Orchid growers are passionate about their collection and learn everything they can to master the sport. Over time, they start to acquire other tropical plants, usually as gifts, which quietly bask in the warm humid climate. Before long, the growing area may come to look more like a rain forest than a living room.
Foliage plants are usually the first addition to the area as these plants can sit in the corner and don’t compete with the pretentious orchid for flower power. In the wild, foliage plants grow side by side with orchids and the whole ensemble gives a ‘tropical’ feel when grouped artificially. Popular foliage plants include philodendrons, rubber trees, bananas, and palms – all of which can get massive if well grown and far exceed any foliar offering that an orchid could make.
After early successes with foliage plants, orchid growers might try their hand at red anthuriums which are colorful but fairly one-dimensional. They also might try nepanthes pitcher plants which give them impression of exotic lady slippers but are not quite as exciting. The truly inspired will sprout their own avocado seeds or better yet, try to raise a pineapple plant from a cutting.
Pineapples are in the bromeliad family which encompasses thousands of species in all geographies around the world. In that respect, bromeliads are similar to orchids in their breadth of variability. Over half the bromeliad species are epiphytic and grow in similar balmy conditions to orchids and can produce flowers that are never seen or some that are huge and dramatic.
After several years, orchid growers soon find themselves with a myriad of tropical plants which they acquire out of curiosity or as gifts.
Orchid lovers invariably broaden their tropical plant horizons after achieving even modest success. The year round climate that wins over phalaenopsis and their kin has to offer not only mild temperatures but also substantial humidity and some light. This ‘mini rainforest’ is now capable of supporting a wide range of plant material.
Bromileads live side by side with orchids in habitats around the world. Domesticated versions are often found potted together in fancy arrangements where the care for each is the same.