Botanical Name — Guzmania lingulata
Common Name — Scarlet Star
Plant Family — Bromeliaceae
Native to the American tropics, from Florida to Brazil, Guzmania lingulata is a tree-dwelling plant with hard bracts that have evolved to catch falling rainwater and debris. Using a clinging root system, it pulls nutrients from decomposing natural matter in its host tree. Monocarpic, this plant flowers once, then enters a long death process during which it sends out multiple pups. Bromeliad collectors will uproot the dying mother plant, then propagate the pups to give the original plant new life.
- Give Guzmania lingulata bright, filtered light that mimics its natural environment. Indoors, bright indirect light with a couple hours of direct sunlight is perfect.
- These tropical plants thrive on warmth and humidity.
- If kept outdoors, bring inside when temperatures regularly drop below 50ºF.
- Water these plants by filling the central leaf “cups” with water until it brims over the sides to the soil. Water again as soon as the cup looks nearly dry.
- If water has been sitting in the cup for over a week, dump the old water out and fill with fresh water to mimic the replenishing rainwater it would regularly receive in its natural environment.
- These plants prefer a light, water retentive mix. Amend regular potting soil with 50% coco coir to mimic the bark it clings to.
- Large red, yellow, or yellow-orange flowers blossom from the center of this plant on a stalk. It flowers once in its life for an extended period, then the plant will start a long death process.
- These plants do not require fertilizer, though it can be added to give container grown plants a boost or to supplement poor soil. Apply a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer monthly, diluted at half strength.
- Fertilize only during summer and never in the winter.
- Propagate this plant through stem cuttings.
- As the mother plant gradually dies (this happens naturally after it flowers), keep an eye out for pups appearing at the plant’s base. Allow these plants to establish themselves, then uproot the plant, separate out the pups, and plant in fresh soil.
- Guzmania lingulata are not prone to pests, but aphids and mealybugs are possible.
- Root rot can also be a concern and is triggered by overwatering mixed with insufficient light. Provide enough dappled light so the cup in the center of the plant naturally dries out after about a week.
- Plan on embracing the monocarpic life cycle of this plant. Allow the plant to complete its flowering and death process before separating the pups from the main plant. Each plant lives for about 2-3 years.
- Guzmania lingulata are not toxic to humans or pets.