Aechmea - Urn Plants

Aechmea - Vase Plant

A potted History:

Aechmea, with its striking appearance and unique features, has a rich history that traces back to its South American roots. The genus was first classified by Hipólito Ruiz López & José Antonio Pavón in 1798, drawing its name from the Greek word 'aichmê,' which signifies the spikes found on its leaves. This remarkable plant made its European debut in the 1820s, captivating the wealthy and privileged with its exotic charm. One of its most well-known species, Aechmea Fasciata, was christened by John Lindley in 1827, drawing from the Latin word for 'bands,' a nod to its distinctive striped foliage.

The silver-toned leaves of Aechmea have evolved to reflect light effectively, a clever adaptation that helps conserve water during sunny or windy spells. These plants are not just daytime heroes; they can also absorb harmful chemicals at night, making them ideal for urban residential areas.

Top Tips & Information:

Care Difficulty - Easy

Aechmea, though accommodating in low light conditions, thrives best in a bright, indirect setting to minimize the risk of over-watering. Here are some key tips for nurturing your Aechmea:

Location & Light:

Provide your Aechmea with a bright, indirect environment and avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, which can lead to pale brown patches on its leaves. Conversely, too little light can cause a rotting crown, yellowing leaves, and stunted growth. Maintain a distance of about four meters from any heat sources to prevent leaf-tip browning.


During its active growth phase, allow the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering further during the autumn and winter months. It's crucial to keep the central well filled with water while maintaining drier compost to prevent the development of 'crown rot.' If your Aechmea is in a bright location, ensure the central crown remains hydrated, as this maintains humidity. Underwatering can result in pale leaves, brown patches, sunken foliage, and wilting flowers, usually caused by intense sun, heat, pot-bound conditions, or forgetfulness. Over-watering symptoms include a rotting stem, yellowing leaves, flower wilting, and pup (offshoot) death. If these symptoms appear after flowering, it's a natural response to unsuccessful reproduction. For non-blooming plants, insufficient light or heat, excessive moisture in the foliage, and poor drainage may be the culprits. In dark locations, keep the central crown dry and water via the soil to prevent 'crown rot' and southern blight.


Maintain high humidity, either by keeping the central well filled with water or introducing a pebble tray. A pool of standing water beneath the plant provides sufficient moisture without risking foliage rot.


Fertilize every four waterings during the growing season, reducing to every six waterings in autumn and winter. While an 'All-Purpose' fertilizer can suffice, a 'Houseplant' labelled fertilizer is recommended for its ability to provide the thirteen essential nutrients required for this species' growth.

Common Issues with Aechmea:

  • Plant death shortly after flowering is a common occurrence. To preserve your specimen, ensure it receives bright light and moderate watering, with no water accumulating in the central well. Over-watering and insufficient light are the usual culprits for post-flowering decline. Keep the foliage and soil slightly drier to encourage dormancy, which can lead to the development of basal offsets (pups) between lower leaves. You can leave them attached or separate and grow them in individual pots (see 'Propagation' below)

  • Lack of blooms in non-flowering specimens may be due to insufficient dormancy. Reduce temperatures slightly in autumn and winter, along with fewer waterings, to encourage a well-spent dormancy period.

  • Yellowing older leaves near the soil and crown rot are signs of over-watering, usually caused by inadequate light. While Aechmea can tolerate low light, reducing watering frequency can mitigate the risk of root rot. Adequate oxygen is crucial for root health, and over-saturated soil limits its availability.

  • Curled leaves and brown leaf edges result from insufficient water and overexposure to sunlight. Aechmea thrives in bright, indirect settings, and plants not acclimated to strong sunlight can exhibit sun-scorch and environmental stress. Limited exposure to winter sunlight is acceptable but monitor soil moisture and avoid direct sunlight during summer.

  • Low humidity can cause browning tips with yellow halos on young leaves. While not harmful, increasing local humidity can prevent new growth from developing these symptoms. Mist or rinse the foliage and use a humidity tray when heaters are active. Browning of leaf tips on older leaves is natural and results from extensive photosynthesis during their lifespan.

  • Regularly clean the leaves to prevent dust buildup, which can reduce light absorption efficiency. Rinse the topsides of the leaves monthly to maintain optimal growing conditions.

  • Soil mold indicates low light and over-watering. While harmless, it is often removed for aesthetic reasons. Replace the top two inches of soil with fresh 'Houseplant' compost. Adjust light exposure (avoid direct sunlight for the first few weeks to prevent shock) or reduce watering slightly. If mold is accompanied by yellowing lower leaves, root rot may also be present.


Aechmea thrives at temperatures between 16°C - 30°C (60°F - 86°F). It is best suited for indoor or greenhouse cultivation year-round, as temperatures below 12°C (54°F) can result in flower loss, stunted growth, and yellowed leaves.


Typically, Aechmea reaches heights of up to 50cm and widths of 40cm within an average lifespan of two years. After flowering, the plant may die, making basal offset (pup) division essential to perpetuate its existence.

Pruning & Maintenance:

Maintain healthy growth by removing yellow or dying leaves and plant debris. Always use clean tools to reduce the risk of bacterial and fungal diseases. Avoid cutting through yellowed tissue, as it may lead to further damage and disease. Make clean incisions to prevent plant shock, which can weaken growth and health.

Remove the flower stalk close to the central well once it starts to wilt, ensuring the well remains dry thereafter. Submerged open tissue from the stalk's base can lead to rot that may spread if left untreated.


Aechmea can be propagated through seed or pup (offset) propagation.

Basal Offset Division (Easy):

When your plant produces several basal offsets with sufficient roots and height exceeding half that of the mother plant, it's time to separate them. Water the soil 24 hours before separation to reduce transplant shock. Carefully remove the plant from its pot and position your fingers near the nodal junction, potentially removing some compost for better access. Gently push the chosen off-set downwards until it snaps off. Separate the foliage and root system from the mother plant, taking care to minimize damage. Transplant the offset into an appropriately sized pot with fresh 'Houseplant' labelled compost. Maintain consistently moist soil and place it in a bright, indirect location, away from direct sunlight. After approximately four weeks, treat it like a mature plant, following the care tips mentioned above.


Aechmea flowers only once, but pups will form at the base of the plant and eventually flower. The flower bract can reach up to 40cm in length, lasting up to three months in spring or summer. The flowers come in various colours, including red, yellow, green, brown, purple, or pink, arranged in a coning-rosette shape.

To encourage summer blooms, reduce ambient temperature during autumn and winter while decreasing watering to induce dormancy. As temperatures and daylight hours naturally increase in spring, your plant will exit dormancy, potentially producing a bloom by mid-summer.


While not entirely necessary, you can repot every few years in the spring, using 'Houseplant' labelled compost and a slightly larger pot. Hydrate the plant 24 hours before root manipulation to minimize transplant shock. For plants in darker locations, add extra perlite to the pot's base to enhance drainage and prevent over-watering.

Pests & Diseases:

Keep an eye out for mealybugs, spider mites, scale, thrips, and root mealybugs, which can take refuge in leaf crevices and undersides, except for the latter, which affects the soil. Common diseases associated with Aechmea include root rot, leaf-spot disease, botrytis, rust, powdery mildew, and southern blight.


Aechmea is not known to be toxic when consumed by pets or humans. However, be cautious of its sharp foliage and flowers, which can be prickly. Ingesting large quantities may lead to vomiting, nausea, and loss of appetite.