THE INDOOR GARDENER : Good, Bad News About Urn Plants


QUESTION: About six months ago I bought an “urn plant,” which had large, powdery-looking grayish leaves and a beautiful pink and blue spike-like flower growing from the center. The flower eventually dried up and died and there’s no sign of a new one blooming. How can I get the plant to bloom again?

ANSWER: Alas, you can’t! The urn plant, a bromeliad known as Aechmea fasciata, normally only blooms once in its lifetime. (I’ve heard of exceptions, but I’ve never seen it myself.)

The good news, however, is that these plants produce offsets, or “pups,” which develop at the base of the mother plant and each of these pups will bloom just like mama did before them. One bromeliad can produce dozens of pups during its long lifetime, and the pups will produce pups, ad infinitum, which will all bloom if kept in medium light and watered regularly in the cup of the plant as opposed to the soil. (Bromeliads are air plants and don’t need root watering.)

You can help force an urn plant to bloom by putting half an apple in the center of the plant and then covering it with airtight plastic. Ethylene gases from the apple will help stimulate the bloom.


Why Did Snake Plant Bloom Unexpectedly?

Q: My snake plant recently bloomed! It produced a stem covered with beautiful and fragrant white flowers. I’ve had that plant for years and years and it never bloomed before. What did I do right?

A: Everything, I would guess. But the real factor here is luck. Snake plants (Sanseveiria spp.) will bloom regularly outdoors in their native habitats, just as will every other plant in the kingdom save ferns and conifers.

Indoors, however, is another story. Conditions have to be just exactly right and the plant has to be in the mood! I’ve heard and seen this “phenomenon” frequently, and it’s always exciting when a plant such as a snake plant or a philodendron blooms unexpectedly.


How to Care for Palm Growing in Coconut

Q: While at the nursery the other day, I spotted a little palm growing out of a small coconut. It looked so cute I couldn’t resist buying it, but not I don’t know how to take care of it. Please help.

A: Although basically a novelty item, coconut palms can be grown indoors under proper conditions and with a bit of luck. The keys: Lots and lots of sunlight and frequent watering. If you want the plant to reach its full potential, transplant it from time to time into larger pots.

If all goes well your coconut palm will grow to height of three or four feet in your home, but don’t expect it to produce a lovely bunch of coconuts unless you live in a hut on the beach, in Hawaii.


Rapp is a Los Angeles free-lance writer who, as “Mr. Mother Earth,” has written several best-selling books on indoor gardening.