Guzmania Plant Care: Growing Colorful Bromeliad Plants

The colorful Guzmania is a perennial plant and a member of the Bromeliad family.

These plants come from South America, and there are more than 120 different Guzmania species of these epiphytic specimens.

These attractive flowering plants produce colorful flower bracts of yellow, orange, red or deep purple (depending upon the species).

Their thin, strap-like leaves are deep green. In this article, we describe the handsome, hardy Guzmania and share advice on keeping yours healthy and happy. Read on to learn more.

multiple blooms of bright Red Guzmania plants (hybrids) reaching upwards

Are Epiphytic Plants Parasites?

No, epiphytes are specimens with very shallow root systems that serve the purpose of anchoring the plant to a tree or other porous surface.

They do not derive any nourishment from the host tree. Instead, they glean nourishment from the air and from rainwater, which collects in a central cavity in the plants’ leaves.

Where Did The Name ‘Guzmania” Come From?

The plant is named after Anastatsio Guzman a Spanish naturalist. He did a great deal of traveling and plant study in South America.

While traveling in Ecuador in 1807, Mr. Guzman died. Shortly thereafter, his colleagues honored him by naming this bromeliad genus after him.

The most commonly seen and most popular species is Guzmania lingulata, which is also known as Scarlet Star.

This plant has glossy, long, dark green, smooth margined, flat leaves. In the center of the plant, the leaves form lovely, red bract in the shape of a star.

Although the bract looks like a flower, this is not the true flower of the plant.

Within this pretty formation of leaves, the plant’s true flowers form.

These blossoms are very small and white. They are not visible at a glance.

You have to look between the leaves of the bract to see them. Blossoms may last as long as four months.

The Guzmania lingulata is fairly compact and makes an excellent house or office plant. It likes consistent, comfortable temperatures and humidity and does very well in bright, indirect light or in artificial light conditions.

However, there are 1000’s of hybrids related to Guzmania lingulata with all kinds on names: Rana, Cherry, Hilda, Lulu and many more. We simply call them all – Guzmania.

Bromeliad Guzmania Care

Botanical Name: Guzmania lingulata

Common Names: Scarlet Star or Vase Plant

Plant Type: Epiphyte

Family: Bromeliaceae

Native Range: This plant hails from the tropical South and Central America and is quite common in Costa Rica. It has also naturalized in warm settings such as Florida.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 10 to 12

Height Range: 1′-2′

Spread: 1′-2′

Bloom Time: These specimens may bloom once upon maturity (1-5 years of age).

Bloom Appearance: The tiny, insignificant white flowers are usually nestled within the plant’s colorful bract.

Lighting: Bright, indirect sunlight and/or bright artificial light.

Water: Light to medium watering and occasional misting.

Maintenance: A moderate level of care is needed.

In addition to lingulata, there are literally hundreds of hybrids and other types available.

See the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies’ Bromeliad Photo Index [http://www.fcbs.org/pictures.htm] for images of 135 species and 348 cultivars.

Here are three of the most popular and unusual types of species:

#1 – Zahnii has drooping, glossy green leaves that may be variegated. Some bear a light-colored stripe down the center of the leaf.

Others have light colored horizontal bands on the leaves. This species has red bracts. Its unusual flowers are pale yellow and grow on a spike which rises above the leaves.

#2 – Sanguinea has very long, wide, flat leaves. They tend to cascade over the sides of the plant’s container and drape downward.

This plant has very pretty multi-colored bracts. They are light yellow in the center and transition to orange and then red in the surrounding leaves. This plant tends to spread rather than growing upward.

#3 – Monostachia is commonly called “West Indian Tufted Air Plant”. The leaves of this plant are an interesting shade of yellowish green.

The flowers grow on a spike which rises above the flat, wide leaves. The spike tends to be red at the tip, and the small flowers are white. This plant grows naturally in Florida. It is currently listed as endangered because of predation by the invasive Mexican weevil (aka: Evil Weevil).

Bromeliaceae Care: Guzmania Plant

One of the main reasons these specimens are so popular is that they are so very easy to care for. They can do well in low light, but they greatly appreciate bright, indirect light.

These specimens are naturally forest dwellers and should be protected from direct sunlight.

To water the plant, you simply place a little-distilled water in the handy, natural cup in the center of the bract. Just remember to rinse the bract and replace the water with fresh water periodically.

This helps prevent problems with rotting. The plant’s soil mix medium should be kept very slightly moist in the spring and summer.

Remember that these are tropical specimens, so they like a comfortable room temperature. You should never allow the ambient temperature to fall below 55° degrees Fahrenheit.

These specimens also like high humidity, so use of a humidifier can help keep your specimens healthier while keeping you more comfortable. Light daily misting is also a good idea.

Blooming Guzmania plants in different colors

Culture & Environment

What is the best lighting for Guzmania?

Ideal Lighting: Although these specimens can tolerate low light and can do pretty well with artificial light, they are much happier with an indirect natural bright light.

An eastern or western window is a good choice. Monitor the plant for a day or two after placing it. Be sure that it does not receive direct, hot sunlight because this will burn it.

Watering Best Practices

How often do you water a bromeliad plant? During warm, arid weather, keep the central cup (aka: vase, urn or tank) about a quarter full of distilled water.

Rinse it out about once a month to prevent bacteria buildup and subsequent rotting.

During cool weather, fill the vase about an eighth of the way. Allow it to dry out, and let it stand for at least a couple of days or as long as a week before watering.

Remember that these specimens do not uptake nutrients through their roots, so it’s a good idea to mist the leaves a couple of times a week to provide nutrients.

Water the growing medium lightly as needed. It should not dry out completely, but your plant should never stand drenched at all.

Generally speaking, a once a month watering during warm weather and once every two months during cool weather should be just about right.

Keep Fertilizing Light

Outdoors you can fertilize with a liquid fertilizer during the growing season. Indoors fertilizer once or twice a year by misting your plant.

Mix up a half-strength solution using a good quality orchid food or specially formulated fertilizer for air plants.

Spray the leaves and the surface of the planting medium.

Don’t put fertilizer in the vase because it may cause salts to build up. This can burn your specimens’ leaves.

What Kind Of Growing Mix Is Best?

These epiphytes need a well-draining soil-free mixture. You can use a pre-mixed cymbidium substrate, orchid mix or a 50/50 combination of peat moss or coco coir and perlite.

How Do You Propagate Guzmania?

When your Guzmania bromeliads flowers, the mature plant will die back, but lots of little pups will spring up to take its place.

They will grow in a circle where the parent plant formerly stood.

new Guzmania plant bromeliad pups beginning to develop at base of plant.

You can just leave them in place or cut away the dead plant matter to give them more room to grow.

Alternately, you can remove them and separate them with a clean, sharp knife or razor blade.

You can then pot each one up in its own container. These “newborn” specimens will grow for 2-3 years before maturing and flowering.

Related Reading: How To Grow And Rebloom Your Bromeliad Guzmania

How Do You Pot/Repot Guzmania?

Because these specimens do have shallow root systems, repotting is not really necessary.

A plant should be able to live out its life cycle in the same pot, as long as you start out with a pot that is big enough to accommodate it.

However, this plant will grow well in a small pot, the problem is they get top heavy!

To pot young pups into a more suitable pot, begin with a fairly heavy container.

Weight it down further with a layer of stones in the bottom of the pot.

The reason for this is it tends to get top-heavy as they mature. Weighting the bottom of the pot will prevent toppling.

Fill the pot nearly to the top with your specially prepared substrate and place your plant (with its shallow roots) on the surface of the potting mixture.

Fill in around the roots with more mix to anchor it in place.

A good alternative to potting pups is mounting. You can mount epiphytes on wood, bark or other porous surfaces instead of using a potting mixture.

In this lengthy video, “Mr. Vivarium” provides detailed instructions on mounting bromeliads and several other interesting epiphytes to make a soil-free collection.

What Is The Best Temperature Range?

Remember that these are tropical specimens, so you’ll want to keep them in a setting with a steady temperature of 60°-80° degrees Fahrenheit.

Avoid letting the temperature rise above 80° degrees Fahrenheit because these specimens are sensitive to excessive heat and excessive cold.

What Is Ideal Humidity For Guzmanias?

These specimens appreciate a fairly humid environment, and you must be especially careful not to allow your plant to dry out too much in the wintertime.

This can be accomplished by placing your plant in the bathroom or kitchen where there tends to be more moisture in the air.

Nestling it among other specimens can also help keep it well humidified.

Of course, you could always place the plant’s pot on a pebble tray filled with water so that the air immediately surrounding it becomes humidified with evaporation.

Adding a humidifier to your home environment will keep you and your specimens more comfortable and healthier during the winter months.

How Long Do Guzmanias Bloom?

The tiny blooms only last a few days the colorful bract typically last about three or four months.

Do The Flowers Have Any Fragrance?

For the most part, the flowers are hard to see and have no scent. Even in the varieties that produce tiny flowers on a spike, there is no scent to the nondescript blossoms.

Do Bromeliads Always Die After Flowering?

The plant (or part of the plant) that produces the flowers dies back, but this spurs new growth from the roots.

Even though the mature plant shrivels away after the long-lived blooms die back, it is immediately replaced by fresh, new growth.

How Do You Care For Guzmanias After Flowering?

When your plant dies back, just follow the instructions given above for caring for encouraging the growth of the pups.

You can either leave them be on the mother plant or separate them and repot them into their own, individual pots.

For more read our article on “Why Is my Bromeliad Flower Turning Brown?

Is This Plant Poisonous To Dogs And Cats?

Happily, these specimens are entirely non-toxic to cats and dogs. Even so, you may wish to place the plant out of reach.

The leaves are crunchy and even a bit tasty, so the plant may need protection from bored and curious cats and dogs.

Pests, Diseases or Problems?

If your plant is well-protected inside and is not overwatered, you are unlikely to have many (or any) problems with it.

If you are not able to provide consistent temperature, the right lighting, good humidity levels and correct watering, you may run into problems with aphids, mealybugs and root rot.

Sac fungus (Bipolaris sorokiniana) can also be problematic if not well-cared for.

Rot can be a real problem. Both root and leaf rot can result if you keep your Guzmania too wet.

To avoid this, you must be sure to use a porous, fast-draining potting medium. Maintain a limited, controlled watering schedule. In this video, TSU Extension Agent, Joellen Dimond, explains how.

If you live in Florida, you must be especially alert to the possibility of infestation by the Mexican Weevil.

Bromeliads grown outdoors in Florida are especially susceptible to this invasive pest. Its larvae can decimate a plant very quickly.

To prevent an insect pest infestation, it’s a good idea to quarantine any new plant before introducing it to your collection. New bromeliads and other types of specimens should be kept apart for about three weeks.

This period of time will allow you to inspect the plant thoroughly. If there are any insect eggs lurking on the plant, they will hatch in that period of time and you’ll be able to deal with them in a contained manner.

What Are The Best Uses For Guzmania in Design – Indoors or Outdoors

These hardy, popular bromeliad plants are the perfect choice for a wide variety of settings.

Throughout most of the United States, they are only suitable as inside specimens, but their uses as inside specimens are many and varied.

These pretty, easy-to-please epiphytes are equally happy in a home setting, on your desk at the office or even in large, open, heavily traveled spaces such as office building lobbies, shopping malls, conservatories and greenhouses.

NOTE: We use Guzmania bromeliad specimens and Phalaenopsis moth orchids around our house for inside color where specimens provide color for 4-5 months at a time. way to use Guzmanias is to create a Bromeliad garden!

Potted or mounted Guzmania can be kept indoors in a controlled climate during cold or hot weather and placed outdoors in a sheltered setting during mild weather.

If you live in USDA hardiness zones 10-12, you can use Guzmania to create interesting displays in containers or even mounted on trees or other porous, stationary objects.

Basically, the Guzmania can be grown successfully in any indoor setting that has consistently comfortable temperature and humidity levels and good lighting.

Bromeliad Buying Tips

When you find bromeliad plants for sale at your local garden center, grocery store or department store, they are very likely to be a Guzmania, Aechmea or Neoregelia.

This genus of bromeliads is known for being easy to grow and care for, so they are very popular and very easy to find.

When shopping for these popular bromeliads, follow these simple tips to be sure of getting a healthy plant.

#1 – Examine the potting medium. Remember that it should never be soggy. Slightly moist is fine, but too much can cause root and crown rot quickly.

#2 – Take a good look at the leaves. You want leaves that are stiff and uniformly green. If they are droopy or have brown or yellow spots, that’s a sign of trouble.

#3 – Look for bugs. Inspect the plant carefully for bugs that may be lurking between the leaves. Also look for insect eggs on the undersides of the leaves.

#4 – Avoid buying the most colorful specimen. It’s hard to resist a plant with a bright yellow, orange, red or purple bract, but remember that this coloration is a sign of maturity.

If you buy that plant, it may grow old and die very quickly. Instead, go for a young, green plant that will last longer.

#5 – Find out when the new specimens arrive. Ask when the store gets its plant shipments. Shop on that day so that you can get a plant straight from the nursery.

The Final Analysis

Guzmanias can bring a touch of the tropics into your home no matter where you live. These cheerful, colorful, easy-care specimens are both beautiful and interesting.

Provide just the right setting, you can enjoy plenty of healthy offspring to share with your friends and family, and these specimens make excellent gifts.

They thrive in any comfortable, well-lit, indoor setting with very little space needed and very little “houseplant care” required.

It’s easy to find Guzmania lingulata in a wide variety of shopping venues, and once you see how easy they are to grow you may be inspired to take on the challenge and adventure of raising other Guzmania species.

NOTE: Over the past five decades of growing and playing with plants I’ve got to know many wonderful people. One such individual was Nat DeLeon one of the pioneers in hybridizing bromeliads. Nat passed away in 2015, however, his bromeliad legacy lives on at DeLeon’s Bromeliads.

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