How to separate bromeliads?

Bromeliads grow outdoors in temperate climates and also make wonderful and easy houseplants. They bring color and beauty into our homes and liven and brighten up whatever space they’re in. The mother plant dies after flowering but produces pups (babies) before going through that cycle. Fortunately for us they’re very easy to propagate! I want to show you how to remove and pot up bromeliad pups so your plants can live on.

The bromeliad pups are very easy to remove. You need to let them grow to a fairly good size, at least 6″ tall, so that the roots have started to form. The bigger the pups, the more root there will be. In the video, I grab them firmly at the base and pull it away from the mother while keeping a good grip on her too. You can also use a clean, sharp knife to cut the pup away. By the way, your bromeliad pups won’t flower for 3 to 6 years so don’t expect it to happen soon after the transplanting.

How to remove & pot up bromeliad pups:

The pups on this Guzmania are a good size to remove. I’m demonstrating where you’d put the knife to cut the pup away from the mother.

You can see the Aechmea pup emerging here. It’s better to wait until it gets bigger to remove it.

Here are the steps you can follow. They are simple!

Remove the pups from the mother plant either by pulling away or cutting them off.

If the mother plant is starting to turn brown, you can either cut it all the way down or leave it as is. Some people leave it in case the mother produces more pups but I’ve never done this.

Fill the pot with a mix of 1/2 potting soil & 1/2 orchid bark.

Bromeliads are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants in their native environments, & require excellent drainage. Because they’re not growing in soil, whatever moisture they get just washes off. The good dose of orchid bark ensures that the mix doesn’t stay too wet.

Arrange the pups in the pot however you want.

(They usually have a flat side from growing close to the mother so I face that towards the center.) You can fill in with more mix if necessary. You may have to push the pups into the mix a bit to get them to stand up. Be careful not to bury them too far down in to avoid any chance of rot.

Top with bark.

This isn’t necessary but I like the look & I think it ups the ante on the air circulation factor a bit. Bromeliads are usually found growing on trees so I feel they’re a match made in heaven when it comes to bark!

Water in well.

It should flow right out of the pot. I also put water in the urns (or cups or vases – the center well) because that’s their main method of collecting moisture.

These are the Guzmania “Jeannie” pups which I remove in the video. I bought this plant ages ago from Rainforest Flora. It was growing in my garden in Santa Barbara & I dug it out to bring here.

I put my pups in a shaded corner on the patio right off my kitchen. They’re protected from the strong desert sun and the winds which tend to whip around in the afternoon. Because it’s the end of May and temps are nearing triple digits, I water them once or twice a week. You may not need to water yours that often.

It’s nice to know that even though the bromeliad with the pretty flower you bought eventually dies, babies will appear for you to pot up and watch grow. The lineage is carried on!

Happy gardening & thanks for stopping by,

A How-To Guide for Propagating Bromeliads

When it comes to separating a bromeliad offset, often called a pup, from the mother plant, many people develop a case of “separation anxiety.” I know I did. While it isn’t terribly difficult to do, there are some basic guidelines to follow in order to achieve success.


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Bromeliads can be propagated in two ways: by seed (sexual reproduction) or vegetatively (asexual reproduction) which occurs when a bromeliad plant produces pups that can be separated to form individual new plants. While I have never tried seed propagation of a bromeliad, I understand it is a long and tedious process. The second method is by far the easiest way for most of us to propagate these plants.

The orange bromeliad in the pictures below is a member of the Guzmania genus of bromeliads. This genus is one of several genera that are sometimes called tank bromeliads due to the fact that the rosettes of broad leaves create a cup or vase, which provides a holding tank for water in the center of the plant. This tank should be filled with non-chlorinated water and never allowed to remain empty since tank bromeliads take in water and nutrients through the axils of the leaves forming the tank. Misting the plants is also very helpful if the air in your environment is dry or if you have a bromeliad that is not a tank type. Non-tank type bromeliads such as Dyckias, Cryptanthus, Tillandsias and some Neoregelias absorb much of the water and nutrients they need through fine hairs (trichomes) that cover the leaves. There are many genera of bromeliads and it is always helpful to consult a plant reference guide about the specific bromeliad you intend to grow in order to confirm its type and whether it is epiphytic or terrestrial in nature.

The particular plant in the pictures was purchased over a year ago and bloomed for many months. As the bloom died, the mother plant began to produce a new pup from its base (right photo). Bromeliads generally flower after 3-5 years of growth. The bloom lasts for a number of months and then dies. With a few exceptions, bromeliads are monocarps that bloom one time and die. Therefore, within a year or two of blooming, the mother plant will also die, usually after producing one or more pups. This is the natural life cycle of the plant and nothing to be alarmed about if a bromeliad appears to be dying after it blooms. It is.

Once your plant develops a pup, let the pup grow to at least a third the size of the mother before attempting to separate it. To remove the pup and establish a new potted plant, you will need the following items: a clean pot, planting medium and a sanitized sharp knife or small saw. I also like to have a second small, very sharp knife handy in case there is need for any additional delicate cutting or trimming.

To begin, remove the mother plant from its pot and push back the leaves so you have a clear view of the area where the pup and mother are joined. Carefully place the knife between the mother and the pup and make a firm, clean cut straight down or slanted just a bit toward the mother if it is to be discarded. Use a slight sawing motion if you need to do so to get through the roots. At this point, you can return the mother to its pot and fill the hole left by the pup, or if the mother is almost dead, discard it. When making your cut, remember not to cut into or through the pup. This will kill it. And don’t try to simply grab the pup and pull it away from the mother without cutting.

It is not necessary to worry too much about roots. The pup may separate with roots already attached or not. It’s ideal if it does, but not critical. If the pup already has roots, plant it in the new pot making sure it sits at the same level in the substrate as it did in the old pot. Water, let drain well, and place it in an area of bright light out of direct sun. Leave it alone until the soil begins to dry out. Remember to keep water in the tank if there is one. Epiphytic bromeliads like this Guzmania use their roots to anchor or attach themselves to things. In nature, that is often high in a tree. It appears this is the primary function of their roots and nutrient uptake is a distant secondary function; however, that is still being researched. So if the pup comes apart from the mother without any roots, don’t despair and don’t toss it away. All is not lost. It will form roots later.

There are two main schools of thought about planting pups that have no roots. One school says go ahead and pot, propping up the pups until the roots develop to anchor them in the pot. The other school advises leaving them alone until roots develop and then potting. Either way will work. Or you may have a method that works well for you. If you’ve had success, by all means stick with that.

Regarding soil, potted bromeliads need a very fast-draining growing medium. Regular potting soil will hold too much water and rot the roots. The genus, Cryptanthus, is perhaps the exception to the rule as that genus likes to be well-watered and doesn’t seem to mind having wet feet. Commerical cactus and succulent mixes are available or you can also use small pine bark as your planting medium. A satisfactory homemade mix for bromeliads consists of one part good compost, one part coarse builder’s sand, and one part perlite. Or even simpler, use two-thirds compost to one-third coarse sand. There are many recipes for bromeliad “soil” and most of them will work fine. Just avoid any that contain a lot of peat moss or other components that will hold too much water for too long a time. Whatever your substrate, it needs to be fast-draining and allow for sufficient air circulation around the roots.

A bromeliad does not have a large root system and does not need a large pot. A 4-6 inch diameter is adequate. It is also helpful to plant a pup in a pot which can then be put into another pot as I have done here. That will help stabilize the rather top-heavy plant as it grows. Clay pots are good for planting where growing conditions are humid since they are porous and dry quickly; plastic pots work well where the air is drier.

In general, bromeliads are not heavy feeders. Use an acidic, water-soluble liquid fertilizer diluted to between one-quarter to one-half strength. Wet the leaves, potting medium, and roots when you fertilize. Rinse out the tanks of tank-type bromeliads from time to time to remove any accumulated salts left by the fertilizer.

The photo below shows two mother plants along with the pups that were separated from them at different times. If a plant produces more than one pup and the mother is in good condition, separating the pups can be done at various intervals as each one reaches roughly a third to a half the size of the mother. In other words, separating and repotting pups doesn’t all have to be done at once. And remember that if a mother plant still looks good, it can be put back into its pot to hopefully continue producing additional pups.

Bromeliads are not inexpensive plants. Although it will take several years for your pups to grow to maturity and bloom, the time is going to pass anyway. At the end of that time, why not have some beautiful- and free- bromeliad blooms to show for it? If you’ve had “separation anxiety” about them in the past, give this vegetative method of propagating these lovely, long-blooming plants a try. It’s very likely you’ll succeed.

Bromeliads are not especially difficult to propagate and can put on quite a display.

photo of yellow bromeliads courtesy of valleylynn,
photos of Orthophytum, Tillandsia and Neoregelia courtesy of Wikimedia Commons with some rights reserved

Bromeliad Propagation – Learn How To Grow Bromeliad Pups

One of the more fun aspects of bromeliads is their ability to produce pups, or offsets. These are the babies of the plant which primarily reproduces vegetatively. Bromeliads need to reach maturity before producing its lovely flower, which lasts many months. After the bloom is gone, the plant produces pups. Some tips on how to grow bromeliad pups can get you started on a whole crop of these amazing plants.

Bromeliad Propagation

Bromeliads are popular tropical looking houseplants or outdoor plants in warm regions. The most commonly sold forms develop a cup at the center of the rosette which holds water. Many also form a brightly colored flower that dies after a few months. At this time, pup starts from bromeliad begin to form. You can carefully divide these away from the parent plant and have a new bromeliad that will flower and pup after a few years.

Bromeliads can be grown from seed but it requires two plants to cross to produce sexually viable seed. Seeds are sown in moist sphagnum moss or sterile potting medium. The medium must

be kept moist and seeds in a warm location to sprout.

A quicker and easier method of bromeliad propagation is by division. This means waiting until pups form and gently cutting them away from the dying parent. Pup starts from bromeliad adults will not flower for up to 3 years, but it is half the time it would take for plants grown from seed and is so easy to do, so why not?

How to Grow Bromeliad Pups

The first step to growing pups is to get them off of the mother plant. The longer pups remain on the parent, the earlier they will reach maturity and flower. That means tolerating a dying parent plant whose leaves will yellow and eventually brown. This is a natural process and no cause to worry, as the parent is putting all its energy into propagating through the pups.

Most bromeliad parents can produce several pups. Wait until the parent plant is looking fairly dead before harvesting offsets. The pups should be ½ to ? the size of the parent before division. You may begin to see roots on pups, but even if they have not formed roots, mature pups can survive since they are epiphytic.

Once they are big enough, it is time for harvesting and planting bromeliad pups.

Bromeliad Pup Planting

Use a sterile, sharp knife to remove the pups. It is often best to remove the mother from the container to better see where to make cuts. Cut the pup away from the parent, taking a small amount of the parent along with the offset.

Use a good moist peat mixture for planting bromeliad pups. The container should be twice as big as the base of the pup. If the pup has no roots, you can tie it to a cork board or even a branch. Let the medium dry out a bit before watering the pup in its tiny cup.

If the mother plant still looks lively enough, repot her and care for as usual. With a little luck, she may produce more pups before she is gone.

Propagate bromeliads with pups

By Dan Gill

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

(09/08/17) Bromeliads are a beautiful family of tropical plants, many of which possess colorful foliage, beautiful flowers or both. With their many shapes and colors and ease of culture, once you have one bromeliad you are likely to want more. But even one or two plants will make an excellent addition to your potted plant collection.

Bromeliads that produce attractive flowers are often purchased in bloom. The flower spikes are exotic and beautiful and usually stay attractive for an extended period. Eventually, however, the flower stalk will fade and become unattractive. When that happens, cut it off.

Some genera, such as Neoregelia, do not produce especially showy flowers, but the foliage in the center of the plant turns a brilliant color when they bloom. Indeed, for most bromeliads, it is not the flowers that provide the primary show. Colorful bracts or modified leaves accompanying the flowers add much to the display.

One of the most striking aspects of the life cycle of bromeliads is that, for most species, once they bloom, they die. After the flowering is finished, the original plant will eventually begin to decline. Don’t panic; they don’t do it right away. They usually stay attractive for an extended period, even after the flower has faded. Eventually, though, the plant will produce no new growth, and it will gradually become less attractive as it begins to die.

Pups to the rescue

Before they die, however, most bromeliads will send up pups from their base, and these small plants can be used to grow the next generation. One plant generally produces several pups, so you usually end up with more bromeliads than you started with. Pups may be separated from the original plant at any time after they have grown to be about one-third the size of the parent. This may be done before the original plant dies or has even become unattractive.

No need for separation anxiety

If the original plant has grown unattractive and you intend to discard it after removing the pups, take everything out of the pot to make it easier to work with. Using a sharp knife or hand pruners, cut the pups from the original plant at the point where they are attached at the base. Hopefully, the pups will have some root development. But if they don’t, that’s okay. Pups will form their own roots after they are potted.

If the original plant is still attractive, this separation can be done without taking the plant out of the pot. Simply use the knife to carefully cut off the pups while the parent plant is still in the pot.

Potting the pups

Once the pups are separated, they should be potted. Most bromeliads look better when they are grown as single specimens. Look at how the bromeliad was growing when you bought or received it. If only one plant was in the pot, then this generally will be the best way to grow the type you have. Plant each pup individually in a small pot — generally a 4-inch pot is large enough — using a lightweight, fast-draining potting mix.

If the plant was growing in a cluster when you got it, you may choose to continue to grow your bromeliad in a cluster. In this case, the pups are often left to grow all together in the same pot, and the original plants are simply cut out when they are no longer attractive. Should they begin to outgrow the original pot and look too crowded, repot them into a larger container. As an alternative, you could remove the pups, and pot them together for a fuller effect. Or you could pot them separately to create more individual plants.

Because the newly separated and potted pups will have poorly developed root systems or none at all, you may need to support them initially. This can be done by placing two or three small stakes around the plant until they are well-established. Chopsticks or pencils work well. Do not plant the pup too deep in an effort to support it. Bromeliads should be planted only up to the base of their lowest leaves.

Growing the pups

While they are rooting, keep the plants in bright light but somewhat less than you would for established plants. Keep the potting medium moist but not constantly wet, and if the bromeliad is one of those that form a cup with their leaves, make sure you keep it filled with water. Once the pup is well rooted, move it to more light.

Adequate light is critical to getting the mature plant that grows from the pup to eventually bloom. Blooming, with good care, generally will occur one or two years after separation from the original plant. Most people have the best success getting a bromeliad to bloom when they put the plants outside during the warm months of April to October. A few hours of sun in the morning and shade the rest of the day seem to work well for many types of bromeliads. The abundant light, warmth and humidity encourages growth and makes blooming more likely to occur.

It’s nice to know that when you buy a bromeliad or receive one as a gift, if all goes well, you will end up with more plants than you started with. This is one of the great joys of growing bromeliads and why they are so much fun to collect. You always have extras to share with friends or trade for new types. And dividing bromeliad pups is a great way to develop your plant propagation skills.

Don showed how to propagate bromeliads by simply dividing offsets, or ‘pups’, from the mother plant.

Bromeliads are native to tropical America. Many are epiphytes, meaning they live on other plants but do not parasitise those plants. Rather than growing in soil, they are found up in the forks of tree branches, surviving mainly on the moisture and nutrients they obtain from the air. Bromeliads can be quite spectacular grown in the garden, but they also make very good pot plants.

Free bromeliads!

New plants can easily be grown from offsets, also called pups. When the pups are about 15cm (6″) in size, just cut them away from the mother plant with a sharp knife.
Bromeliads require a light, open mix with good drainage, so pot up the pups in a 50:50 mix of standard orchid compost and ordinary potting mix. Repot the mother plant as well, as she will produce more pups!
When potting bromeliads don’t forget that the leaves hold water, so it’s important to keep the central cup upright. This reservoir in the centre of bromeliads provides the plant with both water and nutrients, and in the rainforest forms a pond for tiny tropical frogs.
Bromeliads do best in filtered light, and they don’t like strong fertilisers. If you want to fertilise, apply a very weak solution of a liquid fertiliser such as Nitrosol, perhaps mixed with Seasol.
Bromeliads are hardy plants. They can be grown outdoors in most areas of Australia, but they need protection from cold and frost.
Some bromeliads, including guzmanias and cryptanthus, can be grown indoors, but they need a spell outdoors every now and again when they start to look tired.
Choose a bromeliad appropriate to your climate.

Further information

Orchid mix costs about $5 per10 litre bag.

Both Nitrosol and Seasol (about $7 for 250ml) are readily available at nurseries, garden centres and hardware stores.

For more information on bromeliads see ‘Growing Bromeliads’ by The Bromeliad Society of Australia, ed. Barry E. Williams (Kangaroo Press, 1990). ISBN: 086 417 3369.

To find your nearest Bromeliad Society phone (02) 9675 6527 or email [email protected]

Bromeliads are great low maintenance plants but there comes a time when they do need a bit of love and attention. This is particularly evident when it comes to repotting and dividing them up.

Most bromeliads produce offsets (called pups) from the ‘mother’ plant after it flowers. Each plant will only flower once and then put its energy into producing these pups. Eventually the mother plant runs out of steam and dies but you are left with the pups to carry on. How quickly this process occurs and how many pups are produced depends very much on the variety of bromeliad and the growing conditions its kept in.

Ultimately you end up with a crowded pot as new pups fill it up. Also as the mother plant slowly goes into decline the foliage will deteriorate to the point where you’re better off removing it altogether.

Division and repotting is done to keep the plants looking their best and to maximise their flowering/pup production. Over time the potting media will breakdown and compress reducing its drainage ability. Good drainage is essential for bromeliads so repotting is necessary at some stage, even if its a slow growing variety. How quickly the potting media breakdowns will depend on what its made up of and how much water its received.

No matter which way you look at it your broms will thank you for repotting them at least every couple of years. The good news is its pretty straightforward and you can be ruthless! Choose a time of year when your broms are actively growing. This means doing it during the warmer time of the year, unless you live in a more tropical area when you can do it year ’round.

Before you start getting your hands dirty make sure you pull on your gardening gloves and a long sleeved top. Many bromeliads have sharp spines on their leaves and trust me, your skin will come out second best!

Pull the plants out of the pot and assess the plant for which parts you want to keep and which parts are past their best. It usually pretty easy to tell which are the mother plants and these are the ones you should consider ditching. They often have some reminant of the flower left and will have pups grow from the base. If the pups are at least 1/3 the size of the mother plant then they can be safely removed. If they’re smaller its best to leave them attached to the mother plant and to wait until they grow some more before separating. Small pups sometimes don’t survive the division process. Larger pups almost always survive.

You can use a hand saw, a sharp knife and/or secateurs to divide up the clumps. Just make sure that you leave a bit of a stem on the new pup when cutting it away from the mother plant. If you look closely you can usually see where the new roots are starting to form on the pup. Make sure you cut below this point.

Clean away any dead or damaged leaves as well. Then decide which pieces you want to keep. If the mother plant is still looking vigorous you can keep her too and hopefully you’ll get more pups. Some people dust the freshly cut roots with a fungicide and/or let the cuts seal by waiting 24 hours before repotting. I have never done this and haven’t had any problems but you might want to be cautious particularly if you’re dealing with a precious variety.

Now you’re ready to plant your pieces. How many you plant in each pot will depend on how vigorous that variety is and how often you plan to repot it. I usually put quite a few in as I like them to look good almost straightaway. The potting media you use needs to be well drained, as mentioned earlier. Most growers have their own prefered mix but if you’re starting out you can’t go wrong with a coarse orchid bark mix. There will be plenty of time in the future to start experimenting with different mixes!

Pot up the pieces and water them in with a seaweed solution. If you have large pieces that aren’t very stable inserting some small stakes can be helpful until the plants stabilise themselves. Keep the plants in a sheltered spot for a couple of weeks until they have recovered and you should start seeing growth in no time.

PS Don’t forget to check out The Plant Addict Shop while you’re here.

You’ll find great gift ideas for garden lovers and fellow plant addicts!

Dividing Bromeliads

Bromeliads are tropical or semi-tropical plants that are popular container plants. Once a bromeliad blooms, the original plant slowly dies but produces new plants, or pups, at its base before it does. One plant generally produces several pups, so you usually end up with more bromeliads than you started out with. Dividing bromeliad pups in summer is a great way to develop your plant propagation skills. Pups are separated from the original plant any time after they have grown to be about one-third the size of the original plant.

Using a sharp knife or hand pruners, cut the pups from the original plant at the point where they are joined. The pups should have some root development, but if they don’t, that’s OK. Pups will form their own roots after they are potted. Pot each pup individually in a small pot (generally a 3- or 4-inch pot is large enough) using a quality potting mix. Bromeliads should be planted only up to the base of their lowest leaves.

Since the newly potted pups will have a poorly developed root system or none at all, you may need to support them initially by placing two or three small stakes around the plant (chopsticks or pencils work well) until they are well established. Keep the potting medium moist but not constantly wet, and if the bromeliad is one of those that forms a cup with its leaves, make sure you keep it filled with water.

Adequate light is critical to getting the plant that grows from the pup to bloom. With good care, the pups will generally bloom one to three years after separation from the original plant.

It’s nice to know that when you buy a bromeliad or receive one as a gift, if all goes well, you will end up with more plants than you started out with. This is one of the great joys of growing bromeliads and why they are so much fun to collect.

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