What is an Urn Plant?

Lumara Lee

An urn plant is a member of the bromeliad family that is native to the Amazon rainforests of Brazil. It gets its name from the reservoir in the center of the plant formed by the leaves. Water dripping from the overhead canopy in the plant’s natural habitat collects in this natural basin. The plant is also known as a silver vase plant because of the silver coloration that appears in the leaves of a mature plant. Urn plants are popular houseplants and are easy to grow.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

The botanical name for the urn plant is Aechmea fasciata. These plants are epiphytes, which means that in their native home they are supported by other plants and receive their nutrients from the air, not from the plants that are supporting them. The mature plants have a tendency to become top heavy and may fall over without proper support. Urn plants often are found in the crotch of tree branches in their native habitat.

Leaves of the urn plant grow in a rosette pattern and can attain a length of anywhere from 18 to 36 inches (46 to 91 cm). An urn plant grows slowly and reaches a height at maturity of one to three feet (30 to 91 cm), and a spread of up to two feet (61 cm). A flower bract grows from the center of its water reservoir, and a showy pink flower grows from the top of the bract. This flowering bract can last for several months.

An urn plant will flower only once. The flower bract should be removed at the base after it dies so that the plant will form smaller plants, called pups. After the pups form, the mother plant will die and can be removed. These pups can be repotted into individual pots, or can be allowed to grow into clumps.

Many people buy the urn plant as a disposable houseplant, and when that is the case, fertilizer and the amount of light the plant receives aren’t important factors. If the plant is kept permanently, it needs to be kept in bright and indirect lighting, and the urn in the center of the plant should always be kept filled with water. This water should be changed often to prevent odor and disease. The soil should be kept slightly moist, since the plant prefers a humid environment, but the soil shouldn’t be allowed to become soggy, or the plant may rot.

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