce small blue or purple flowers inside them, which later turn red. The actual flowers are short-lived, but the bracts can remain for 4-5 months and is the key attraction of Urn plants.

But they are monocarpic, flowering only once in their lifetime and dying after that. The parent plant will die after flowering, but it usually produces 2 or 3 offsets of ‘pups’, small plants which can be replanted once they are big enough.

Since it takes a long time for an Urn plant to flower, they are quite expensive whether you buy a plant in bloom, or without blooms. Make sure you keep them in moist, well-drained soil and partial sunlight. Misting the leaves is also a good idea to maintain humidity.

Some studies suggest that the plant has some skin-irritating substances that can cause allergies or dermatitis.

Propagation is through offsets or pups that grow from the parent plant.