At the moment Fascicularia bicolor, part of the Bromeliaceae family, can be seen adding a late tropical splash of colour to Exeter College’s front quad. It is an interesting and unusual plant; a generally hardy evergreen perennial, it forms a rosette with slender spiny leaves that grow up to half a metre long and are very sharp. In autumn the centre of the leaves turns a vivid scarlet red, with blue flower heads sitting in the centre of the rosette. The plant likes full sun in a sheltered position. The soil should be on the dry side and well drained. This is an ideal plant for a tropical border, but just remember that the spikes on the leaves can be very sharp. These plants don’t need pruning, but can be divided to thin them out – division in the spring is the main way to propagate them. Interestingly, the RHS garden at Wisley has some examples growing in the stems of Trachycarpus fortunei – well worth a look. For more information, see the RHS website.