How to Plant Epiphytes in a Vivarium

What is an Epiphyte? How to Plant Epiphytes in Vivarium

Epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants. 

we can also term them as “air plants” that merely depends on other plants for physical support only.

Most epiphytes do not harm their hosts, simply using them as surfaces to attach themselves to.

They do so to take advantage of available growing space up in trees, where they can access more sunlight.

In a tropical rainforest, plants ranging from mosses and lichens to cacti, orchids and bromeliads may grow as epiphytes.

Because of their living conditions, epiphytes have special adaptations consideration when planting them in an artificial environment.

Many epiphytes will tend to rot when planted in a heavy water-retentive medium more suitable for terrestrial plants.

How do you grow an epiphytic orchid?

There are many ways to grow epiphytes in vivariums. 

Epiphytes can be kept in containers of suitable planting mix, and the potted plants can be arranged within the vivarium. 

By using a suitable substrate we can directly grow them on the vivarium floor.

such as a commercial or homemade planting mix used for orchids or bromeliads.

Such a mix should provide good drainage and allow air to reach the roots of the plants.

Most epiphytic orchids grow well on a section or slab of a tree branch.

How do you attach epiphytes?

Attach them to raised surfaces much like the way they grow in nature.

We can grow them on vertical spaces such as tree fern root, cork, or coconut fiber panels attached to the walls of the vivarium.

They can also be attached to cork slabs or branches or grown in cork bark tubes filled with planting mix.

The choice of growing method depends on several things,

but the most important thing to consider is the type of environment the vivarium will provide.

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Do vivariums need ventilation?

If air circulation is limited and extremely wet conditions, attaching the plants to the substrate with a minimum of water-retentive material around the roots will be a good idea.

If there is going to be plenty of air circulation, then a thick moss padding wrapped around the plant roots or planting them in cork tubes or pots might be the better way to go.

They are aerophytes and prefer to grow on shifting desert soil because of their inherent minimal root system

Bromeliads in the paludarium:

How do you plant bromeliads in a vivarium?

As far as determining the plants’ positions goes, take into consideration their eventual size and growth habits.

In the greenhouse conditions of a vivarium, many plants may grow larger than they would under regular houseplant conditions.

so make sure the kinds of plants you choose will either have enough room to develop or can take pruning. 

Plants taking more moisture at the roots level must be placed near the bottom of the branch, and moist vivarium substrate,

while plants that need more light and dryer conditions can be positioned higher up.

For visual interest, use plants with contrasting colors and leaf textures. Choose a bold-looking plant as the focal point, then arrange other plants around it like garnishing.

Unless you have a very large vivarium, do not try to cram too many different kinds of plants in.

The best displays often consist of plants growing in healthy clumps that complement each other, rather than an overgrown mishmash of species.

Of course, since this is essentially just gardening, feel free to experiment by trying to plan ahead to avoid any extra work and disruption to the vivarium.

If necessary, temporary filler plants may be used to provide quick-growing cover for the animals as long as these plants are easily controlled.

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How often do I water my terrarium?

Keep the plants and their chosen substrates well-watered but give them plenty of light and air circulation to allow them to dry out between watering.

When you see healthy roots attaching themselves into the substrate, and are rewarded with blooming plants, then you’ll know you’ve got things right.

Are Pineapples Epiphytes?

The most familiar bromeliad, the pineapple (which is the fruit), gives you an idea of the basic plant shape.  Most bromeliads have their leaves in rosettes, like the top of a pineapple. 

The leaves may be thin and grass-like, or thick and succulent, and are variable in color. 

The ones favored by frogs generally have leaves that form tight cups at their bases which hold water, providing moisture and living quarters for our favorite amphibians. 

Frog vivarium limits the types of bromeliads that we can keep to those that are small enough, that can live in moist tropical conditions, and that do not have large spines that might be a danger to the frogs (or more likely, to the frog keepers!).

Their suitability varies with the species and variety, and what they’re used for in the vivarium.

Best lamps supporting terrarium plants?

Many plants might be considered more suitable for vivarium conditions, but bromeliads are by no means difficult.  The main concern is to give them enough light. 

All other conditions that we have supplied for the benefit of the frogs will suit most types of bromeliads just fine. 

The main potential problem with bromeliad culture in vivariums is that their roots should be kept from getting waterlogged; as the plants can rot, but under certain conditions, even this may not be a problem.

There are many ways of providing light for your terrarium plants, some of which may be rather expensive.

  • There are high-intensity halide lights that can almost duplicate bright sunlight, and special grow lights that indoor gardeners use. even white fluorescent light will work well.
  • Two standard 40-watt tubes are enough to grow most bromeliads.
  • Tall vivariums need stronger lights, more lights, or bromeliads planted in the upper portions near lights.
  • Fluorescent lights can burn leaves that come into contact with them for extended periods. avoid plants close to the lights.

What makes a good plant light?

The leaves of a bromeliad can tell you what kind of light it prefers. 

Plants with hard, stiff leaves generally do better with more light, as do those that have leaves covered with gray scales or hairs.

These plants can survive in lower light levels, but their leave will grow lanky and floppy and out of character, and their colors will fade.

Bromeliads with soft, green leaves are more suitable for shaded areas and can be used if the lighting is limited.

Do Bromeliads like to be root bound?

In general, bromeliads like their root to be kept moist but not wet.  They prefer to dry out a bit between watering’s, so good drainage should be provided. 

Many bromeliads are epiphytes, growing on tree trunks and branches, or saxicolous, growing on rocks.

These types are the ones that usually prefer dryer roots because that is what they have adapted to.

Their roots may be simply wrapped in moss and tied to branches, where they will eventually attach themselves. 

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How do I know if my soil is well draining?

If the substrate is well-drained, it can also be directly planted into it. 

The advantage of attaching them to branches is that there is less chance, if any, of the roots rotting from too much moisture. 

Planting them on branches also allows the plants to be closer to the light source. 

Epiphytically grown bromeliads often do not even use their roots to absorb nutrients; the roots serve only to hold the plants in place. 

As true air plants, they get all the nutrients they need through their leaves.

Some bromeliads are terrestrial, growing in soil like most other plants. 

Many can adapt to growing like epiphytes in a vivarium, but they often do better growing as they do in the wild, with their roots in the ground. 

These plants rely on their roots more than the epiphytes do, and their root systems are generally more extensive. 

Terrestrial bromeliads also can usually take more moisture than the epiphytic types.

 It is often recommended that the water in their central cups and leaf axils be changed by upended the plants and letting the water drained out. 

This will prove impractical once the plants are attached to branches or planted in the substrate. 

A solution to this would be to pour or spray enough water into the leaves to rinse out the cups. 

Do not do this too suddenly, because any tadpoles that the frogs might have deposited in the cups may be flushed out. 

Spray gently and simply allows excess water to drip out of the seams formed by the leaf edges.

How many types of bromeliads are there?

Bromeliads have 3,000 known species, categorized in about 75 genera native to subtropical America.

Prevent bromeliads from growing too big?

To keep the bromeliads from growing too big, always provide them with the maximum amount of light that they can take, and never fertilize them.

The frogs will produce enough waste on their leaves to keep the plants fed. 

A once-weekly heavy misting is often enough to keep them well watered. 

Good air circulation is always a good idea and will also benefit the frogs as well.

Should I trim my bromeliad?

Most bromeliads will only flower, but after will form a new rosette to replace the mother plant. 

Do not remove the pups too soon; wait until they are at least a third the size of the mother plant to give them a good start and so they have time to form their own roots.

To remove the pups, use a serrated knife to cut away the young plant as close to the mother plant as possible. 

Stoloniferous varieties can be kept attached, producing a chandelier effect as more pups are produced. 

Other types may look better grown as clumps, so it might be better to leave the pups where they are, and simply pull out the mother plant’s leaves when they wither away.

Treating with pesticides

Store-bought plants may have been treated with pesticides, so always wash them well before putting them in the vivarium. 

To be safe, the plants can be grown in a chemical-free environment for a few months and watered thoroughly to wash off the leaves. 

An even better alternative is to grow the plants until they bloom and produce offsets, and the offsets are then used in the vivarium.

Unrooting offsets or pups

Unrooted offsets or pups are actually easier to use because they can be put in place without one having to worry about any roots to cover. 

This is especially useful when mounting them in an epiphytic situation;

simply wrap the base of the pup with a bit of sphagnum moss, and either jam the stem into a crevice in a branch or use plastic covered wire or nylon fishing line to attach it. 

Using a waterproof nontoxic glue

Small plants may even be glued on, using waterproof non-toxic glue.

Hot glue will work, as long as the glue isn’t applied to roots that are actually growing from the base. 

When using hot glue, put a dab on an older leaf sheath near the base, to avoid the permanently damaging plant. 

Do not use bare metal with bromeliads, because these plants can react badly to exposure to metals and may even die.

If all other growing conditions are maintained, the pup will quickly produce holdfast roots and attach itself to the substrate.

Given the proper care, bromeliads can provide you with long-lasting and hardy vivarium plants, lending that authentic touch to your little chunk of the Neotropics.

What animals live in bromeliads?

The bromeliad can be defined as a sub-ecosystem in itself, amphibians and small animals such as tree frogs, flatworms, crabs, snails, and salamanders prefer to live inside almost their entire life.

Do frogs eat bromeliads?

Bromeliads and dart-poison frogs just seem to go together. It’s the classic relationship of the little, jewel-like frog depositing its tadpoles in an axial of a bromeliad high in the forest canopy.

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