The Scarlet Star Bromeliad is a versatile plant that adds color and beauty to any indoor or outdoor area.

You can grow it in pots inside or outdoors, or in well-drained soil in the garden. It’s not difficult to grow and care for, as long as you follow a few important guidelines.

We’ve got some hot tips and ideas to help you succeed.

What is Scarlet Star?

Scarlet Star is a very popular bromeliad plant found in Central and South America. The plants grow in tropical wet and humid forests. Because they are epiphytes, they attach themselves naturally to trees and rocks.

Sometimes they grow attached to a host plant, but they don’t feed off it. This is why Guzmania Lingulata is sometimes called the droophead tufted airplant. It seems to simply live off air.

Scarlet Star has long, narrow, shiny green leaves and bright red bracts that take three or four years to form. It is the bracts that are the show-stoppers. But they are not Guzmania Lingulata flowers. The flowers are white and very small.

If you look at a flowering Scarlet Star plant from above you will notice that the flower head is the shape of a star. That’s how it got its name.

Before the bracts form, you will see that the plant looks like a rosette with a hollow center. The leaves form a frame and the center is like a cup or mini-reservoir that can hold water.

Scarlet Star is native to Central and South America. But there are many Guzmania Lingulata cultivars that you can buy.

Popular varieties include:

  • Orange Star with bright orange bracts
  • Luna with mauve bracts
  • Rana, the newest hybrid that has a larger flower spike that is orange-red in color

How Scarlet Star Bromeliads Grow & Die

Scarlet Star plants live for about four years, and they only flower once. Once the plant is full-grown, Scarlet Red Star bracts form in the center of the plant. These last about five months.

The bracts are green at first and then they fade to yellow before turning bright scarlet red.

Many people incorrectly think that the bract is the flower of the Scarlet Star plant. Some people spell it Scarlett Star flower, which is also wrong!

The true flowers of the plant form in the center of each bract and are almost hidden by the colorful bract. These flowers are white and tiny and they have a tubular shape. They die when the bracts die.

When the bract has died, the plant reproduces by growing offsets known as bromeliad pups. They look like very small bromeliad plants and you will see them peep out between the bigger leaves.

Once the pups are about 3 inches or 7.5 cm tall they will have their own roots. Remove them from the mother plant and pot them. You will need to repot your plants into a slightly bigger pot in spring every year.

If you like, you can plant some of them in the garden. We will explain how to plant them later on.

Stop repotting when the plant fills a 6 inch (15 cm) pot. It will carry on growing to a height of about 12 inches or 30 cm. Its leaves will grow up to 18 inches or 45 cm long.

Where to Grow Your Scarlet Star Plant

Bromeliads don’t normally grow in the soil, they attach themselves to trees and rocks. They have very shallow roots and only use the host for support. They get all the water and minerals they need from the environment around them.

You can mount your Scarlet Star on bark or on the branch of a tree. Unless you know how to do this, buy the plant bark-mounted with its roots wrapped in sphagnum moss.

At the same time, almost magically, Scarlet Star Bromeliads can also be grown in soil in your garden. One important issue is that the climate must be right. They won’t grow in areas where it snows or gets very cold in winter. They like it to be hot and humid.

If your climate isn’t suitable, grow them inside. If you want to be sure there is enough humidity and moisture, grow your Scarlet Star plants in or near your bathroom or kitchen. But make sure that they get the right light and water, and that you care for them the right way.

Whether you choose to grow your bromeliad plants in pots or in your garden, it is very important to have good drainage.

How to Plant Your Scarlet Star Plant

Unlike most plants, epiphytic bromeliads don’t get much water or food through their roots. This is very important.

Whether you grow your bromeliad plants inside or outside, plant them in a porous soil mix. Don’t use regular potting soil because it won’t drain fast enough. You don’t want the soil to get boggy. Rather, you want the water to drain fast so that air can always reach the roots.

The best soil to use for growing Scarlet Star bromeliads is bromeliad or orchid potting soil. You can buy this online or from any good plant shops or nurseries.

You can also make your own bromeliad potting soil. Do this by mixing potting soil with the same amount of fine-grade fir bark. Another suitable mixture contains equal amounts of perlite, fir bark or coconut coir, and sphagnum peat moss.

If you plant Scarlet Star in your garden, use peat and moist, sandy soil. Choose a spot that is sunny but protected from the hot midday sun. Stick to growing them in pots if your climate isn’t warm and humid.

Scarlet Star plants have very shallow roots and so they don’t need deep pots. It’s always a good idea to put a few pebbles inside the pot, at the base, for drainage.

Scarlet Star Light Requirements


In their natural tropical habitat, bromeliads get between 10 and 12 hours of bright but indirect sunlight every day.

If you are growing Scarlet Star in pots, place them somewhere that gets quite bright light all year round. A good rule of thumb is to position pots near a window otherwise they might not flower.

The plants also grow well in rooms where there is bright fluorescent lighting. But avoid direct sunlight.

Scarlet Star Care

Scarlet Star plants are very easy to grow and care for. If you follow our simple instructions, you will have colorful plants that bloom for up to five months.

Caring for a bark-mounted plant is the same as caring for those in pots or those growing in your garden.

Growing Tips

Growing tips for Scarlet Star depend partly on whether you are growing them in your garden or in pots. But wherever you grow your plants, temperature, humidity, leaching, and fertilizing are important.

– Temperature

  • Scarlet Red Star likes warm temperatures. Indoors, the best temperature is between 65 and 90 degrees F or 18 to 27 degrees C.
  • The plants don’t like drafts of any kind, hot or cold.

– Humidity

  • The Scarlet Star bromeliad houseplant needs humid air to grow well.
  • If your pots are on a patio or deck, or your home isn’t humid, you can put the pots on a humidity tray. Otherwise use a humidifier.

– Leaching & Fertilizing

  • Our growing experts suggest that you feed your bromeliad houseplant every month. Use any good liquid houseplant fertilizer but dilute it by 50%. Feed the leaves, roots, and the central reservoir until the bracts form.
  • We also suggest that you leach the soil now and then. All you do is flush the soil with water to get rid of soluble salts that may have built up in the soil.

Scarlet Star Watering

In its natural habitat, the Scarlet Star bromeliad always has enough water. But when you grow it at home in a different type of environment, you will need to water it regularly. This is especially important in spring and summer.

At the same time, you need to keep the soil dry to prevent root rot.

Our advice is to make sure that there is always an inch or two of water in the flower cup or reservoir. That’s 2.5 to 5 cm of water. It’s a good idea to change the water once a month to prevent it from rotting.

You should also mist the plant by spraying it with water every day. But don’t water the soil.

Once the bracts start to form, stop putting water in the center of the plant. If you don’t stop, it might not flower.

Scarlet Star is happy to be drier in the winter months when it is cool. But it still needs warmth and humidity. So keep on misting the leaves of your plants with a little water every day. It also helps to stand the pots on a tray of damp pebbles.

The quality of the water you use is important. The ideal is to use rainwater or bottled spring water.

If your tap water is soft, without any lime in it, you can use it. But remember that soft water usually has high levels of sodium.

Hard water has a higher concentration of magnesium and calcium and isn’t suitable.

If you use tap water, regular leaching is important to get rid of any salts.

Common Problems

  • Direct sunlight can cause brown spots on the leaves.
  • If the air isn’t humid enough the tips of the leaves sometimes go brown.
  • If the soil is too wet it can result in the roots of Scarlet Star rotting.
  • If you overwater your plants this can also kill them.
  • Pests sometimes attack the plants. Scale and mealybugs are the most common types. Scale looks like little round dots. Mealybugs look like little fluffy white patches. Spray with diluted dishwashing liquid or baby shampoo, then rinse with clean water.

Conclusion

 
We’ve told you how to grow and care for your Scarlet Star plants.

It’s not difficult, but you do need to follow a few simple rules:

  • The Scarlet Star Bromeliad is an epiphyte that attaches itself to rocks and trees.
  • You can grow it in soil, but the roots will rot if it gets too wet.
  • Scarlet Star plants live for four to five years and only flower once.
  • The bracts are the colorful part of the plant, not the flowers.
  • You can grow new plants from offset that form on the base of the mother plant.
  • Repot Scarlet Star every year until it stops growing.
  • When you grow these plants in the soil it must be a porous mix that will drain fast.
  • Scarlet Star plants need lots of indirect light and humidity.
  • It is important to water and spray-mist the plants, but the soil should stay dry.

Are you ready to grow the best bromeliads in your neighborhood? It’s a lot easier than you might think, so why not order a few Scarlet Star plants and see for yourself?

The pleasure and satisfaction of watching them grow are enormous. Prepare to let the colorful bracts amaze you!

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