Bromeliad Guide: How to Care for a Bromeliad Houseplant

How to Care for Bromeliads: Tips for Healthy Tropical Blooming Houseplants

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Bromeliads are an increasingly popular choice for urban jungles and indoor gardeners, thanks to their exotic shapes and colors and surprisingly uncomplicated care. Encompassing an entire family of plants ranging from popular “air plants” to commercial pineapple plants, the care and culture of bromeliads is both wide and varied. Whether you’re interested in bromeliads to add color and architectural shape indoors, or to make a unique statement in a garden bed, there are a few things you should know about caring for these hardy tropicals. Our guide includes everything you need to know—from light, water, and soil requirements to propagation, flowering, and pest and disease control.

Bromeliad Plant Details

Bromelioideae
AKA: Guzmania spp., Aechmea spp., Tillandsia (air plants), Neoregelia spp., pineapple, flaming sword, many others
Light: Indirect, low to medium light
Water: Regularly. Watering a bromeliad is different from watering other houseplants. See info below for details.
Temperature range: 60-80° F
Height: a few inches to 10+ feet (varies by species)
Fertilizer: Weak, infrequent.
Special care: Susceptible to aphids, mites, root rot, pythium.

Benefits of Growing Bromeliads

outdoor bromeliad in flowerbed from above in purple and yellow variegationWhile some people grow bromeliads because they like their appearance, others choose to grow them for their many benefits. All of the following are benefits of growing bromeliads:

  • Better Air: According to research on air quality, bromeliads remove toxins from the air. But they do so in a different way than other indoor plants. While most plants work during the day, bromeliads remove toxins and release oxygen at night. Using a bromeliad with a day-time air purifier gives you constant clean air.
  • Drought Resistant: Some indoor plants are finicky and need constant attention. However, the bromeliad is different in that it’s a low-maintenance plant. It’s drought-tolerant, so you can forget to water it without losing your plant.
  • Minimal Light Requirements: If you have a spot in your garden or home with poor lighting, you don’t have many options for plants. Fortunately, the bromeliad is one of the rare plants that can handle growing in low light conditions. Some bromeliads are more tolerant of low light than others. For a happy plant, consider getting Nidularium, vrieseas, or guzmania. As long as they stay out of direct sun, they should do well.

Plant Care: How to Grow a Bromeliad

You can grow a bromeliad indoors or out, but they are currently more popular as houseplants. And when you look at the care and maintenance of , it’s easy to see why. When it comes to caring for a bromeliad, there are only a few basics you need to cover.

Bromeliad Water Requirements and Methods

There are special rules for watering bromeliads. Almost all members of this family can be grown in very little soil, but that soil must be well-draining and not compacted, because root rot is a serious problem for bromeliads. In nature, bromeliads don’t always have access to water. They’re capable of surviving droughts, which makes them easy to keep alive. Caring for a bromeliad means figuring out a watering schedule and planting it in a well-draining soil.

When you water your plant, make sure the soil is soaking wet. The water should come out from the drainage holes in the pot. Wait to water your plant until the top two inches of soil are dry. To water your bromeliad, use a plastic or glass watering can. Bromeliads are extremely sensitive to metal, and a metal watering can could kill your plant.

The water for a tank bromeliad (one with a cup in the plant’s center, evolved to hold water) should be watered directly into the tank.  The water in the tank eventually becomes stagnant. To prevent this from occurring, flush the area with water on a regular basis. This short video provides tons of great info about how and when to water your tank bromeliad plants.
blooming tank bromeliad with water in center of open yellow and red bloom

Humidity for Bromeliads

Bromeliads love humidity and require it to survive. Take some extra measures to make sure your plant has enough moisture. Ideally, bromeliads should be in an environment that has 60% humidity. But most homes aren’t that humid, and you need to use a humidifier to attain the right environment. If you don’t want to purchase a humidifier, you can mist your plant daily with a sprayer, or make a humidity tray. a very low-maintenance way to bring up the humidity in your home is to simply have more indoor plants.

Potting Your Bromeliad Plant

One of the reasons bromeliads make great house plants is the fact that they grow well in containers. In fact, almost any container will do. As long as it drains, the container should work well for a bromeliad. If you have a container that doesn’t have built-in drainage, you can create drainage space easily. Simply take two cross risers and lift the plant up from the base of the planter. When you water it, the water will collect underneath the plant.

indoor potted bromeliads in many shapes and sizes and colorsEven if you plan on keeping your plant outside, you should consider using a planter. A planter makes the bromeliad portable and prevents diseases from spreading from one plant to the next by allowing you to easily isolate and manage infected pots individually.

When potting your bromeliad, you need to think about moisture. A plastic pot holds moisture well, which makes it a great option for a bromeliad. If you live in a very humid region, you may want to use an unglazed clay pot. This type of pot lets the water drain and prevents the bromeliad from having too much moisture.

When potting the plant, you should use a special mix of porous material. You can also use bromeliad soil, which is often available at nurseries.

Light Requirements

Some bromeliads do well in low-light situations, while others prefer bright light. When you buy a bromeliad, research its light requirements. In any case, too much direct sunlight could be bad news for your plant. The leaves could burn, so avoid direct light for any species of bromeliad.

Varieties

There are over 3,000 species of bromeliads on the planet, but only a few of them are ideal for indoor use.

Bromeliaceae aechmea are popular because they’re large, resilient, and beautiful. The foliage and blooms are available in many combinations of color and variegation, but universally this plant is simple to care for and provides clean air better than most indoor plants.

    Bromeliad Aechmea Pink from Bloomscape

Unique and colorful, with long-lasting blooms
    Bromeliad Aechmea Pink features colorful, long-lasting pink blooms and variegated, silvery-green foliage. Add color and a little tropical splash to any space with this healthy bromeliad—complete in 8-inch Ecopot in a color of your choice, along with all the tips and tricks for expert-level care. At 15 to 20 inches tall (including pot), this is a bold statement plant for your home or office that requires little fuss and provides excellent air purification.

Bromeliaceae guzmania are also popular. Guzmania varieties are available in many colors and sizes, providing flexible options for your style or space.

    AMERICAN PLANT EXCHANGE Bromeliad Guzmania Growers Pick Live Plant

Bromeliad Guzmania from American Plant Exchange
    Bromeliad Guzmania are simple to care for and beautiful at all stages of growth. This healthy live plant comes in a 6-inch grower's pot. Guzmania should be kept out of direct sunlight. This listing is for a grower's Pick plant, meaning that at the time of shipment, growers will select the best available plant from hot pinks, deep purples, vibrant reds, bright yellows and oranges.

Although Bromeliaceae neoregelia don’t have tall flowers, they do have colorful foliage. They can also handle the cold better than most other bromeliads. To learn more about the bromeliad varieties, head into your local garden store. It’s likely that they have multiple types of bromeliads available.

    AMERICAN PLANT EXCHANGE Bromeliad Fireball Neoregelia

Fireball Miniature Bromeliad from American Plant Exchange
    Neoregelia 'Fireball' is an old standby and remains popular due to the the intense red color and the speed at which this little beauty multiplies. Requires strong filtered light to maintain its deep red color. Will arrive green as they are grown in heavy shade. Considered a miniature since it averages 4 to 6 inches across.

Propagation and Growth Rate

With bromeliads, propagation is as easy as it gets. The mother plant has offshoots that extend from the plant’s base. Also known as pups, the offshoots look like miniature versions of the mother plant. You can take the pups and use them to create new plants. Once they grow three to six inches tall, you can separate a pup from the parent.

To separate your bromeliad pups, pull them with your hands or use a tool to cut them apart. Even if the pup has no roots, it can survive. The plant gets its nutrients from the cup and foliage, and not from roots.

Place the pup in a pot with a mixture of potting soil and orchid bark. Or, you could tie the pup to a branch and watch it grow. Avoid overwatering it, but give the plant water right away. It could take between two and three years for the plant to flower.

Bromeliad Aechmea Pink indoors blooming in bright indirect light

Pruning

Unlike other plants, bromeliads don’t require much work in the way of pruning. When the plant flowers, you can cut off the bloom as it dies. Other than that, the bromeliad can be left alone. Cutting off the dead flower helps your plant grow. Instead of wasting energy on the flower, your plant can focus more on the pups. This will give you a healthier and happier bromeliad.

FAQ

Check out everything you need to know about bromeliad care. Get all of your questions answered and learn how to help your plant thrive.

Why Won’t My Bromeliad Flower?

Most bromeliads only flower once. Typically, those flowers only last a short time. After flowering, deadhead your bromeliad so it can force new pups before the mother plant dies.

How Long Will My Bromeliad Last?

bromeliad with pink speckled foliage native to hawaiiSome bromeliads only live for four months after they flower. However, others can live for years. It all depends on the type of bromeliad you plant, your care and light conditions, and whether or not the flower is left to wither on the plant, which can decrease your plant’s lifespan.

Why Are Its Leaves Brown?

If your bromeliad has brown or soggy leaves, your plant could be a victim of root rot. You should avoid overwatering your plant, or it will have an early demise.

What Should I Do About Residue on the Leaves?

Tap water contains many minerals, and those minerals could build up on your plant. If you notice a salty substance on your leaves, you should spray them with distilled water. Using a soft cloth, wipe down the leaves. To avoid this from happening again, only use rainwater or distilled water for your bromeliad.

Does This Plant Have Diseases?

By far, the most common bromeliad disease is root rot. Fortunately, this is an easy disease to prevent. If you don’t overwater your plant, you won’t need to worry about root rot. Another potential disease is Helminthosporium leaf spot, which is a fungal infection. Overall, bromeliads are not prone to many diseases. Proper care of your plant will keep it healthy.

Conclusion

Bromeliads are gorgeous, easy houseplants and flowerbed showstoppers. To choose the right one, take into account your level of time and commitment, the light available in the space you’d like to place your bromeliad, and the amount of space you have available as some species can grow quite large. There are hundreds of houseplant bromeliads available, so one or many are right for your home.

We hope you found this guide useful. If there are other indoor plants you’d like to learn about, or a topic you want to see covered here on Backyard Boss, let us know in the comments!

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