Bromeliad Plant Care: How To Grow And Care For Bromeliads

Here’s the best part of Bromeliad plant care… its NOT that difficult.

Which is great to know… because there are more than 3000 different types of bromeliads, hailing from the tropical areas of the Americas, also known as the neo-tropics.

There is also a species that currently thrives in Western Africa; however, it is not native to this area. Apparently, it was introduced to the area by accident and has become naturalized.

bromeliad plant care

Bromeliads are a diverse family that includes plants ranging in form and size from interesting, draping Spanish moss to 30 foot high Puya raimondinii.

These interesting and exotic plants come in a wide range and variety of colors running the gamut from primary reds, blues and greens to dazzling gold, deep purples and somewhat startling fluorescent shades.

These spectacular plants also feature a wide variety of foliage from one bromeliad species to another.

Some have broad, fleshy, succulent leaves, while other types may have very thin or asymmetrical leaves. Textures also vary with some leaves being soft and smooth while others may be spiky and sharp.

The majority of bromeliads develop interesting flowers that grow from a stalk in the center of the plant. Blooms can last for a few short days or remain in place for a period of years depending upon the type of plant.


How Do Bromeliads Grow?

Bromeliads grow in many places and in many ways. There are terrestrial bromeliads which grow in the ground and epiphytic bromeliads which grow on trees or other types of plants.

Still another type is the saxicolous variety (lichen) which grows on rocks.

You may be surprised to know that pineapples are a type of terrestrial bromeliad, and they have a quite complex root system.

They grow in a manner that is very similar to other types of plants, in that the roots gather water and nutrients to nourish the growing plants.

Epiphytic bromeliads, on the other hand gather nutrients and moisture from the air.

Tillandsia usneoides, or “air plant” is one example of this type of bromeliad, and Spanish moss is another.

The roots of these plants attach to trees, but the plant gains nourishment from the air and rain, not from the host tree.

Bromeliads only bloom once. However, their “pups” will bloom once they reach maturity and sometimes give the “illusion” of the plant reblooming.

bromeliad plant care tillandsia

Although many people think that Spanish moss is a parasite, this is untrue. For more myths check out these 11. It does not harm its tree host by stealing nutrients; however, under ideal conditions these air plants can grow heavy enough to cause tree branches break.


Do You Have To Water Bromeliads?

If you have a bromeliad as a houseplant in your home, you will need to water your bromeliads lightly. In the wild, they are, in a sense, self-watering. They either draw water from the air or surrounding environment or they conserve water in built-in reservoirs or rosettes many growers in a bromeliad nursery refer to as “tanks.”

how to water a bromeliadMore on How To Water A Bromeliad Here.

Many types of bromeliads are equipped with stiff leaves which overlap making them an “urn plant.” These hold rainfall for use by the plant as needed. In addition to water that falls into the spaces between these leaves, debris and leaves from other plants also fall into the reservoirs.

This is a situation that helps single-celled organisms such as algae to grow. This state of affairs provides food for a variety of organisms which includes insect larvae.

Because of its ability to hold and conserve water and provide nourishment for other organisms and small insects, a thriving bromeliad in its natural setting creates its own small ecosystem.

Many types of local fauna such as salamanders, tree frogs, flatworms, snails and even tiny crabs live on and around bromeliads feasting on their natural bounty.


Must Bromeliad Plants Be Kept Warm?

Generally speaking, bromeliads do well in a climate ranging in temperature from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It is possible for some types to survive in hotter climates, and some that can tolerate freezing temperatures.

Specimens that do well in very hot temperatures also do well in areas of high humidity. In fact, they need extra moisture in the air to grow well. For these varieties, misting several times a week or even daily is recommended.

Bromeliads that live in areas subject to freezing do need some protection from the cold in order to do their best.

If you are keeping a cold weather bromeliad outdoors in an area that experiences freezing, be sure to cover it before the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

When selecting bromeliads for your garden, always check the hardiness zone against the description of the plant.

You can find good hardiness zone charts and information by checking out the US Department of Agriculture website.


Should I Fertilize My Bromeliad?

Bromeliads are very low care plants, and don’t really need fertilizer; however, you can enhance the performance of your plants by giving them light feedings from time to time. When growing in a bromeliad nursery they usually get both a slow-release fertilizer and a liquid food as well.

Bromeliad plants respond very well to liquid water-soluble fertilizer applications. This extra nourishment will make the foliage a little bit more attractive and will encourage flower production.

The best time to fertilize your bromeliad is during the spring and summer when it is experiencing the most active growth.

You can use either a liquid fertilizer at one-quarter strength or use a slow-release fertilizer or powder formula.

Diluted liquid should be applied very lightly around the base of the plant or lightly sprayed. Granules or pellets, likewise, should be sprinkled sparingly around the base of the plant.

Be careful not to allow liquid fertilizer to sit in the cup of your plant because it may burn the foliage and cause rot.

Also take great care not to over fertilize. Doing so will cause your bromeliad to become too tall and leggy, and it can even fade the plant’s interesting and vibrant colors.


How Much Water Does A Bromeliad Need?

In wild conditions, bromeliads generally gather water through their reservoirs or central tanks. Only a very a small amount of rainfall is absorbed by the roots and the leaves.

This is why less is more when it comes to watering your bromeliad.

This is why less is more when it comes to watering your bromeliad. Click to Tweet

Your plant will be happier if you skimp a bit on the water. Generally speaking watering your bromeliad lightly once a week should be ample.

One good method is to fill its central tank with distilled water, rainwater or pure, filtered water. Don’t allow water to sit in the tank, however. Be sure to flush it regularly so that the water does not stagnate and cause rot.

With terrestrial bromeliads, be sure to use a potting medium that encourages good drainage.

Although the roots of your plant prefer to be kept slightly moist, they should never be soggy and waterlogged. If your plant must sit in water, it is very likely to develop crown rot or root rot.

Bromeliads such as the Tillandsia (air plants) do not need potting soil or traditional watering, but they do need care. It’s important to mist your air plant lightly a few times a week.

Alternately, you can use what is known as the “dunk” method. To do this, you would simply submerge the plant in a container of water for a brief period of time to let it rehydrate.

This method is a bit labor-intensive because you must be sure to shake off and pat off excess water at the end of the dunking. Failure to do so will encourage rot.

Use distilled water, rainwater or pure filtered water with your bromeliads.

Chemicals in unfiltered tap water may damage your plants and cause slower growth and brown leaf tips. If you see these signs, it may mean that the water you are using is hard. You will want to switch to a more pure and softer type of water in this case.

Related Reading

Which is Better Indoors? Orchids or Bromeliads? What do you think?


How Much Light Does A Bromeliad Need?

The amount of light needed by a bromeliad really depends upon the type of bromeliad in question. These types of plants are categorized by their leaf type, of which there are two:

1. Soft, flexible leaves (especially spineless plants) prefer lower levels of light. Some examples include Guzmania and Vriesea bromeliad which grow in partial shade areas in the wild.

On a personal note: I’ve found Guzmanias to have the longest lasting bromeliad flowers for use indoors (4-6 months). Check out the section below on Which Bromeliad Varieties Hold Color The Longest!

In the video below, you’ll learn about where to use Guzmania plants, watering, fertilizing and temperature preferences.

When you get your Guzmania plant…. enjoy it! The bloom will last for months, use it for decoration but do not put it in full sun.

2. Stiff-leaved bromeliads such as Tillandsia, Aechmea and the Neoregelia do much better in bright indirect lighting but avoid direct sunlight.

The more well-known Aechmeas are the “Silver Vase” bromeliad, Aechmea fasciata and Aechmea blanchetiana.

If you are unsure what type of leaf your plant has, watch the plant for clues in regards to lighting. It will let you know if it is not getting the right amount of light.

If your plant becomes a very dark green, it means that it is producing excessive amounts of chlorophyll to compensate for lighting that is too low.

Another symptom of low lighting is legginess. If your plant is becoming tall and straggly, it means it is not getting enough light.

On the other hand, if your plant is receiving too much light the leaves will become sunburned or bleached. If you see white or brown patches on your plant’s leaves, it means that you are giving it too much light.

When changing from one type of lighting to another, do so gradually. Sudden changes can cause stress.


For Use As Houseplants Which Bromeliad Flower Holds Color The Longest?

The bromeliad flower is one of the best flowers you can use to add color to your home. The bromeliad family comes in many varieties producing a wide assortment of colors – from solid purple, red, or yellow flowers. Some Bromeliads produce flowers with mixed colors such as the Tutti Frutti.

Use Potted Bromeliads To Add Splashes Of Color Around The House

To add stunning color to a room mix Bromeliads of different hues into one plant container to create a colorful bromeliad garden. They offer so much color for long periods of time and can really dress up an area.

But, which bromeliad varieties last the longest?

As for which varieties to shop for look out – the current “best in potted bromeliads” going strictly bromeliad flowers the Guzmania varieties offer the best long lasting color even after they’ve hit their prime. Varieties with names like:

  • Guzmania “Hilda
  • Guzmania “Tutti Frutti”
  • Guzmaia “Ostara”
  • Guzmania “Luna”
  • Guzmania “Torch”
  • Guzmania ‘Marjan”
  • Guzmania “Rana”

Guzmania’s let you mix things up get a good rotation of color with all the flower shades and colors at your disposal.

colorful flowers of Bromeliad Guzmania varieties

If bromeliad flowers are not the primary focus but color overall the Neoregelia family is hard to beat especially on a bright patio. They hold up well and the foliage gives lots of accent opportunities.

Finding a nice decorative pot and creating a Bromeliad garden is very easy to do. Just find some varieties you like and put them together. As one fades out just replace it. A great way to add a new splash of color to any room.

Check with your local bromeliad nursery or garden center and find out when they receive new bromeliad shipments, usually every week or two. Plan on getting the freshest plants, longest color and best selection as soon as they come in.


What Type Of Potting Soil Is Best For Terrestrial Bromeliads?

The function of potting medium for bromeliads is different than that for other types of plants. Most of them absorb moisture and nutrients through the cups and leaves rather than through the roots.

As we‘ve seen, many types of bromeliads fasten their root systems to tree bark rather than the soil. It’s important that you know what type of bromeliad you have before setting it up with a medium for anchoring.

One of the most important considerations to keep in mind when establishing your bromeliad is that they all need good drainage and steady air circulation.

The best way to meet these requirements for terrestrial varieties is to purchase a special potting mix created just for bromeliads.

This type of mix typically contains one part perlite or sand, one part peat moss and one part chopped up and decomposed pine needles or tree bark.

Personal Note: I’ve had great experience using a 50/50 mix of peat moss and perlite!

This mix is acidic, and that is ideal for bromeliads. You should maintain this pH level and never add acid buffer such as lime. If you cannot find a potting mix especially developed for bromeliads, you may substitute a mix prepared for orchids.


What About Anchoring Medium For Air Plants?

Not all types of bromeliads require potting, and there are a number of alternatives to potting soil. For example, if you have an “air plant” that typically anchors itself to a tree, you can attach it lightly to a post or tree branch with natural twine.

Affix a bit of sphagnum moss around the root area to protect the plant and hold moisture in place.

You can also mount an air plant in an airy window by attaching its base to a length of sturdy twine with a bit of hot glue. Be sure to let the glue cool just a little before putting it in contact with your living plant.

Loop the twine over a hook, nail or your curtain rod. Your air plant will thrive with good air circulation and indirect light. Remember to mist lightly every other day and give your hanging air plant a good dunking a couple of times a month.

There are also bromeliad terrariums available that make keeping air plants very easy. These attractive glass containers come in a variety of shapes complete with several holes for air circulation and for your plant to grow. You can hang them in attractive groupings for a stunning visual effect.


Is It Necessary To Repot Bromeliads?

As mentioned, the root system of the bromeliad is usually quite small, and the majority of these types of interesting plants can live very successfully in very small pots.

With a young plant, you will want to start off with a four-inch container. You may never have to repot, but if it does seem that the plant is outgrowing its container, the best time to repot is in the springtime.

Generally speaking, you will never need to use a pot larger than six inches for bromeliad. It’s best not to put your bromeliad in a pot that is oversized because having a larger pot may cause you to water excessively.

Grower Tip: Many new to bromeliad plant care over pot the plants. The reason usually comes down to the plant being very “top heavy” in the small pots. It’s best to find a nice decorative container to display these beauties!

There are two conditions under which you should repot bromeliads:

1. A mature plant has become too large for its pot.

2. Your bromeliad has created offsets that need pots of their own.

No matter what the case, you must be careful when potting not to set your plants too deeply into the soil. Plant your bromeliads just to the base of the leaves to help reduce the risk of crown rot.

It is important to secure your bromeliad firmly in place when repotting. If it is allowed to shift about, the roots will not develop properly and the plant will not be able to establish itself.

If you find that your plant does not have enough root system to keep it upright, you can use some wooden stakes to help hold it in position. Once the root system is established, you can remove the stability stakes.


What If My Bromeliad Has Babies?

Little baby bromeliads are the cutest things, and they are called pups! Bromeliad pups are clones of the parent plant. There are some types of bromeliads that develop pups prior to flowering; however, you will usually see them after the parent plant has bloomed and the bloom has begun to recede.

If you wish, you can trim back the mother plant’s failing leaves so that your pups will get a little more light and you will be able to see them better.

Don’t be over-eager about removing these offsets from the parent. They need to stay in place to feed from the parent plant until they reach a certain size and are able to survive in their own pots.

guzmania-new-pup

You can remove the pups and repot them when they are between one third and one half the size of their parent. It’s smart to do this all at once, by removing all of the pups at the same time and repotting them uniformly.

To remove Bromeliad pups from the parent plant, use a sterile, sharp knife to separate the offshoot from the mother plant. Repot the offshoot in bromeliad potting mix that has been moistened slightly.

Take great care not to use too much water because this can quickly cause rot. If you’ve done everything correctly, your pups will grow rapidly and you may need to repot them within half a year’s time.


A Bromeliad Collection Makes A Fascinating, Low-Maintenance Gardening Project

There are so many different types of bromeliads the world over, and more varieties are being discovered all the time. It’s easy to see that these simple-to-maintain plants can make a happy addition to almost any home.

While you may not have a green thumb, you’re very likely to have good luck with bromeliads.

The fact that there are so many different types ranging from Spanish moss to varieties that resemble yucca, aloe and even green leafy grass means that you can amass a varied and interesting collection of beautiful, easy – care for tropical bromeliads.

You can learn much more from the Bromeliad Society.