bromeliad

Growing and Caring for Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae)

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With their splashy flowers that call to mind the tropics, bromeliad plants offer an exotic touch to any home. 

If you’re wondering how to grow and care for bromeliads or Bromeliaceae, a family of monocot flowering plants, you’ve come to the right place.

There are dozens of types of bromeliads you can choose from, all of which boast thick foliage that grows in a natural rosette pattern. Although not all bromeliads produce flowers, most produce inflorescences near the end of their lives. With wide, sword-shaped leaves that grow around a central cup, these often-epiphytic plants cling to other plants, using them as perches.

Growing up to three feet tall, these long-lived, slow-growing houseplants are technically annuals (they die after flowering) but produce “pups’ ‘ that can easily be divided and potted to create new plants. 

Here’s how to grow this elegant, exotic house plant no matter where you live. 

Plant Facts

Scientific nameBromeliaceae
Common namesList all common names here
FamilyBromeliaceae
Plant TypeHouseplant
Height and WidthUp to 13 feet tall and 10 feet wide outdoors; 1 -3 feet tall and wide indoors
OriginSouth and Central America, southern United States 
Flower colorsRed, pink, orange, and yellow
Foliage colorGreen, yellow, purple, orange, or yellow
Sun ExposureDirect sunlight
Soil Type & pHWell-drained, porous soil 
Special featuresSome can be grown without soil, good greenhouse plant, excellent houseplant 

How to Grow Bromeliads

The bromeliad family is a large and varied one. The two best-known cultivars, pineapple bromeliads and Spanish moss, are easy to grow. The care requirements among the various members of the family do differ, so it’s important to research the individual needs of your specific plant before you start to grow. 

For example, some bromeliads are epiphytic, meaning they do not live in soil but instead cling to trees or other supports, like rocks. They aren’t parasites, since they don’t harm the host plant at all, but simply use them for support. They get all of their water and nutrient needs from the environment, so you can grow them just like regular bromeliads, but you don’t need to use potting mix.

Otherwise, the care requirements are relatively similar. These long-lived, slow-growing houseplants can be grown indoors or even in a greenhouse. If you live in a tropical climate, you may even be able to grow them outdoors.  

Propagation

Although you can grow bromeliads from seed, propagating them from pups or offsets, is a far easier method.

Bromeliads die slowly, generally in a period of one or two years after flowering. That said, multiple pups will develop during the flowering cycle, emerging from the soil near the edge of the container. When the pups appear, you can separate them from the original plant once they have a circle of leaves or rosette that looks similar to the one possessed by the mother plant. 

Use a serrated knife or pair of pruning shears to remove the pup. It might not have a root system of its own yet, but that’s okay. Add potting medium to a new pot and transplant the cut piece to the container. Your pup should begin growing soon on its own and will flower for itself in one to three years. 

Soil

Plant your bromeliad in well-draining soil. The soil should be porous enough so that water can drain quickly (and let air reach the roots). It should not be soggy. If you’re growing tillandsia, or air plant, bromeliads you can often skip the soil and instead will anchor your bromeliad to a rock or similar structure. 

In most cases, the soil mixture for bromeliads will serve to anchor the plant instead of providing it with nutrients. Therefore, it’s usually best to grow your plant in a loose, well-drained mix, as mentioned above. 

Pruning

Bromeliads require no pruning but you can remove pups (or offsets) as they appear. A mother plant will flower just once each year. When it does, it will produce a pup. When the pup is about three-fourths the size of the mother plant, you can prune it and repot it. 

Repotting and Transplanting

To force it into your plant flower, put it outside in an airtight plastic bag with a ripe apple. Leave it there for three days. It should start flowering six to fourteen weeks later. 

After the plant has flowered, it will die back. Then, you can remove the pups, or offshoots, and transplant them into new pots for continuous growth. 

bromeliad

How to Care for Bromeliads 

Although each type of bromeliad will be slightly different in its care requirements, there are a few general principles that apply to all kinds, regardless of the cultivar and variety. Here are our bromeliads care instructions. 

Water

Water is essential for bromeliads. Water well and let the soil dry out completely before you water again. Most hold their water in a cup-like leaf named a tank. Fill this tank with water and make sure it is kept filled at all times. 

Don’t let the water soak the soil when you fill the tank – if the soil remains wet at all times, your bromeliads may suffer from root rot. Instead, just refill and flush the tank every now and then. Pour fresh water into it, invert the tank, then fill again. This is an important step if you are using tap water to irrigate your bromeliad. Flushing the tank will prevent the buildup of salts and chemicals. 

Sunlight

Bromeliads should be grown in direct sunlight. Although they can survive in less lighting, the sunlight is necessary to help them produce flowers. The amount of sunlight you provide your bromeliad will influence its leaf shape, growth rate, and leaf color along with flowering, too. 

Temperature and Humidity

The ideal temperature for a bromeliad is around 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This will allow them to grow well. 

Humidity is another essential requirement for bromeliads. Since they’re native to the tropics, you’ll find that your home environment probably isn’t humid enough for your plant. You will need to mist your plant frequently, especially if you are growing it as an air plant that is deriving all of the humidity it needs from the air. 

Fertilizer

You will need to fertilize your bromeliad but you should fertilize at half strength or less during the summer to prevent burning your plants. You can use a diluted liquid fertilizer to mist the leaves. 

Pests and Diseases

Bromeliads are hardy plants with few disease issues. Overwatering and underwatering can lead to issues, such as root rot. This usually occurs when the soil mix does not drain readily enough or you have overwatered the plant.

As for insect pests, watch out for mealybugs and scale insects. These two common insects of houseplants can be removed with a bit of rubbing alcohol in most cases. 

Common Varieties and Cultivars

There are many popular cultivars and varieties of bromeliads that you can grow. Most have attractive foliage that can grow in numerous colors, including green, yellow, and even purple. The thick, broad leaves form tanks, or funnel-shaped rosettes, that are meant to hold water. Some develop gorgeous flowering stalks.

There are a few varieties of bromeliads, including urn plants (Aechmea species), pineapple bromeliads (Ananas species), earth stars (Cryptanthus species), air pine or living vase (Guzmania species), blushing bromeliad or fingernail plants (Neoregelia species), air plants (Tillandsia species), and Vrieseas (including hybrid Vrieseas). 

Some popular cultivars include:

  • Aechmea fasciata
  • A. fendleri
  • A. ‘Foster’s Favorite’
  • A. chantinii 
  • Ananas comosus v. variegatus (Variegated Pineapple)
  • A. bracteatus v. tricolor
  • A. nanus
  • Cryptanthus bromelioides var. Tricolor
  • C. ‘It’
  • C. fosteriana
  • C. zonatus ‘Zebrinus’
  • C. ‘Black Prince
  • Guzmania lingulata
  • G. zahnii
  • Neoregelia spectabilis
  • N. carolinae
  • N. ‘Guinea’
  • N. meyendorffii ‘Spineless’
  • N. ‘Morado’
  • Tillandsia cyanea
  • T. caput-medusae
  • T. plumosa
  • T. usneoides (Spanish moss)
  • T. utriculata v. pringleyi
  • Vrieseas flammea
  • V. carinata
  • V. bleheri
  • V. guttata
  • V. saundersii
  • V. fenestralis
  • V. ‘Christianne’
  • V. ‘Splenriet’
  • V. ‘Charlotte’
  • V. ‘Ella’

Conclusion

Without a doubt, the bromeliad is one of the most exciting, exotic-looking plants you can grow. It will add a touch of the tropics to your home and it’s incredibly easy to care for – it doesn’t even require true soil!

Consider following our bromeliad care guide and growing these unique indoor plants in your home this year. What have you got to lose?

*image by [email protected]/depositphotos

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