How to care for bromeliad?

General Indoor and Outdoor Bromeliad Care

Author: Melanie Dearringer

Care and Culture, Growing Indoors, Growing Outdoors

Bromeliad is the name for a family of plants that is incredibly diverse. There are 2,877 different species of bromeliads. And just about as many ways to care for them as there are different varieties. That being said there are a few things that will remain true for the majority of bromeliads and general principles of bromeliad care that will remain consistent. The following are tips for both indoor and outdoor bromeliad care and maintenance.

OUTDOOR BROMELIAD CARE

Almost all bromeliads are native to tropical climates. Their original habitat is humid and they grow on shady forest floors or attached to trees. This means bromeliads are adapted for warm, wet, shady climates. If you live in an area that will not freeze, you can safely plant your bromeliad outside. However, make sure you have a space that will not expose your bromeliad to large amounts of direct sunlight. A bromeliad can experience leaf burn if exposed to too much direct light. Different varieties have different tolerances for exposure to sun. Monitor your site to determine how much direct sun it receives and at what time of day and then purchase a bromeliad whose needs align with your site specifications. It is also important that your bromeliad remains moist.

-Guzmania monostachia

If you live in an arid climate there are some bromeliads that are better suited to handle dry air. You may need to mist a bromeliad regularly if the humidity is less than ideal (60%). Be sure to mist when your plant’s leaves are dry, but before they are exposed to any direct sun.

For those living in climates with a colder season, you will want to consider planting your bromeliads in containers. If you want the bromeliads to appear as part of your landscaping, dig a hole and bury the container. Be sure that your container has adequate drainage so the rainwater is not trapped within. This is a clever way to make the bromeliad appear as if it is growing from the ground, but allows for it to be easily transported inside before any damaging frost sets in.

INDOOR BROMELIAD CARE

Bromeliads also make great indoor plants. They have few needs and very few problem pests. With the right care, you can enjoy bromeliads in your home or office year round.

Water

Bromeliads are adapted to withstand drought, but are much less tolerant of being over-watered which can cause root rot. It is important that your bromeliad is planted in a medium that allows for fast drainage. Each time you water the potting medium, thoroughly soak it so that the water runs from the drainage holes. This will remove any salt build up in the potting media. Don’t water the bromeliad again until at least the top two inches of potting media are dry. Any more often than this and the plant will be sitting in too much water and could succumb to root rot.

-The central tank

Many bromeliads also have a tank. This is the part of the plant where the leaves meet together and form what looks like a cup. Bromeliads also take in water through their central tank. Fill the tank with water, preferably rainwater, and be sure to flush it regularly to prevent water stagnation. If you have an epiphytic bromeliad, meaning your plant is growing on a rock, tree bark, or somehow mounted instead of potted in medium, watering is a bit different. You can simply keep the plant moist by misting it regularly.

Note: It is important to never use a metal container to water a bromeliad. Bromeliads are very sensitive to metal and the results could be devastating to your plant.

Humidity

Just like bromeliads that are grown outdoors, indoor bromeliads also prefer 60% humidity. This level of humidity can be very difficult to maintain especially in a home that is being heated by a furnace in the winter season. There are several options for increasing humidity levels.

  • Run a humidifier near your plant.
  • Create a humidity tray. Simply take a shallow plant saucer, or tray, and fill it with small pebbles or decorative stones. Fill the tray with water to just below the stones’ surface. Then set your potted bromeliads on or near the tray. The water will add moisture to the air and increase humidity in that area. If you set the container on top to the tray, it is important to make sure it is not setting in the water. This will keep the bromeliad’s roots too wet and can result in root rot.
  • Place a few more plants in the vicinity. Transpiration, the process in which a plant converts water into a vapor and releases it into the atmosphere, will help raise the humidity of the immediate area.
  • Use a spray bottle to mist the plant regularly. This requires a bit more diligence but is fairly simple.

Pots and Potting Media

Pots and potting media can directly affect the moisture levels in the bromeliad. Plastic pots tend to hold moisture for a longer period of time. If you are in an arid region or raising you bromeliad in a heated home, you may want to consider a plastic container to house your plant in. Unglazed clay pots are porous and allow water to seep out. If you are living in a very humid area, you may want to consider this type of container so your plant doesn’t stay overly wet. You will want to make sure that there is some sort of saucer or pad underneath to catch the seeping water otherwise you could end up damaging the the floor or furniture the pot sits on. Regardless the type of container, never use soil when potting your bromeliad. It is too dense and will not allow for the quick drainage that bromeliads require. Instead, use potting mixes specially formulated for bromeliads or mix your own using porous materials.

Light

Bromeliads have a wide range of light tolerances. Some varieties prefer bright, indirect light while other thrive in almost constant shade. For the most part, bromeliads thrive in bright, sunny spaces. However, exposure to direct sunlight for an extended period of time can cause damage to the leaves. In the winter, a south facing window is ideal.

Fertilizing

Bromeliads require little fertiliziing. Occasionally you will want to use a water soluble fertilizer. Never place fertilizer in a bromeliads central tank. Instead, fertilize around the bromeliad’s base. Air plants can benefit from a liquid fertilizer dilluted to 1/2 to 1/4 strength. Simply spray the mixture over your air plant. Many people try to encourage faster growth with the use of fertilizer. But because bromeliads are slow growing plants, too much fertilizer can cause the leaves to become leggy and vibrant colors to diminish.

Flowering

-Red bracts with purple inflorescence

Most bromeliads flower only once in their lifetime. The brightly colored leaves that are often mistaken for flowers are actually called bracts, a leaf-like structure from which an inflorescence may grow. A bromeliad grows by added new leaves to the center of the plant. At some point, the center will become crowded and new leaves will no longer have room to form. At this point, the bromeliad will focus its energy on producing pups, also known as offsets. The bloom on a bromeliad can last several months and the colorful bracts even longer.You can cut back the flower once it becomes unsightly. Use a sharp, sterilized instrument and cut the spike back as far as possible without injuring the remaining portion of the plant. Sadly, the mother plant will eventually die. But hopefully not before producing offspring to continue its legacy. To learn more about pups, check out our free Beginner’s Guide to Bromeliad Pups.

Following a few simple steps can keep you enjoying bromeliads, both indoors and out, for several seasons.

  • Provide bright light without direct sun exposure
  • Maintain optimal humidity
  • Keep air flowing around the plants
  • Make sure the plants stay moist but not soggy
  • Provide adequate drainage
  • Fertilize sparingly

It is always important to read the specifications for your particular type of bromeliad. Bromeliad care requirements can vary and you may find that you will need to tweak a few things such as light exposure or watering techniques for optimal growth.

Bromeliads are tough, interesting and don’t require much fuss. That’s my kind of plant to have in a climate where gardening is a year-round activity. They’re a very popular houseplant so I want to share with what I’ve learned over the years about caring for them indoors.

Oh Bromeliads, how I love you! I’m so happy that I’m able to grow a variety of these pineapple relatives in my garden here in Santa Barbara.

I started out my post-college horticultural career as an interior plant technician, which is a fancy name for someone who runs all over the place and takes care of plants in offices, lobbies, malls, hotels and even airports.

Granted these aren’t the most welcoming environments for plants which are native to the subtropics and tropics, but in all cases, the bromeliads certainly held their own.

They were sold as “color plants” and certainly were a lot more long lasting and much more forgiving than begonias, azaleas, mums and the like.

The flowers on Neoregelias are very tiny (& they appear deep inside the cup) but their foliage is the main draw.

I’m hanging out on my back patio talking Bromeliads:

I’ve not only cared for and placed 100’s of Bromeliads on commercial accounts but I’ve also grown them as houseplants too. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with you:

Like many other tropical plants brought indoors, bromeliads like nice, bright light but no prolonged periods of direct, hot sun. In nature, they grow under the canopies of other plants where it’s bright but direct sun is limited. They’ll survive for a while in lower light conditions but need a fair amount of it to bring out the color and initiate flowering and pupping (their process of making babies – see Propagation below).

It’s a bit vague without getting into foot candle measurements but you want your Bromeliad to be somewhere near but not in a window or windows with a west or south exposure. During the darker months, you may have to move it to a spot that gets more light. In commercial accounts, they were rotated out on a monthly basis so the exposure wasn’t as big a deal.

Watering

I’ve found that bromeliads like a good watering every month. Water the growing mix thoroughly & then let it all drain out of the pot. The majority of bromeliads are epiphytes (meaning they grow on other plants, rocks, logs, etc & not in the soil) so never keep them soggy or let them sit directly in water. Keep the cup, which is center part aka the tank or reservoir, 1/4 to 1/2 full of water at most. Be sure to flush out the cup every month or 2 as bacteria can collect in the dirty water.

In the cooler, darker months back off on the watering, to maybe every 2 months, & keep the cup 1/4 full to almost dry. You don’t want your Bromeliad to rot. Bromeliads with a cup (like Aechmeas & Neoregelias) are susceptible to salt damage which occurs because of the water quality or over fertilizing. Although most tap water is just fine, yours could possibly have high amounts of salts & mineral, so in that case, use rain or distilled water.

Soil / Repotting

Bromeliads love rich, organic matter in their soil but they must have excellent drainage. If you have Cymbidium orchid mix, then you can use this for potting up your Bromeliads too. I use a mixture of succulent & cactus mix, orchid bark, worm castings, & compost. Another good additive is coco coir, which is a more environmentally friendly alternative to peat moss.

Bromeliads have a small root system so you don’t have to worry about repotting them too often. Every 4-5 years is probably just fine & you only need to go up 1 or 2 pot sizes. And, it’s best to not repot them in the cooler months when the roots are resting.

This is Aechmea fasciata, the Bromeliad that was the most popular in my interior plant-scaping days.

Bromeliads aren’t fussy & don’t need much if any fertilizing. If you feel the need to feed them, then use a balanced liquid fertilizer or an all purpose orchid food diluted at 1/2 strength in the spring or summer. There are fertilizers which are specially formulated for bromeliads but whichever you decide to use, don’t over fertilize them!

Temperature / Humidity

Temperature isn’t too important as bromeliads tolerate a wide range of temps. Mine grow outdoors & our winter months can get into the 40’s & into the 80’s/90’s in the summer/fall. Humidity is more important as these plants are native to the subtropics & the tropics. If your home is really dry, then mist them a couple of times a week or grow them over a tray filled with water & pebbles to up the ante on the humidity.

Propagation

The easiest way to propagate Bromeliads is by removing the pups (the little babies that appear off the base of the mother plant) & replanting them. If you’re new to this, you might want to wait until the pups are a fairly good size so roots have formed. I’ve also removed pups when they’re smaller & planted them with success. Growers also propagate them by seed but it’s a much, much more tedious process.

Guzmanias have bright, showy flowers but their foliage is rather plain.

Pruning

These plants require very little pruning which makes me very happy. A bottom leaf will occasionally die – simply remove it. If your bromeliad has a flower stalk, like an Aechmea or Guzmania, then prune it off after it has died. At some point the mother plant will die (but don’t be sad – remember, I said new babies will appear) & you’ll need to cut that off after it completely goes.

Flowers

Yes, bromeliads come in a variety of colors. Some have a stalk with a large showy flower atop it while others have small flowers which appear deep inside the cup.

Pests

Mine have never gotten any pests whether they were growing indoors or out. They’re most susceptible to mealy bugs & scale. You can wipe the mealy bug off with alcohol & a cotton swab. Scale can be removed with your fingernail or a dull knife. Don’t use an oil spray (like horticultural or neem oils) on your Bromeliads as they can smother the plant.

This is Pink Quill Plant, which actually has the genus Tillandsia (along with its other Air Plant friends).

Here’s a head’s up if you have kitties: they love to chew on those crunchy leaves but the good news is that these plants are considered non-toxic. Other than that, bromeliads make a fine houseplant and are as easy care as it gets. As a matter of fact, there are some bromeliads I’ve had my eye on so I think I need to add to my collection soon!

Happy Gardening,

More Neoregelias. These are my favorites – I love the patterned foliage.

Bromeliads


Photo – Sanmongkhol/.com

Graham has discovered the brilliance of bromeliads.

Now he’s keen to make up for lost time and introduce you to the all-year-round splendour of these easy care show-stopping sensations.

Bromeliads are members of a plant family known as Bromeliaceae with over 2700 described species in approximately 56 genera. The most well known bromeliad is the pineapple. The family contains a wide range of plants including some very un-pineapple like members such as Spanish Moss (which is neither Spanish nor a moss).

Other members resemble aloes or yuccas while still others look like green, leafy grasses. Billbergias were the first bromeliads I ever came across. As a teenager, I soon realised how easy they were to grow, multiplying by the dozen with striking flowers, despite them receiving little-to-no care. I was in for a shock later in life when I discovered there were so many eye-catching members of the bromeliad family. How did it come about? Well, several years ago, Linda introduced me to Bob Christophel, Australia’s acknowledged Bromeliad Man. Bob was an expert grower, breeder and collector of bromeliads, who was supplying high-quality bromeliads for the gardens Linda was designing for Channel Seven’s garden makeover show, GroundForce. Bob became a dear friend and fostered my curiosity for these epiphytic beauties. I released their importance as colourful focal plants – accent plants that remained accents all year around.

Glowing splashes of hardy tropical colour. Silver falls of Spanish moss. Photo – Moolkum/.com

In general they are inexpensive, easy to grow, require very little care, and reward the grower with brilliant, long lasting blooms and ornamental foliage. They come in a wide range of sizes from tiny miniatures to giants. They can be grown indoors in cooler climates and can also be used outdoors in temperate areas. With few exceptions, the flower stalk is produced from the centre of the rosette. With rare exceptions, bromeliads only flower a single time. Once the plant stops producing leaves and produces its flower, it will not start making leaves again. It will, however, vegetatively produce new plantlets called “offsets” or “pups”. These plants will feed of the “mother” plant until they are large enough to set roots of their own and survive as a separate plant. The mother may sometimes survive a generation or two before finally dying off. Pups are usually produced near the base of the plant – inside the sheath of a leaf. Sometimes, however, pups may be produced on long stolons or at the top of the flower spike of the mother plant. The green, leafy top of a pineapple is in fact a pup that may be removed and planted to start a new plant.

Guzmannia. Photo – ntdanai/.com

In my book, there is a bromeliad for every garden. These stunning plants are suitable for cool or hot gardens, tropical or temperate, sun or shade, indoors or out, in pots or in the garden, even growing up in the fork of tree branches. And today, their colourful leaves are breathtaking to behold – a brilliant backbone to the subtropical garden. So what are you waiting for?

When to plant

Bromeliads are not seasonal plants and will grow all year round. They are not dependent on a certain temperature or air humidity to thrive, and can tolerate freezing winter conditions as well as sticky summer days. At the extremes, humidity can affect and alter the appearance of the foliage, changing its texture and colour.

How to plant

The roots of a bromeliad are purely for balance, as the leaves of the plant provide all the nutrients, food and water it needs. There’s no need to prepare soil as the best way to plant a bromeliad is to place the plant, pot and all, inside a gravel-lined hole in the ground. Simply mulch the surface with pebbles and you’ve planted your bromeliad before you’ve even had time to get thirsty.

Where to grow

Bromeliads can be grown in pots, in the garden, in greenhouses, on balconies, indoors or mounted on a tree or piece of wood. Many bromeliads don’t need full sunlight and in fact, grow better in shady spots – that’s why they’re so successful under big trees. As a general rule, soft-leaf bromeliads like more shade than the hard-leaf varieties. Four giant varieties that love full- to part-sun include Weraughia sanguinolenta ‘Rubra’, Neoregelia ‘Alan Freeman’ Hybrids, Neoregelia ‘Gee Whiz’, Neoregelia cruenta ‘Rubra’ – broad leaf form. There are also several varieties that thrive in cool tropical zones. Make sure you ask which conditions will best suit your bromeliad. And if you stick your bromeliad inside, make sure you take it out for some air to refresh it every week.

Spanish moss grows from trees and feeds from air. Photo – Moolkum/.com

Feeding

Bromeliads cannot live on air alone and need to be fertilised occasionally. Feed them with a spray of quarter-strength Seasol or Aquasol no more than twice a year. Never fertilise a bromeliad during winter and always water lightly, just before fertilisation.

Watering

Over-watering a bromeliad is just about one of the only ways to kill it. Bromeliads are not thirsty plants and filling the centre of them with water will cause the plant to rot. Instead, read your plant. If your bromeliad looks dry, water it, if it doesn’t, leave it alone.

Pruning

Simply cut off any damaged bits on the leaves of your bromeliad, by following the natural shape of the leaf. Cutting like this has no consequences for the plant, and the surgery will be unnoticeable.

How to keep pests away

Bromeliads are a durable species, rarely bothered by pests. Don’t use pesticides, as they tend to smother the plants’ breathing pores. Over-watering bromeliads and bad ventilation can be a welcoming atmosphere for some bugs, so regulate watering to avoid any pests. Scale insects can be simply wiped away. Because bromeliads breathe through their leaves, do not use white oil as it will suffocate them. Fungal rot is a potential problem, but it is easy to avoid – just use the correct potting mix (pine bark) and don’t over water.

Aechmea, Vriesia grow from trucks and branches. Photo – Ratana21/.com

Flowering season

The dramatic flowers of a bromeliad will last for at least six months. A plant’s flowering season depends on the age of the plant and not the time of the year. The offspring created by a flowering bromeliad, will develop as the mother plant ages, and eventually take over. This means that your plant will be constantly in bloom, with old and new flowers.

Bromeliad companions

Crotons have brilliantly coloured foliage and look superb en masse in frost-free coastal locations. For height and colour look to hardy mother-in-laws-tongue, Sansevieria, and the strappy-leaved dianella (D. ‘Border Gold’, ‘Border Silver and ‘Border Emerald’) are perfect for dry shade and will grow to about 60cm. Clivea love the same dappled shade conditions and the range of hot colours in orange, yellow and tangerine go well with the bright foliage of the broms. As will Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ and the colourful coleus.

Plant notes – some more information about our favourite broms

Common name: Giant Alcantarea

Plant name: Alcantarea imperialis
Description: A giant broad-leafed bromeliad that forms a huge rosette of steel-grey foliage with a ruby red reverse.
Size: Height 1.5m, width 1m.
Special comments: Spectacular foliage colours make bromeliads the perfect companion for coleus and clivea. Grow directly in pine bark to keep them well-drained. We grow this in pots and frogs live in the water inside the well.

The enormous flower spike of the Alcantera. Photo – Linda Ross

Common name: Flaming Sword

Plant name: Vriesia
Description: The plants bear interesting and varied foliage and sword-like, eye-catching flowers. They are easy to grow and are a good bromeliad for beginners.
Size: Height 50cm, width 50cm.
Special comments: When potting, don’t forget that the leaves hold water, so it’s important to keep the central cup upright or it will tip all over you.

Common name: Vase or Urn Plant

Plant name: Aechmea
Description: One of the best known of these plants is Aechmea fasciata, or ‘Silver King’, which has long-lasting, pretty pink flowers and is often used as an indoor plant.
Size: Height 40cm, width 40cm.
Special comments: Division is the easiest method of propagation: wait until the offsets or pups are about 15cm in size then cut them away from the mother plant with a sharp knife and re-pot into pine bark.

Common name: Heart of Flame

Plant name: Neoregelia
Description: Many hybrids are very colourful and easy to grow. They are epiphytic bromeliads, which have blue or white flowers, and various red spots and markings on the leaves.
Size: Height 1.5m, width 1m.
Special comments: Good indoor plants, but they need to be freshened up with a spell outside every now and again.

Common name: Flaming Torch

Plant name: Billbergia
Description: There are around 60 species of billbergia; all are colourful and well-suited to growing in the garden around the base of trees. They clump up quickly to form good flower displays, although the flower spike on some species is short-lived.
Size: Height 1.5m, width 1m.
Special comments: Foliar feed every spring.

Did you know?

Frogs often live in the central well of bromeliads; we’ve had frogs living in our broms for years. Mother frogs will deposit one tadpole into each well, giving them enough room to grow into adults on their own.

Bromeliads are in the same family as pineapples! Around 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus spotted the pineapple being cultivated in the West Indies and brought it back to Europe.

Bromeliads come from the southern states of North America to as far south as Argentina. They grow in a range of climates from the mountains to the sea, the deserts to the tropics; there is a bromeliad for every situation.

Hello big eyes! Photo – Jeff McGraw/.com
Text: Graham Ross

Red Flame Sword (Echinodorus schlueteri x E. barthii hybrid) – Bare Root

The Red Flame Sword (Echinodorus schlueteri x E. barthii hybrid) is a breathtaking centerpiece plant for the aquarium. Its green and red leaves make for a very distinctive appearance, and its tall, large leaves are remarkably noticeable in heavily planted settings. Best of all, it is extremely undemanding in regards to care requirements.

Care for the Red Flame Sword is very easy. While it will thrive in high lighting, it is also very durable and can do very well in low to moderate lighting. It requires nutrient-rich substrate for its extensive root structure. This plant produces very large leaves, so it must be planted with care to not cast too much shade on other plants as it grows. It is certainly only suitable for background placement in smaller aquariums, but it can also be placed in the middle ground of larger aquariums. The Red Flame Sword reproduces through rhizome division as well as by the production of side shoots, which can be removed and replanted. It is very intolerant of copper, so please keep this in mind if you are using tap water in your aquarium.

Like most plants, Red Flame Sword will benefit from supplementation such as Seachem Flourish, Flourish Excel, nitrogen, and other plant supplements.

What We Like About This Plant:

  • Tall and wide growth that is ideal for larger aquariums
  • Very easy to propagate, can be modified for foreground use
  • Provides a great deal of cover for animal fry
  • Very hardy and durable in a well-lit, nutrient-rich aquarium

Care Guidelines:

  • Temperature: 72° – 83° F (22° – 28° C)
  • pH: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Lighting: Moderate to High
  • Origin: Indigenous to South America, cultivated in US nurseries
  • Aquarium placement: Middle to background
  • Care: Easy

All Aquatic Arts brand plants and animals come with a 100% live arrival guarantee, plus free email support!

Care Of Vriesea Plants: How To Grow Flaming Sword Plants Indoors

The flaming sword houseplant, Vriesea splendens, is one of the most common bromeliads used for indoor decoration and is one of the showiest. You may already have one in your houseplant collection and wonder how to grow flaming sword plants.

Vriesea flaming sword info says there are 250 varieties of Vriesea, providing a range of color in both foliage and colorful bracts. The flaming sword houseplant is commonly named for its red bracts that appear when the plant is three to five years old. It is an epiphyte in its native habitat.

How to Grow Flaming Sword Plants

The flaming sword houseplant grows best in a one to one mix of regular potting soil and orchid mix. Special soil for bromeliads is sometimes available at the local garden center.

Vriesea flaming sword info indicates a special display for the plant can

eliminate the need for growing in soil. Attach the plant to a slab or large piece of bark reminiscent of its native habitat to provide an interesting display.

Care of Vriesea Plants

Locate the flaming sword houseplant in bright, indirect light indoors. Allow some direct morning or evening sun in winter, if possible. Care of Vriesea plants includes keeping them in temperatures above 60 F. (16 C.), but no warmer than 80 F (27 C).

As with other bromeliads, the flaming sword houseplant has a cup or tank in the middle of the plant. Keep this cup filled with water. Vriesea flaming sword info says watering for this plant should be minimal. Soil should be no more than lightly moist and never allowed to completely dry out. The top half of the plant can be allowed to dry out between waterings.

This bromeliad does, however, like high humidity. Mist the plant frequently or place it on a pebble tray indoors or near the company of other houseplants that transpire. Fifty percent humidity is necessary for optimum performance of Vriesea flaming sword.

More Vriesea Flaming Sword Info

The flaming sword houseplant blooms just once and begins to decline, but it provides more plants before passing away, as small offsets called pups can be removed from the mother plant. Sever pups when they are one-half to two-thirds the size of the mother plant.

Thus, the process begins again. In three to five years you can expect blooming bracts on the babies and another round of pups to propagate.

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