Bromeliad Plant Care and Growing Guide

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An unusual exotic looking beauty among houseplants, “bromeliad” is used to refer to thousands of various species of plants with hundreds of genera that belong to the Bromeliaceae plant family.

Even if we consider those typically cultivated as houseplants, there is a generous choice available for selection.

The beauty of these plants has in the past lead to the belief that these are difficult plants to cultivate at home. But despite this plant’s beauty, it easily adapts to home gardening conditions.

Let’s learn all about the bromeliad and how to grow and care for the bromeliad.

Bromeliad Plant Overview

The bromeliad species can be grown in a classic soil bed or as an epiphyte that clings to trees and absorbs necessary nutrients through its leaves.

As houseplants, they are generally grown in potting soil and thrive in the same conditions that are ideal for epiphyte orchids. But, unlike orchids, bromeliads can better tolerate temperature fluctuations, drought, and less than regular feeding.

Bromeliads are related to the pineapple family and offer an incredible selection of both colors and textures. Their flowers are very showy, and their foliage is gorgeous. They feature long leaves in green, red, yellow, orange, and even purple with patterns that include spots, stripes, and more.

These plants grow slowly and will generally take one to three years to mature into a plant that blooms. Native to the tropical and subtropical Americas, most species are perennials.

Some of the more common bromeliads grown as houseplants include:

  • Ananas comosus “Champaca” – This is the genus that includes the pineapple, and this species is a type of ornamental pineapple cultivated as a houseplant. It features spidery-type leaves with tiny pineapples at the top of the bloom spike.
  • Guzmania – This particular genus includes the most available and common species. One finds Guzmania lingulate, Guzmania monostachia, Guzmania sanguinea, and Guzmania zahnii in this group. Leaves are flat, long, and glossy. The more prevalent varieties feature bracts that are bright red in color. However, depending on the precise species, they may come in pink, purple, yellow, or orange. The flowers last anywhere from two to four months.
  • Neoregelia – Perhaps the most diverse of the Bromeliad genera, the Neoregtelia variety feature some of the most colorful bracts in pink all the way to deep purple. Leaves form relatively short, flat rosettes. Miniature versions may only measure as much as an inch across, while larger versions can grow as wide as forty inches across.
  • Vriesea – This variety has feather-like tropical flowers and foliage that is variegated. The most popular include “Vriesea Splendens” and the hybrid “Vriesea Fireworks.”

Bromeliad Plant Care

Bromeliads will require specific conditions in order to bloom. The conditions, however, will vary somewhat from genus to genus, and even from one species to another from the same genus. Most bromeliad species will mature in 1-3 years. 

Their flowering cycle will be affected by temperature, humidity, the length of the day, watering, and feeding. If you purchase a bromeliad or are given one, you will want to research the genera and species of your plant, so you discover the ideal conditions for cultivation.

As an indoor houseplant, bromeliads whether terrestrial or epiphytic species are planted in a mixture of sand and potting soil. Watering can be done by filling the center of the rosette of leaves or by moistening the soil.

Recreating natural habitat conditions needed to bloom is quite difficult. Some studies indicate that these plants will bloom when exposed to ethylene gas, which you can replicate.

If you want to attempt to have your bromeliad flower, place it in a plastic bag together with a ripe apple and seal it. A ripe apple will emit ethylene gas during decomposition. Water should not be present in the bromeliad’s center cup.

Soil for the Bromeliad

When grown indoors as houseplants, bromeliads thrive in most potting soil. The soil bed should hold moisture, but drain well.

If you want to mix your own soil, use 1/3 of sand combined with 2/3 of peat-based soil. Other options include orchid mixture, soilless potting mix, or charcoal.

Many epiphytic bromeliads can be grown in containers. You could also try and grow them as true air plants by attaching them to logs or boards, securing with ties.

Light for the Bromeliad

Different types of bromeliads will require different light levels. While some will be able to tolerate direct tropical sunlight, others will end up with their leaves scorched.

Generally, the bromeliads with soft flexible leaves will prefer lower light levels, and bromeliads with a stiffer leaf texture will need bright, indirect light.

If your bromeliad turns yellow, it is probably receiving too much light. On the other hand, dark green bromeliads with long leaves are probably getting too little light.

If the other conditions for your bromeliad species are good, an increase in light will help the plant to flower.

Temperature for the Bromeliad

These beauties are highly tolerant of variations in temperature. If however, you live in a warmer climate, your plant will require more humidity.

Ideal temperatures will fall between 55° and 80° Fahrenheit. There are some species that are cold-hardy and can survive temperature drops as low as 20°F. However, as a rule of thumb, don’t let your temperature fall to under 40°F.

Depending on where you live, these plants can be moved outside during the summer months if the temperature doesn’t get too high. Keep in mind the species of bromeliads and whether the direct or indirect bright light will help or harm it. 

Water and Humidity for the Bromeliad

These plants are drought tolerant. It is not necessary to keep the center cup filled with water in indoor conditions. However, if light conditions are bright and temperatures are high, occasional water in the center cup is an option to keep it from drying out.

If you decide to water your plant this way, flush out the central cup occasionally to remove any salt build-up. You can water sparingly, on a weekly basis during the growing season, and reduce watering during the winter dormancy period. The bromeliad should never be left to stand in water.

If you are growing a bromeliad as an air plant, it will need more frequent watering, with drenching daily and soaking once a week.

Bromeliads like indoor humidity levels falling between 40 and 60 percent. Use a humidifier for the plants if you live in a dry climate.

Fertilization for the Bromeliad

Not particularly heavy feeders, it will be sufficient to feed your bromeliad once every two to four weeks during the growing season with a liquid water-soluble fertilizer at 1/8 or ¼ strength.

If you prefer to use a slow-release pellet fertilizer, use one per season when you water the central cup. Avoid fertilizing when the plant flowers and during the winter months.

Bromeliad Toxicity and Pets

Bromeliads are not considered toxic for either humans or pets.

If you have a sensitivity to latex, you may experience an allergic reaction or skin reaction if you come into contact with the plant’s sap.

Bromeliad Plant Pests, Diseases, Problems and More

Like the majority of houseplants, bromeliads can be susceptible to aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects. They are generally resistant to disease and severe pest infestations.

However, they are at risk for environmental problems such as:

  • Hard water – Water that is exceptionally high in mineral content can be the cause of water spots at the base of the plant and in the central cup. Demineralized water is the best option if your area has hard water.
  • Overwatering – If the soil bed becomes overly saturated with water, root rot may develop. Bromeliads prefer dry conditions.
  • The wrong container – Since these plants do not have a large root system, they should be planted in smallish well-draining pots, where water cannot collect. Excessive water will lead to rot.

Pruning and Repotting the Bromeliad

Bromeliad flowers can be pruned when they begin to change colors because the dying process has begun. If this change in color bothers you, you can cut the flower stalk off as far into the central cup as possible.

The cutting tool should be sharp and clean. Brown leaves that are dying can be pruned, allowing more energy to flow to the plant’s pups.

Bromeliads can benefit from a repotting if it appears to outgrow its container. It’s better to repot in the spring as it offers the best conditions for bromeliads to adapt to the new pot and continue thriving.

Adult bromeliads rarely need a container larger than six inches. Larger pots may inspire overwatering. A very young bromeliad can be planted in a four-inch pot.

Propagating the Bromeliad

A bromeliad has a life span of 2-5 years. Bromeliads will reproduce by growing pups or offsets that continue the line.

During a natural cycle of growth, a mature Bromeliad will produce a flower spike that may include small, unnoteworthy flowers surrounded by extravagant bracts.

These flower bracts last for several months in some cases. Once the flower dies, the plant will also begin to die. But the parent plant will produce pups around its base.

The pups can be cut with sterile gardening shears and repotted individually in containers. The pups can be repotted after they have formed a few roots and the beginning of a central cup.

Bromeliad Plant Final Thoughts

This dramatic plant was one of the earth’s original inhabitants, originating more than 65 million years ago.  Today’s Bromeliads aren’t very different from the ancient versions of the plant.

If you enjoy the colorful exotic beauty of this plant along with the idea of hosting a piece of ancient natural history in your living room, the Bromeliad will be a lovely addition to your home garden.

If you’re looking for other houseplant care and grow guides, check these out:

Bromeliad FAQs

Do bromeliads need sun or shade?

They like full sunlight but don’t require direct exposure to strong light. They tolerate partial shade, especially during hot summer days. Bromeliad’s light needs are also different depending on their leaf textures. Lower light levels are preferred by bromeliads with soft, flexible leaves, while those with a stiffer texture like indirect, bright light.

How long does it take for my bromeliad to grow?

Bromeliads can take one to three years to bloom. They’re not fast growers. 

What kind of soil does a bromeliad need?

All bromeliads love moist soils rich in organic matter. They don’t tolerate clayey soils or those containing too much sand.

Do bromeliads die after flowering?

Yes, most bromeliads do eventually die back once all the blooms have faded away. This is normal and part of the plant’s lifecycle. Some species live longer than others.

Do bromeliads only flower once?

Most bromeliads only bloom once, but there are some species that will bloom multiple times. Each bloom can last a few months, even up to one year. If you take care of them with watering and providing enough light, they can grow and bloom year round.

Can I put my bromeliad outside?

You certainly can grow bromeliads outside! Most bromeliads prefer temperatures between 60°F – 80°F. You’ll want to provide plenty of water as well as making sure they have at least partial shade.

How long do bromeliad plants live?

A healthy bromeliad should live about two to five years. Be sure to water and fertilize it to lengthen its life span.

Are there any bromeliads that are edible besides pineapples?

The Bromelia and its berries are the only bromeliad that is edible besides the pineapple. The bromelia gives the bromeliad species its family name. There aren’t many berries on each bromelia and they taste like pineapple, but not as sweet.

When the center flower on a bromeliad dies will it grow a new one if you remove all the dead growth?

No, when the center flower dies off, the entire bromeliad plant usually dies within a couple weeks. It may look like the plant has died because the foliage looks brownish-yellow instead of green. But actually, the plant is still alive underneath the dry looking surface.

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Written by:

Amy Walsh
Amy Walsh is a passionate indoor gardener, deeply engrossed in the world of houseplants and herbs. Her apartment is a lush sanctuary of foliage, reflecting her journey from hobbyist to devoted botanist. She's constantly exploring the latest in smart garden technology, eager to share her insights on nurturing green spaces indoors. Alongside her botanical pursuits, Amy enjoys connecting with nature and friends, continually enriching her lifestyle with greenery and growth.

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