Saturday, April 17, 2021

Beautiful Bromeliads Add Pizzazz to Calusa Park



By Nancy J. Richie
City of Marco Island
Environmental Specialist

Bromeliads are the perfect fit for Florida Friendly Landscaping (FFL) principals. They are the “right plant in the right place” for Marco Island landscapes, as they are species of plant that requires no fertilizer, maintenance or water, under normal conditions.

The most familiar bromeliad may be the pineapple. They are colorful and come in so many species (more than 2,000) — displaying colors from red tipped, striped, silver, green and gold core leaves to name a few. Their flowers are just as exotic with large stems and bright colors in sorts of shapes and arrays. They can be in the shade or sun, and require no fertilizer and relatively little water. Once established, no watering is required under normal Southwest Florida weather conditions.

Most are terrestrial plants, but they also can be epiphytic. They come in different sizes and can be layered in a landscape design to add pizzazz and depth. Insects and frogs love to hide in the leaves that create “cups” that hold water for their habitat. Creating beauty and adding to wildlife’s shelter benefits the natural food web and health of the island’s ecosystem.

Another benefit is that they have numerous “pups” or offshoots of new plants, at the base of the bromeliad. Once a bromeliad is a mature plant and has flowered, “pups” will be produced. If left in place, a nice blanket of bromeliads can cover a landscape. If that is not the desired look or plan for a landscape design, the “pups” can be easily removed from the original plant and transplanted in another location or potted singularly or in a group for dramatic looks on front steps or around a sign, pool or fountain. They add a very tropical flair in outdoor spaces.

Take a look at the Naples Botanical Garden. Many of the gardens, as well as the award-winning parking area landscape areas, have many species of bromeliads thriving and adding dramatic tropical beauty so appropriate for Southwest Florida.

In January, the city of Marco Island Beautification Advisory Committee Chairwoman and Calusa Garden Member Susan LaGrotta spent many rewarding hours planting dozens of bromeliads in the city’s Calusa Park, on the corner of Winterberry Drive and South Sandhill Street. Many of the bromeliads were planted under the Royal Poinciana, Calusa Park’s specimen tree. The landscaping under the tree has been struggling to thrive over the past couple years, and the transplanted bromeliads will be a perfect addition to spot on the island that many people walk by or visit.

Barbara and Hugh Messner, longtime Marco Island residents and avid gardeners, donated the bromeliad “pups” from their own yard to LaGrotta. Barbara is also a Calusa Garden Club member.

Last year, LaGrotta created the concept of PlantMarco. It’s a nonprofit program that island residents or businesses can donate landscape plants for replanting in other areas on Marco Island. If you are interested in donating plants to PlantMarco, please contact LaGrotta at She will visit and look at the landscape offered to see if it is appropriate to plant at an island place.

If you have interest or have inquiries about Florida Friendly Landscape (FFL) or the Beautification Advisory Committee, please contact Nancy Richie, the city of Marco Island’s Environmental Specialist, at 239-389-5003 or

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