Urn Plant Care: How To Grow Urn Plant Houseplants
Updated: 21 Jun, 2023
Originating from tropical South America, this exceptional floral houseplant not only boasts captivating beauty but also remarkable resilience. With its diverse foliage displaying shades that span from delicate gray to deep red, the plant possesses a coarse texture, its edges adorned with sharp spines.
Referred to as the “urn plant,” this species derives its name from the inherent ability of its overlapping, curving leaves to naturally take the shape of a watertight urn. This distinctive formation serves a crucial purpose in the plant’s native rainforest habitat. During periods of rain, the urn adeptly accumulates rainwater or heavy dew. Additionally, as nature takes its course, this receptacle gathers insects, twigs, and other debris. The amalgamation of these elements enables the plant to sustain itself for extended periods during droughts.
Despite its exotic origins, this houseplant exemplifies resilience and adaptability, making it a prized addition to any botanical collection. Its unique features, combined with its ability to endure harsh conditions, have made it one of the hardiest plants known. With its striking appearance and resourceful survival mechanisms, this floral treasure exemplifies the extraordinary wonders found within the realms of tropical flora.
What is an urn plant, and where is it native to?
The urn plant, scientifically known as Aechmea fasciata, is a remarkable species that belongs to the Bromeliaceae family. Native to the tropical regions of South America, particularly Brazil and Uruguay, this captivating plant has garnered widespread admiration for its unique characteristics and stunning appearance.
The urn plant derives its name from the distinctive shape formed by its leaves. When grown in its natural habitat, the overlapping, recurving leaves create a natural urn or vase-like structure. This formation serves a vital purpose in the plant’s survival strategy. During periods of rain or heavy dew, the leaves effectively collect and store water within the urn, creating a self-sustaining reservoir. In addition to water, the urn often accumulates insects, twigs, and other organic matter, forming a mini-ecosystem that can support the plant during extended dry spells.
The native rainforest environments of the urn plant provide the ideal conditions for its growth and development. These regions offer the necessary warmth, humidity, and filtered light that allow the plant to flourish. Specifically, the plant is found in the Atlantic Forest biome, a lush and diverse ecosystem characterized by high rainfall and abundant biodiversity.
Varieties of Aechmea Plants
Aechmea Blumenavii: Graceful Green Leaves and Vibrant Yellow Blooms
Aechmea blumenavii is a captivating variety known for its elegant appearance. The plant showcases 10-15 rigid, strap-like leaves that are slightly arched and green in color. These leaves, measuring about 1-1/2 inches (36 millimeters) in width, exhibit scaly-white overtones with dark violet tips, creating a visually striking contrast. The leaves come together to form a long tube-like structure. During the middle and end of the summer, long, stiff stems emerge, adorned with loose clusters of vibrant yellow blooms. This combination of green foliage and striking yellow flowers adds a touch of beauty to any setting.
Aechmea Rhodocyanea: Grayish-Green Foliage and Pink-Blue Blooms
Aechmea rhodocyanea, also known as A. fasciata, is one of the most prevalent types within the Aechmea genus. It features grayish-green foliage and a fist-sized bract that exhibits a clear pink hue, adorned with small blue blooms. The bract remains vibrant for an impressive six-month period. After flowering, the main rosette, from which the bract formed, gradually dies off, while tiny plants start to grow at the base of the main stem. This reproductive process ensures the continuation of the species and provides a fascinating cycle of growth and renewal.
Aechmea Fulgens Discolor: Compact Size and Beautiful Purple Flowers
Aechmea fulgens discolor is a smaller variety within the Aechmea family. It showcases a more open rosette structure and leaves that display a striking contrast in color. The undersides of the leaves are red, while the tops are green. Along the stem, clusters of purple flowers are scattered, adding a vibrant touch to the plant’s overall appearance. This compact and visually appealing variety is a wonderful addition to any collection.
Amazonian Zebra Plant – Aechmea Chantinii: Striking Silver-Grey Cross-Banded Leaves and Crimson Blooms
Aechmea chantinii, commonly known as the Amazonian Zebra Plant, boasts a rosette of green leaves with distinct silver-gray cross-bands on both sides. The leaves, measuring 12-15 inches (30-38cm) in length and 2-2-1/2 inches (5-6cm) in width, have sharp, spine-edged and pointed tips. During the latter part of summer and early fall, this remarkable plant produces orange to brilliant crimson flowers, adding a burst of color to its unique foliage. The Amazonian Zebra Plant’s striking appearance and vibrant blooms make it a prized species among plant enthusiasts.
Care Tips: Moisture and Fertilization
To ensure the optimal growth and health of Aechmea plants, certain care guidelines should be followed. During winter, it is important to maintain moist compost and keep the urn full of water. In contrast, during the summer, watering should be more abundant, and the urn should be consistently filled with water. From late spring to late summer, it is recommended to feed the compost and the urn with light liquid fertilizer every four weeks. These practices will help provide the necessary nutrients and moisture for the plants to thrive.
After a plant blooms, it slowly withers and is replaced in growth by offsets sprouting nearby. At the compost level, cut the main plant off.
To propagate plants successfully, it is important to understand the process of propagation. After a plant blooms and starts to wither, new offsets emerge near the base of the plant. These offsets, also known as pups, are the key to propagating the plant. To begin the propagation process, cut the main plant off at the compost level, ensuring a clean cut.
Cut an offset close to its base with a sharp knife once it is between one-third and one-half the size of a parent plant in full growth.
Identify a healthy offset that is approximately one-third to one-half the size of the parent plant. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the offset close to its base. It is important to make a clean and precise cut to avoid damaging the offset or introducing potential infections.
After letting the cut surface dry for one or two days, plant it in a fresh pot with compost that has been well-drained. If necessary, use a thin stake as support. Place in a 64–70 °F temperature location.
Allow the cut surface of the offset to dry for a period of one to two days. This drying period helps to prevent rotting and promotes the formation of callus tissue, which aids in the root development process. Once dried, plant the offset in a fresh pot filled with well-drained compost. If the offset requires support, gently insert a thin stake into the pot. Find a suitable location for the pot where the temperature ranges between 64–70 °F (18–21 °C) to provide optimal conditions for growth.
Aechmea fasciata: Up to 20 inches long and 2-1/2 inches wide silvery-white cross-banded grayish-green leaves create an urn. A stem protrudes from the urn in the late summer and early autumn, producing a flower head up to 6 inches (15 cm) long. Finally, the once-pale blue flowers blossom they become a rose color.
The Silvery Vase plant, scientifically known as Aechmea fasciata, showcases magnificent features. Its elongated leaves measure up to 20 inches in length and 2-1/2 inches in width, exhibiting a striking silver-white color with cross-banded patterns of grayish-green. These leaves form an urn-like structure. During late summer and early autumn, a stem emerges from the urn, bearing a beautiful flower head that can grow up to 6 inches (15 cm) in length. The once-pale blue flowers gradually transform into a captivating rose color, adding to the plant’s allure.
Aechmea fulgens: A large rosette is made up of broad, strap-like, delicately spine-edged, olive-green leaves with waxy undersides: the leaves age and turn gray.
The Coral Berry plant, scientifically referred to as Aechmea fulgens, is admired for its impressive foliage. It forms a large rosette composed of broad, strap-like leaves that feature delicate spines along their edges. These leaves exhibit a vibrant olive-green color and possess waxy undersides. Over time, as the plant matures, the leaves undergo a transformation, gradually turning gray. This aging process adds a touch of elegance to the overall appearance of the Coral Berry plant.
Lighting & Location: Providing Optimal Conditions for the Urn Plant
The urn plant, a type of bromeliad, thrives in bright, intense light with some sun and prefers to avoid gloomy areas. To maintain the vibrant and beautiful color of its leaves, it is essential to provide the plant with sufficient light. However, it is important to note that direct exposure to intense sunlight for prolonged periods may cause leaf burn. Additionally, it is advisable to keep the urn plant away from heaters or drafts, as it is sensitive to extreme temperature changes.
Temperature: Creating a Moderate and Warm Environment
The urn plant is relatively tolerant of temperature variations but prefers a moderate to warm range of 59-70°F (15-21°C). While it can withstand slight fluctuations beyond this range, it is advisable to avoid subjecting the plant to extreme heat or cold conditions. Maintaining a stable and comfortable temperature within the preferred range will ensure optimal growth and overall well-being of the urn plant.
Watering: Finding the Right Balance
Proper watering is crucial for the urn plant’s health. Approximately every three weeks, replace the water in the central rosette, ensuring it has around 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water. When it comes to watering the soil, it is important to keep it moist but not overly saturated. While specific humidity requirements are not necessary, the urn plant tends to thrive in a more humid environment rather than a dry one. Regular but moderate watering will help create the ideal moisture balance for the plant.
Feeding: Optional but Beneficial
Although the urn plant does not require regular feeding, it can benefit from an occasional addition of liquid feed to the water. Using a funnel or urn, you can introduce liquid fertilizer into the plant’s water reservoir. However, if the plant shows signs of distress or any issues arise, it is best to refrain from excessive feeding. Instead, closely monitor the plant for pests and check the temperature, ensuring it remains within the preferred range.
Seasonal Care: Simple and Routine Maintenance
The urn plant is relatively low-maintenance, requiring routine care without excessive attention. As the plant grows, it is advisable to remove the old flower bract, which will help redirect the plant’s energy towards new growth. Eventually, the parent rosette can be discarded. Before flowering, new rosettes may be replanted in smaller pots to allow for their growth and development. With these straightforward care practices, the urn plant generally thrives without posing significant difficulties.
Soil: Promoting Proper Drainage
When it comes to soil, it is crucial to provide the urn plant with an open mixture that allows for unrestricted drainage. A recommended combination includes peat and peat-based potting soil mixed with a small amount of new sphagnum moss. This well-draining soil mix ensures that excess water does not accumulate around the roots, reducing the risk of root rot. Repotting is typically necessary only once every two years to provide ample space for the plant’s growth.
Urn Plant Care
The urn plant thrives in average room temperatures ranging from 65°F (18.3°C) to 75°F (24°C). To encourage blooming, it is beneficial to maintain temperatures around 75°F (24°C). Avoid exposing the plant to extreme temperature fluctuations, as it prefers a stable and moderate environment.
The urn plant prefers bright light but should be protected from direct sunlight. Find a well-lit location in your home that offers indirect light. This will provide the plant with the necessary light energy for photosynthesis while avoiding any potential leaf damage from intense sunlight.
The urn or vase of the plant should be filled with water and should be replaced every 2-3 weeks. This reservoir serves as a source of hydration for the plant. When it comes to watering the soil, do so only when the top layer of soil becomes dry to the touch. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot. Strike a balance by watering the soil moderately, ensuring it is moist but not overly saturated.
For the urn plant, a peat-based potting mix mixed with bark and perlite provides good drainage. Alternatively, you can choose any well-draining potting mix that allows excess water to flow freely. Proper drainage is crucial to prevent waterlogged soil, which can be detrimental to the plant’s health.
When the urn plant is young and actively growing, it can be re-potted into a slightly larger container to accommodate its new growth. However, once the plant reaches maturity, you will only need to replace the soil every two years without necessarily re-potting the plant itself. This practice helps refresh the nutrients available to the plant without disturbing its established root system.
From May to September, you can feed the urn plant monthly with a diluted liquid fertilizer. Add the fertilizer to the plant’s vase according to the instructions on the product label. Alternatively, you can use a foliar feed, which is applied to the leaves using a misting bottle. Be cautious not to overfeed the plant by using both methods simultaneously.
The urn plant can generally tolerate average humidity levels found indoors. While it does not have specific humidity requirements, maintaining a reasonably humid environment can be beneficial to its overall health. If the air in your home tends to be dry, consider using a humidifier or placing the plant near a tray filled with water to increase humidity in its vicinity.
The urn plant produces offsets, also known as pups, which can be separated from the parent plant once they reach a length of at least 5 inches. It is best to remove the pups when the parent plant’s foliage is dying down, as this ensures that the pups receive the nutrients previously supplied by the main plant. Repot the pups in small containers with moist potting soil, providing them with the necessary conditions to develop into independent plants.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an urn plant?
Urn plants are bromeliads with unique rosette-shaped foliage and stunning flower bracts that emerge from the center of the plant. They are known for their long-lasting colorful blooms and attractive architectural appearance.
How much light do urn plants need?
Urn plants thrive in bright, indirect light. Place them near a window with filtered sunlight, but avoid exposing them to direct sunlight, as it can scorch their leaves. Finding a balance between light and shade will help keep your urn plant healthy and vibrant.
How often should I water my urn plant?
Watering requirements for urn plants can vary depending on the temperature, humidity, and season. As a general guideline, keep the central cup (urn) filled with water at all times and replace it every 2-3 weeks. Additionally, water the soil when the top inch feels dry, ensuring it is evenly moist but not soggy.
What type of soil is best for urn plants?
Urn plants prefer well-draining soil. A mixture of peat moss, orchid bark, and perlite or sand works well. This blend allows excess water to flow freely, preventing root rot. Avoid using heavy, compacted soils that retain too much moisture.
How often should I fertilize my urn plant?
Urn plants benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season, typically from spring to early fall. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half strength and apply it every 4-6 weeks. Be sure to follow the package instructions for proper dosage.
Do urn plants require high humidity?
While urn plants appreciate higher humidity levels, they can adapt to average indoor humidity. You can increase humidity around your plant by placing a tray filled with water near it or using a room humidifier. Misting the leaves occasionally can also help provide a humid microclimate.
Can I propagate my urn plant?
Yes, urn plants can be propagated through offsets or pups. Wait until the pups are at least one-third the size of the parent plant before removing them. Carefully separate the pups from the parent plant using a clean, sharp knife or scissors. Plant them in a well-draining potting mix and provide them with the same care as mature urn plants.
How long do urn plants bloom?
The vibrant flower bracts of urn plants can last for several weeks to a few months, depending on the species and growing conditions. Once the flowers fade, you can trim off the spent bract to maintain the plant’s appearance.
Caring for urn plants can be a rewarding experience, as these unique houseplants add a touch of tropical elegance to any indoor space. By following the guidelines outlined in this care guide, you can create a favorable environment for your urn plants to flourish. From providing optimal lighting and temperature conditions to implementing proper watering and fertilization practices, each step plays a crucial role in the overall health and vitality of your urn plants.
Remember to keep an eye out for any signs of distress or pest infestations, and promptly address them to maintain the well-being of your plants. With patience, attention, and a little bit of green thumb, you can enjoy the beauty and grace of urn plant houseplants for years to come. Happy gardening!