Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Friday, February 13, 2015

My favorite plant this week is...

Continuing my houseplant review, I'm highlighting the plant that inspired me to finally snap some pictures and write about them: Quesnelia marmorata. It's been quite a while since I joined Danger Garden in the favorite plant meme, so I'm extra happy to have found this surprise. I was going through the process of a thorough watering (even including some fertilizer for my starved plants) when I noticed that this bromeliad was leaning over yet again. It was a bit unstable from repotting it last summer and then the move, but I thought I had steadied it. Why did it keep leaning over? I removed the tillandsias ringing the base of the plant and discovered a pup pushing up out of the potting mix! I'm so glad I didn't damage it trying to force the main plant upright!

Isn't it an adorable little nub? I'm looking forward to watching it grow.
Quesnelia marmorata is commonly known as Grecian urn for its elegant, narrow vase shape. Its classification is of some interest. It really looks nothing like the other species in the genus, though floral characteristics clearly place it with other Quesnelia species. It has formerly been placed in both the genus Aechmea and Billbergia, sharing floral characteristics with both genera. It also superficially resembles Aechmea fasciata in leaf color and billbergias in the narrow, tubular plant form. Because it is so unique and readily identifiable, it was long identified by species first, rather than keying it out to the genus and then the species. Perhaps if someone had done that sooner they could have avoided some confusion.

The leaves are marbled grey and green. Strong light (not hot afternoon sun) adds purple shades to the mix. I fell in love with this bromeliad as a child looking through my father's houseplant books from the 60's and 70's. In this case, it was Alfred B. Graf's Exotic Houseplants Illustrated (a source of many long-term plant crushes). The black and white pictures really emphasized the patterned leaves and form of plants like Quesnelia marmorata. It was years before I braved the world of mail-order plants, and longer before I thought to look specifically for this bromeliad. A few years ago I found Seabreeze Nurseries, in Florida, and ordered a Quesnelia marmorata, Vriesea 'Splenriet', and Orthophytum gurkenii. The last suffered from cold during shipping when I moved from North Carolina and I decided to start over with a healthy one someday. The vriesea is healthy enough, but has been sunburned a few too many times and has looked better. The quesnelia just keeps looking gorgeous, though. It's lost a leaf or two, it's gained a couple leaves, but it always looks great. And now I'll have twice the beauty!


Quesnelia marmorata is native to Brazil, where it grows on trees. New growths are produced on 3 to 6 inch rhizomes, which can make it a bit of a challenge in containers, especially since new growths often grow at an angle from the parent plant, or (as is my case) push the parent plant at an angle. A well-grown, multi-growth specimen is a beautiful sight, though. Personally, I like that the growths are spaced a bit, as it makes a more open feeling and allows you to appreciate each individual "urn". Of course, it can still become a very full specimen, in which case I would divide it to regain the more open look and spread the wealth among friends. Wouldn't that be a wonderful problem to have? Too much Quesnelia marmorata?

Grecian urn is an easy plant to care for. Give it bright light to filtered sun, avoid hot afternoon sun. This bromeliad needs a potting medium that drains very quickly. I grow mine in a mix of coarse orchid bark and medium Perlite. In winter I water once a week and keep only a little water in the central cup formed by the leaves. In summer I water every 2 or 3 days and keep the cup about half-full with water. As with most bromeliads, fertilizer requirements are low. I give it a bit of balanced fertilizer maybe once a month. My medium is probably far more open than it really needs to be. A cactus mix would work well and would require less-frequent watering than what I've used, reducing maintenance in summer. General wisdom holds that it is better to grow these bromeliads "hard," meaning to tend towards under-watering and under-fertilizing rather than pampering them. Too much water and fertilizer can lead to floppy growth, which would ruin the graceful, upright form. I find this a little funny, because the cultivar 'Tim Plowman' is probably more popular than the species because of its curled leaves. I suppose there is a difference between curled and floppy, but I still prefer the graceful elegance of the regular species.

Winter hasn't loosened its grip here in Wisconsin. In fact, we're expecting nights below 0F in the next week. Discoveries like the new growth on my quesnelia make me think of spring though, and remind me that winter doesn't last forever.

Be sure to check in at Danger Garden at the end of the month for the favorite plant review. Happy gardening!
Sorry for the blurry picture. I would have uploaded a better one but it was dark by the time I noticed how blurry it was.

7 comments:

  1. That looks quite distinctive doesn't it? Nice!

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  2. You are a fount of information. Nice to learn so much about this handsome plant.

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    1. Thanks, Ricki. I've been wanting to do more informative posts like this. Next step is not being lazy and citing my sources.

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  3. Congrats on the new little one! This are pretty fabulous leaf markings.

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    1. Thanks! Yes they are. The leaves have little teeth on the edge, too, for just a touch of danger.

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  4. I enjoyed this informative favorite plant post! I'm falling in love with lots of members of the bromeliaeae lately and this one is a beauty!

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