Tropical plants have a special place in our homes, not only because they are relatively easy to care for indoors, but also because of the effect they have in any room, softening any design scheme as well as adding flair and color.
One houseplant you may or may not be familiar with is the urn plant, also known as Aechmea, and in this case, Aechmea fasciata.
Not sure if the urn plant is something you want in your home? Here’s what you should know.
How To Recognize An Urn Plant
The urn plant is a bromeliad from the Bromeliaceae plant family. The Aechmea genus contains over 200 species, found in tropical and subtropical forests in America.
In the case of the urn plant, it comes from the rainforests of Brazil.
It’s one of the most widely ground bromeliads, especially in homes as a houseplant, for its beautiful and striking appearance.
It’s called the urn plant as it grows a strong rosette of leaves that form an urn shape, and these leaves are usually dark green which can have silvery stripes, too.
In the wild, this urn, or center of the plant, collects with water. It’s also where the flowers (technically colorful bracts), emerge, in shades of red, yellow, or blue.
It’s worth knowing that the urn plant needs to be around 3 years old to produce a flower stem, but that gives you more time to enjoy this unique plant.
Once the flower dies back (usually a few weeks or months after it emerges), the whole plant dies.
The good news is that the urn plant will usually produce one or two offsets below the dying leaves, and when they are around 15cm tall, you can pot them up as new urn plants.
It is an epiphyte, also known as an air plant, so it won’t do well in normal soil, as in the wild it grows on other plants, extracting the water it needs from the air and the host plant, and the nutrients it requires from dying plant matter.
Instead, grow it in orchid potting compost, rather than a general houseplant mix. This will give the plant’s roots the air and drainage it needs to thrive.
Urn Plant Cultivars To Consider Growing
There are many cultivars of the urn plant to consider. Unless you’re sourcing an urn plant from a specialist grower, however, it’s likely that it will be just named ‘urn plant’, which can make it difficult to look for a specific variety.
Here are just a few of the many you can grow indoors:
- Aechmea ‘Charles Hodgson’
- Aechmea ‘Cosmic Starburst’
- Aechmea ‘Morgana’
- Aechmea ‘Pink Rocket’
- Aechmea x Canmea ‘Wild Tiger’
- Aechmea x Nidumea ‘Angellina’
- Aechmea x Nidumea ‘Midnight’
- Aechmea x Nidumea ‘Superstar’
How To Grow An Urn Plant
Sunlight And Position
Urn plants require a warm environment, with no direct sunlight. Filtered sunlight or partial shade is best for urn plants, as they have adapted to live under the cover of the Brazilian rainforest.
Avoid extreme levels of sunlight or shade, as the urn plant won’t do well in either.
Temperatures need to be 59°F and 77°F (or 15°C and 25°C) for the plant to thrive. Keep it away from sources of heat or drafty conditions. Average household humidity levels will be fine for this plant.
When To Water An Urn Plant
Urn plants are different in that you shouldn’t just water the base of the plant like you would with most houseplants. Instead, you should fill the urn part of the plant – the center – with water, to begin with.
While this would rot other types of plants, the urn has adapted to be a water reservoir for the plant. It’s important that you replace this water every month to keep it fresh.
Alongside this, only water the compost itself when it is absolutely bone dry. This will ensure that the plant doesn’t get too much water, as urn plants are not very thirsty provided that the central urn is kept topped up at all times.
Should You Feed An Urn Plant?
Urn plants aren’t very hungry, so it’s not required to feed this plant often. However, if you do want to give this plant a boost, use a weak liquid feed once in spring, and once in late summer.
Do not feed the urn of this plant, only the soil.
How To Encourage A Urn Plant To Flower
If you know that your urn plant is mature enough to flower, but you still haven’t seen any signs of flowering, it’s worth helping the plant along.
Urn plants need a lot of bright but indirect light to flower, and won’t bloom without it.
To encourage the plant to bloom when light isn’t a problem, you can stimulate the flowering process by quartering an apple, putting it on top of the soil, and covering the plant and the container with a clear plastic bag.
Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Bruised fruit produces ethylene gas, which is a natural plant hormone, used to stimulate fruit ripening (and quick spoiling, too). In the urn plant’s case, the gas will stimulate flowering.
Problems To Watch Out For
The Leaf Edges Are Turning Brown
This is the urn plant telling you that it’s thirsty. Keep the urn filled with fresh water, and make sure that the soil is slightly moist.
In some cases, browning leaf tips can also mean that the water you’re using is too hard for the plant. Use rainwater, distilled water, or completely cooled kettle water instead of tap water.
Leaves Have Pale Brown Splotches
This is the leaves scorching. The plant is in too much light, so move it to somewhere more indirect.
The Plant Smells!
If your urn plant is stinking the room out, the first thing to do is to check the urn itself. It may have been too long since you’ve changed the water, so try that first and see if the smell goes.
If not, the urn plant may be at the end of its lifecycle, especially if the stem is going soft. Time to move any offsets underneath the plant into a new pot, and discard the rest.
Aphids, mites, and leaf miners can be a problem with urn plants. You may also find that mosquitoes are breeding in the urn of the plant if you’re keeping it outside.
Urn plants are striking houseplants that will make an impact in any room.
As long as you’ve got the growing conditions right, you’ll be able to keep the plant for several years, and once it blooms and dies back, it should have produced several offsets, so you’ll never be without these tropical beauties in your home.
Don’t be tempted to pot up the offsets straight away. Allow them to get bigger before transplanting so that they have time to form a good root system.
It is worth keeping an eye on the urn’s water levels, changing it regularly to stop the plant from smelling and becoming a nuisance in your home. You also need to watch out for overwatering, as this is likely to rot the plant pretty quickly.