Do you remember those times when you would come into a home and see a lot of beautiful tropical gardens and flowers that seem so out of this world that left a lasting impression on you? If your answer is positive, it comes as no surprise that you stumbled upon an exotic example of one of nature’s most delicate decorative plants known as the bromeliads.
So, how does one care for Bromeliad? Bromeliads have unique requirements compared to your average houseplant. That is what we will cover in its entirety within this article. In short, they like average to high humidity, light areas, and a moderate amount of water.
We will cover everything you need to know about providing bromeliad care and some additional information about the plant itself. Now, let’s make this seemingly challenging job seem like an absolute breeze!
Appropriate Outdoor and Indoor Bromeliad care
These types of plants are used to tropical and subtropical climates. Yet, the most critical differentiation revolves around the habitat your plants will reside in.
From the wondrous pink bromeliad that posses an alluring combination of shape and flowers to the graceful red variant, it is essential to take into account the available information of each member of the bromeliad family.
While you might not need a green hand to take care of these plants, you should remember some of the most critical aspects of their growth. They can go a long way in ensuring the long life of your plants.
1. Outdoor approach for taking care of Bromeliads
Most types of plants classified as bromeliads originate from Brazil and the American tropics. This means that they are best adapted to wet and warm climates.
Their most notorious enemy, the freezing cold, is the prime element you have to ensure is not present. This is especially important if you wish to take care of them outside your home. This, consequently, means that providing some form of insulation and protection is a must in outdoor conditions.
In general, those that come from higher latitude regions, for example, southern South America, are more resistant to the cold.
This rule of classifying bromeliads based on their innate temperature resistance might not always be exact. However, it gives you a good idea of how to judge your plants based on their origin.
This does not mean that you should place it in a location that will leave it exposed to sunlight. This depends on the variety of the plant but most of them are negatively affected by too much direct sunlight.
The catch is to provide humidity of 60%, which is the desired level (it is usually done by misting). I recommend you to check if the leaves are dry and to avoid direct exposure to the sun if possible.
If exposing your bromeliad outside the safety of your home is unavoidable, the next best course of action is to provide protection from weather elements. You can do that by placing them in containers.
If you do everything correctly, you will notice that bromeliads thrive in outdoor conditions when there is enough air circulation. Also, humidity is very important to accommodate growth.
2. Indoor Bromeliad care
The great news is that Bromeliads are one of the best ornamental houseplant types that genuinely enrich any home. They have vibrant foliage, air-purifying capabilities, and low levels of maintenance.
As they have a small root system, you don’t have to provide much space. Most small pots will be more than ideal for ensuring their growth.
Ideally, it’s generally a good idea to expose them to direct sunlight during early morning hours. However, keep them away from direct exposure afterward. Aside from issues that can surface due to pests, there is no reason to worry about maintenance indoors.
Bromeliad Care Specifics
Here we will outline the most important considerations and requirements for providing ideal conditions to your plants.
1. Watering Bromeliad Plant
In my experience, tending to these plants, I noticed that it is a bigger issue if you overwater them than if they get less water. These types of plants are very susceptible to root rot.
To counteract this, it is a common practice to freely endorse the implementation of a medium that ensures quick and easy drainage. To check if any salt is building up in your media, it is a great idea to thoroughly soak it.
Before watering your plants, do a quick check-up on the media; if at least two inches on the top are dry, you won’t have to worry about the plant’s roots getting rot as a result of overwatering.
Another great benefit of having bromeliads is that they can be kept adequately moist either by watering or by misting. Always be sure that you are providing water to the plant correctly; by this, I mean watering it’s “tank”.
In the wild, leaves and roots absorb only a tiny fraction of rainfall moisture. This means that, if rains are not frequent, watering should compensate to meet the plant’s needs accordingly.
The part of the bromeliad called the “tank” is the location all of its leaves conjoin and form a water-collecting organ. It serves the purpose of collecting rainwater.
This shape serves the purpose of collecting water (in the wild, it collects rainwater and provides a habitat for the local fauna).
I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep the tank filled with water at all times. Stagnant water is another issue that has to be preventively removed by flushing the tank every so often.
Best Type of Water for Bromeliad Care
Rainwater is the best and most realistic option. But, considering that it is not always available or sufficient, distilled water is the next best choice. You should avoid tap water as it can result in a build-up of chemicals and more massive amounts of salt.
And a warning before you start watering this family of plants; never use a metal container for watering purposes! This is because Bromeliads are very sensitive to metal. So, using containers made out of said material can have dire consequences on the plants.
This is an essential ingredient for keeping your Bromeliads healthy and long-lasting. While the exact percentage shouldn’t be something to be overly concerned about, a more vigorous leaf constitution and intense color associated with your plant closely follow the right humidity percentage.
When we are talking about bromeliad house plant care, it can be especially challenging to maintain the golden 60% humidity. There are methods to counteract this, and they are as follows:
- Line up a couple of more plants near your bromeliad. This serves the purpose of ensuring that transpiration, a natural process in which plants produce vapor by converting water, can be substituted as a natural way of providing adequate amounts of moisture. While this is one of the best methods you can take up, it will sometimes need to be supported with additional supplementation.
- Placing plants between two glasses or bowls can preserve humidity all the while allowing for vaporized water to be re-used.
- Misting plants that have high requirements for humidity is a great idea, especially for bromeliads. They absorb moisture through scales located on their leaves.
- The most efficient way to tackle dry indoor air that is to place a humidifier near your plants. This is by far, one of the most efficient options at your disposal.
3. Pots and Potting Media
There are two most common species of bromeliad you can come across: epiphytic (this kind prefers to reside on rocky terrain, as well as on trees) and terrestrial (they naturally grow in soil).
Most plants within the bromeliad family have small roots systems. This means that investing in a large pot is not necessary as it can be detrimental to your plant’s health in case of an increase of moisture, which can lead to rot.
At the same time, an overly small pot may not be able to keep your plant upright. Before making a definitive choice, it is worth to take into account the following:
- What kind of potting medium will you take (how fast the medium will dry out and drain is extremely important)
- How much air movement is allowed within it. The roots of the majority of bromeliads enjoy an abundant amount of air movement.
- “When in doubt, let it dry out” is very accurate when dealing with bromeliads. Keeping to a precise watering schedule eliminates the chance of overwatering this family of plants. Overwatering is more dangerous to them than underwatering.
Best Pot Sizes for Bromeliad Care
Now, there are a couple of sizes that can accommodate adequate growth:
- Smaller variant – 3″-4″ pot
- Medium-sized variant- 5”-6” pot
- Large variant – 8″ pot
- Extra-large variant- 10” pot
Any kind of container will do as long as it has good drainage. Most plant holding units can substitute for pots if they allow for good air circulation and the before-mentioned drainage.
Best Pot Materials for Bromeliad Care
The materials of the pots in question are equally important as the size and can be put together within the following classification:
- Plastic pots- great for holding moisture, ideal for watering schedules that have a more extended space between each individual watering session and for arid regions (or for heated homes in case of indoor gardening)
- Clay pots- fantastic drainage capabilities that hugely decrease the chances of your plants dying from overwatering, these kinds of pots are unparalleled for humid conditions
- Terracotta pots – these kinds of pots are unique because they promote a porous design that allows for both water and air to move through its walls, doing a marvelous job of preventing root rot and diseased soil from occurring. Their ability to draw moisture out of the ground makes them great for colder climates
It is a good idea to keep a pad or plate under your plants in case of dripping, as it could ruin carpets or furniture.
Best Potting Mix for Bromeliad Plant Care
When we are talking about the potting media, you can compose the mix of organic matter that meets the plant’s requirements when it comes to drainage.
There is a wide range of soil and commercial potting mixes to choose from. An experienced gardener will enhance their chosen medium to quicken the drying process and allow for air circulation.
To those willing to go the extra mile to provide optimal growth conditions, potting mixes created exclusively for bromeliads are available.
I would recommend taking up another route- making your very own potting mix from a set of inexpensive ingredients. Here are a few useful combinations you can try out for yourself:
- Combining pine bark nuggets, perlite, and soil-less potting soil in equal measure
- Mixing 1/4 orchid bark, 1/2 potting soil, and 1/4 perlite
- Take medium-grade horticultural perlite and mix it with fine fir bark and sphagnum peat moss
Due to the small root systems that are common among bromeliads, repotting can be done every 4 or 5 years with a minuscule increase of only 1 or 2 pot sizes.
As a side note, I have found that materials such as tree fern, coconut shells, and sand make excellent alternative materials. This is especially true if you have some difficulty with getting your hands on the usual materials associated with potting mediums.
Related: Best Potting Soil For Indoor Plants
4. Light Requirements
This is a sensitive one as the genus of the bromeliad will largely determine the light needs of the plant.
An excellent way to determine approximate requirements is to take a look at the leaves; if they are malleable and spineless, you can rest assured that the plant prefers low light levels.
Good examples of this plant type are Vriesea and Guzmania that grow in tropical areas, usually under shades of trees and other plant life. In contrast, other members of the bromeliad family, such as Aechmea, Tillandsia, or Neoregelia, love bright, but indirect light upon their stiff leaves.
If you have no way to tell for sure if your plant prefers low or high levels of lighting, it is a good idea is to take a look at how the plants are reacting to the given conditions.
However, if there is not enough light available for your bromeliad, it will increase its chlorophyll production. This will change the color of the plant into a darker green.
If, however, you expose them to too much light, you will most likely see white patches forming on the leaves of your plant. Sunburned leaves might further attain brown patches along with its leaves if left unprotected from the direct sunlight.
Suppose you wish to engage in the experimentation of conditions that will best suit your plants. In that case, you should never expose them from one extreme to another, as even bromeliads that like the bright light conditions may get sunburns. Especially if you keep them in low-light conditions for far too long.
Slowly change the environment of your plants and watch how they react to these small changes before finding the right fit. But, for the most part, an immense amount of this family of plants prefers sunny spaces.
Great news: a large majority of bromeliads don’t require any fertilizer to grow and thrive.
This is not a rule that holds its water in all cases, as light feeding regularly can do wonders when it comes to enhancing the appearance of foliage and bromeliad flowers.
The growing cycle comes around during summer, and this is the time in which fertilizers can do wonders for assisting the growth of your bromeliad, but which kinds should be taken?
Many gardeners take up liquid fertilizers at 1/4 strength, while another popular method involves the use of pellet or powder fertilizer formulas. They are lightly sprinkled around the base of your plant.
The golden rule to keep in mind is to never sprinkle fertilizers around the tank. It can cause devastating consequences to the plant such as burning and even rot.
If you plan to use a fertilizer shortly after repotting your plant, be sure to pick slow-release variants. When you place it at the bottom of the plant, it can get considerable benefits. This is true because the fertilizer takes effect where the roots will want to expand.
If your plants are well-rooted, you can increase the recommended dosages of fertilizer, which can be great during growing seasons. Refrain from doing this too often as it can overstimulate the leaves and negatively affect the entire plant.
Be sure to avoid fertilizers that have a high nitrogen content. They can negatively affect the bromeliad’s capability to flower.
You can witness the exquisite nature of the bromeliads in their flowers. The blooming period can last for months, but they will, eventually, fade and fall.
Many bromeliads don’t flower more than once, but that will not result in the plant losing its aesthetic beauty. With adequate bromeliad care, your plant will begin producing pups. This can only happen when the plant is mature so you will have to wait for the plant’s offspring to become mature to enjoy the flower spike.
The beauty of the process is that, although when the plant matures and produces its offspring, it will start to die, each of them can be taken, potted, and given similar conditions to the parent plant to grow and, eventually, mature to repeat the cycle once more.
You can divided the pups with a knife or scissors (you should sterilize these instruments beforehand).
Before doing so, however, make sure that the offset is at least a 1/3 size of the parent plant. If you need more space for their growth, you can always trim at the parent plant’s leaves. This way, you can make some space for the pups to flourish.
For more detailed information regarding pups, it is worth checking out the free Beginner’s Guide to Bromeliad Pups. It contains essential info for professional gardeners and enthusiasts alike.
You can take several actions to ensure the longevity and beauty of your bromeliads:
- Give them ample amounts of light without direct exposure to the sun
- Allow free airflow
- Ensure excellent drainage at all times
- Limit the amount of fertilizer you use and keep to a schedule
- Keep the plants moist but not soggy
- Keep humidity levels as close as possible to the optimal percentage
The pups can easily be removed with the use of precise cutting instruments.
It is an excellent idea to let them grow to an adequate size (6″ tall is the minimum recommended). The size of the pups will determine the abundance of the roots.
It will take 3 to 6 years for the pups to flower themselves. Since they don’t require too much maintenance, it is recommended to pot them and wait until they mature.
Bromeliads don’t require much pruning, which adds up to the overall low levels of maintenance needed for growing this family of plants.
If a bottom leaf dies, simply remove it. This straightforward approach is universal when dealing with this family of plants. This makes it beginner-friendly as there is not much room for error.
Pests problems are rare within this family of plants, yet they do sometimes occur.
Indoor bromeliads are protected from pests that are often encountered out in the landscape, so you can skip this part if you plan to grow your plant indoors.
The most common pests you might come across on your bromeliad are:
- Slugs and Snails
- Mealybugs, Aphids
A good rule of thumb to follow is to quarantine any new plant you buy for at least three weeks. After that you can place it alongside your other plants.
The reasoning behind this lies in the fact that if any intruders have attached themselves as eggs to your plants, you will know within those three weeks as it is the time most of them need to hatch.
I recommend that you refrain from using insecticides and stick to maintaining ideal plant growth conditions.
If you suspect that your plant might have a potential pest problem or if you see them yourself, quarantine and simple hand removal will mostly resolve the issue without the need for chemical insecticides.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here I will briefly cover a few of the most common questions concisely, just to clear up any additional questions that might be present.
1. Do bromeliads flower only once?
The stunning beauty of the bromeliads leaves and foliage is only surpassed by the gorgeous flowers they produce.
They are produced only once in a bromeliad’s lifetime, but it is rarely an issue as it’s pups will eventually bloom.
2. How often do you water a bromeliad plant
Most of the time, this family of plants does not need a lot of water to survive.
Determining the water requirements can quickly be done by using two methods:
- Indicator method– A tried and tested way that is also the easiest is to get 8 cups of water for each pound of your plant weights. This is a universal rule for a large number of plants, but several species don’t require as much water despite how much they weigh. Using a drip hose with a sensor attached and a measuring cup can help you quickly determine how much water the plant needs. You can also soak it entirely in water for a day and then measuring how much it weighs.
- Check the water level– A straightforward method that can discern the desired amount of water by observation of how fast the plant absorbs the water. If the water level falls quickly, your plant uses less water than it should. If the water level is the same, it needs more water.
3. How long does a bromeliad live?
The most common type of bromeliad, the guzmania, lives for two to three years. Most plants that belong to the bromeliad family (over 3,000 of them are in this group) have similar longevity.
Flowering represents nearing towards the end of the plant’s lifecycle, but this ending period can last an entire year. During this time, you can still admire the beautiful foliage that is characteristic of most bromeliads.
The parent plant leaves behind pups that can be detached when they grow to be at least half the size of the mother plant, giving you a new generation of beautiful plants.
Today, we learned how to care for the bromeliad plant. After all this reading, I’m sure you are ready to care for your own bromeliad.
Hopefully, you enjoyed this guide. If you need any other help with bromeliad care, don’t hesitate to contact me anytime.