Neoregelia Bromeliads in Full Sun? Growing Tips.

Dew covered lemongrass leaves arch over neoregelia "tequila".

The short answer is "not always".  Neoregelias are known among gardeners to be "full sun" bromeliads and are often marketed as some of the few bromeliads that can truly take the scalding light of a Florida summer. 

Which is true... but not in all situations.  Research and anecdotal evidence from forums and experienced bloggers is giving me a different view, along with some exceptions.  

Neoregelias can thrive in full sun unless:

They're in Strong Mixed Light
Mixed light is the type that you get against buildings or walls, where there is deep shade for much of the day, and full direct sunlight for the rest of the day.  This is likely to cause scorching since they get used to the acute angle of the sun in cooler months and its abundant shading, only to be shocked by burning sun in summer when the sun beats down from overhead.  

The Nights aren't Cool Enough
Specifically, when nighttime temperatures stay hot, the color bleaching is more pronounced.  
According to the publication: Bromeliads: A Cultural Manual by Bromeliad Society International, 
"The lower range of nighttime temperatures may help bring out leaf colors and markings, especially with neoregelias."
I recently sent some pups of a bilbergia hybrid, neoregelia mottles, dyckia frigida and a quesnelia to Danger Garden, based in Portland Oregon.  Here in Florida the coloration was faded or nonexistent in full sun and bright light, but judging by her photos they are coloring up brighter than I have ever seen, no doubt thanks to Oregon's cooler nights.

They're in a Heat Trap
Planting near concrete and rocks can make it hotter or brighter as well, just as they help to keep the microclimate warmer in winter by absorbing the sun's energy and releasing heat slowly throughout the day and night.  Dark hardscaping absorbs more light, but subsequently releases more heat.  Lighter hardscaping such as concrete reflects the light, releasing less energy at night but stressing the plant with even brighter light than usual.  Of course, the heat releasing properties of stones and concrete is worthwhile when winter rears its ugly head, so don't rule it out.

There isn't Enough Shade
I know, 'full sun' means no shade, right?  Not necessarily.  Remember that direct light in the afternoon is stronger and hotter than morning sun.  The ideal location for any bromeliad is in the "orchid light" under the canopy of a live oak or jacaranda, where they get direct sunlight but in dappled and shifting form, with the line between shadows and light blurred by the distance between the canopy and the ground.  Even commercial growers such as Tropiflora of Sarasota and Tropical World of Boynton Beach (two of my favorites) still use shade cloth over their stock of "full sun" bromeliads.  The color's and forms are still superb, I assure you. 

Its the Wrong Plant
Not all neoregelias are equally suited to full sun.  If they are stressed, relocate to a shadier spot and consider replacing them with spikier types like dyckia, aechmea distichantha, puya or hechtias.  Neoregelia marmorata and concentrica hybrids are among the best neoregelias, but you can make some pretty good guesses based on the leaves.  Here are some tips from Bromeliads for the Contemorary Garden by Andrew Steens.  

For Full Sun:  Try to choose plants that have "... leaves very spiky and succulent in appearance, either green or colored..."

For Nearly Full Sun:  "... leaves heavily colored in red, maroon, yellow, purple aor black and quite leathery..."

Part Shade:  "... leaves mainly green, but quite leathery and tough..." or "leaves highly colored or variegated, but quite glossy, soft and pliable..."

You'll notice that even the neoregelias that most folks (myself included) plant in direct sun are classified in the "nearly full sun" or "part shade"  categories.  Specifically, he says to "Plant where they can get morning or late afternoon sun."

See how bleached the neoregelias are?  They get scorching sun in the afternoon, during the hottest part of the day.

Since this one was under a lady palm, the coloration is much better.  A little shade goes a very long way.

Planting among rocks and concrete also adds heat, so be sure to provide more shade.

To summarize,

-  Mixed light is harsher than part sun.  
-  Leaves are paler when the nights are hot.
-  Planting against concrete and rocks makes it hotter.
-  Light colored concrete and rocks make it brighter.
-  Full sun is relative... provide a little shade.
-  Pick bromeliads with leathery and spiky foliage for full sun.

So what are your experiences?


  1. I agree - the rules for broms can vary depending on so many factors. When we first started with bromeliads an "expert" advised double potting - keeping the brom in a pot and burying a slightly larger pot in the ground to place it in. This ensures good drainage and allows you to move it as needed. While many of ours are now in the ground, I've found it a great way to experiment with where to place them so they can be moved frequently without disturbing the roots until the ideal spot is found.

  2. Talk about perfect timing! I just purchased a pot holding 4 broms today, and am placing them up under my hibiscus bushes that have minimal leaves on the lower part facing toward my am sticking them int o the branching for some form and color down there. It is all shade down there, and I am hoping it will work. Fingers crossed.

  3. missysgarden:
    I've tried that as well! Honestly, its been a while since I've thought to do it, but there are a few that I might plant that way out back since its a little wet there. The best part of potting them that way is the ease of removing during a freeze.

    What kind were they? I've done the same thing at the base of some leggy gardenia bushes. The added benefit for me is that they're elevated above the soggy soil! Good luck! I'm sure they'll so great.

  4. Very educational, RG. You shed the perfect light on the brom situation. I've obviously not got my locations down pat...and admittedly, several of them are up against the house in the mixed lighting. Hmmmmm! I'll have to rethink the locations!

  5. I have just recently moved a lot of my bromeliads into an area where they will get more sunlight, but I agree they do not need too much! Mine get filtered morning and midday sun and then shade all afternoon.

  6. Great info! I am going to print this for future reference. The 2 neoregelias that I purchased from Rare Plant Research this spring were put in almost identical places. One of them LOVES it, the other I had to move due to a little bleaching of the leaves. And you are right about the ones you sent me (thanks again!) their color is fabulous! This has been a freaky cool summer here in Portland (not good for the tomatoes) I'm glad at least the bromeliads are enjoying it!

  7. Very cool that you are giving such specific info about growing those beautiful bromeliads. I never thought they could survive in the NW but Loree (danger garden) has been trying them and now I realize she got some from you, how cool! Thanks for your recent comment on my blog, I am honored by your visit when my gardening efforts are so scattershot and inexpert. Cheers!

  8. Kimberly:
    I'm glad you found it useful! I spend way to much time researching stuff. If somethings wrong with a plant or I make a new purchase I go all out on reading all my books, going to the library and checking online. I have a nice book collection going. :)

    Yeah, they shouldn't need too much light, especially with the high UV index in Oz! That afternoon sun is the harshest, especially in the tropics.

    Danger Garden:
    I'm so excited to see their potential on the coloring! It seems like the coloring is much nicer in winter, but never has it been as pronounced as on yours! They also seem to be growing faster than mine... the heat is pretty stifling.

    Karen: Scattershot and inexpert are great ways to describe my methods too. I learn as I go, and just read up as much as I can. Blogging friends are just as valuable as books, I've found. BTW. was your blog design a template or custom designed?

  9. What a difference between the neo planted in full sun and the one under the lady palms. I only have one touted as a sun lover "fireball" that I think I should give a little shade to and see if it colors up better. Great information in this post.

  10. NanaK:
    I had the fireball cultivar myself and have to say that it is one of the least cold hardy neos out there... they sure are fun though.

  11. Thanks for sharing your experience Steve ;-)

    I have just placed my broms at the outer side of my porch to have a little more indirect sunlight since my billbergia gave me just a 'skinny' flower. I hope my broms will grow better with a little more light he he...

    Btw, your neoregelia collection is remarkable!

  12. great tips - I may try one day! Love the red in the last two photos.

  13. HI THERE!
    IM MARIO From the Philippines.
    Usually we put Bromeliads outside the house specially in full sun. Because the color will be more vibrant.
    THank you

  14. Hi, Noel from Melbourne Australia
    I have just been given a bromeliad and do not know if it is a 'neo'. But I can tell you it has spiky leaves and from being in the morning sun for three weeks the throat has gone bright red. Had to take it out of the sun yesterday as it was 42 degrees celcius.


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