If you can find the room for even one or a few of these impressive members of the Alcantarea genus, you will be impressed by bold foliage and (eventually) impressively tall flower spikes.
Alcantarea imperialis is the most common species -- regal and considered the signature species of this genus. It is one of the giants of the bromeliad family, growing to a span of more than 1.5 meters, although it can take up to ten years to get to this size. The thick flower spike reaches up to 3.5 meters in height, producing hundreds of slightly fragrant creamy white flowers. The green, slightly ribbed leaves are quite leathery and tough with a distinctive waxy surface, giving a bluish colouration from a distance. Alcantarea imperialis was first popularised by the famous Brazilian landscape architect, Roberto Burle-Marx.
In coastal gardens, most Alcantarea species can take quite a bit of sun, if acclimated.
The Alcantarea genus is a group of plants that grow in Brazil, many of which grow on granite rocks and cliffs like the famous Sugarloaf Mountain (above) in Rio de Janeiro.
Above: Alcantarea braziliana
Above: Alcantarea 'Aurora', a variegated form of Alcantarea glaziouana
Above: xVriecantarea 'Merlot' - a bigeneric hybrid of xVriecantarea 'Eggplant' and Alcantarea vinicolor.
Alcantarea imperialis in full flower in central San Diego. Hummingbirds doted on the flowers for weeks.