Bromeliads are unusual-looking plants that are surprisingly easy to grow. Even when it they are not in bloom, bromeliads are striking because the thick, pointed, strap-like leaves form a cup that collects water.

If things go well, bromeliads will produce an inflorescence that looks like a flower in a wide range of shapes and colors. The “flower” is sometimes within the cup or it may appear on a stalk above the cup. In Florida, bromeliads grow both in trees and in gardens on the ground. In Maine, they are available at most good houseplant nurseries and are frequently sold in grocery stores as holiday plants because many have foliages in red or green.

Feed the plant half-strength fertilizer once a month. To water, all you need to do is fill the cup at the base of the leaves. They need bright light, but not direct sunlight.

For most bromeliads, place them in a saucer of gravel with water that comes up close to pot bottom but does not touch the plant roots. Others work as air plants, growing on logs or moss – we once grew one glued to a magnet on the front of our refrigerator. Clerks where you buy the plant will tell you what you have.

Bromeliads are not long-lived, but when the center dies, the plant usually had already produced small plants, or pups, along the side. You can carefully cut out the “mother” plant so the pups will be able to grow up as new plants. Theoretically, you could do the reverse – cut the pups off the mother plant – but I’ve never succeeded at that while I have had luck removing the oldest plant. ­

— TOM ATWELL