Have you ever eaten a pineapple? If so, then you’ve eaten fruit from a bromeliad. If you’ve ever been to Savannah or Charleston, then it’s likely that you’ve seen this plant. They’re the moss you see dripping from the trees that give these cities such a distinctive look. While you can try growing Spanish moss or pineapples, bromeliads tend to be more attractive as a houseplant. But even indoors, they don’t lose their exotic look and feel.
You’ll commonly see these plants inside grocery stores or garden centers. They will often sport yellow and red leaves and perhaps even a pink flower at their center. The Bromeliad family of plants has branched out into so many various species — 3,590 to be exact. Because of this, there are just as many ways to care for them. Even so, many factors remain the same for a majority of bromeliads. Here, we give you a comprehensive bromeliad care guide on how to grow this beautiful plant indoors.
Choosing Your Bromeliad
Most bromeliads found in a grocery store or garden center are from the genus Guzmania. Bromeliads under this genus are popular due to their bright-colored bracts and accompanying flowers. Professional growers have fine-tuned the Guzmania Bromeliad, making these plants extremely low maintenance. They can survive with little water and retain their bright color for a long time with little care. But before you purchase your bromeliad, here are a few things you will want to consider:
- Check the soil inside the container: Is it soggy or moist? The moisture level is vital because bromeliads are vulnerable to crown rot and root rot. If it sits in a saturated medium for too long, the plant’s roots can rot, causing it to die.
- Examine its leaves: These should have a bright green color and be stiff. Leaves that have brown spots, appear droopy, or are yellowing will indicate that the plant may have problems.
- Check the plant for pests: Insects in plants can rapidly increase inside a nursery or greenhouse setting. Ensure that your bromeliad is free from bugs to prevent spreading an infestation to the plants already in your home.
While it might be tempting to pick the prettiest plant, it’s better to choose one that’s just sprouting. Bromeliads only bloom once. They will use the rest of their life to focus on making pups. If you’re looking for fresh plants, ask when they receive a new shipment to get the best plant that day. Regardless of your needs, most bromeliads will stay healthy and hardy for a long time.
Where To Grow Your Bromeliad
This plant will grow best in bright but indirect light. Avoid placing them where the afternoon sun can hit their leaves directly. The hot sun will cause them to burn. However, don’t leave them in a dark corner of the home either. When bromeliads don’t get enough light, they produce pale, long, and floppy leaves. Move them to a brighter area to get their color to return.
You can move your bromeliad outdoors in the warmer month to spruce up your outdoor spaces. Relocate them when nighttime temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees. It’s best to keep them in a protected and sheltered area for the first few days. This stage is called “hardening off,” which will help the plant adapt to environmental changes. When a few days pass, you can move them further away. They will thrive under the morning sun but will need shelter from the hot afternoon rays.
Planting Your Bromeliad in Containers
To plant your bromeliad, look for pots with drainage holes. Use a pot that is less than ½ bigger than the root ball. Using well-draining soil is essential for growing healthy bromeliads — opt for a balanced, all-purpose soil. You can also use a potting mix made explicitly for low-water plants.
Look for an indoor potting mix if you regularly have issues with fungus gnats on your houseplants. These will usually have no traces of bark or compost, which serve as shelter for these pests. Place the bromeliad with the root ball around ¾ to an inch below the top of the container. Doing so will leave it with space for the watering stage. Fill in the rest of the spaces around the root ball using more potting mix.
Indoor Bromeliad Care
Bromeliads are excellent indoor plants because they are resistant to pests and have little need for attention. With the proper care, you’ll be able to enjoy this plant inside your home or office throughout the year.
Bromeliad Pots and Potting Needs
The pot and potting media you use can significantly affect the moisture levels of your bromeliad. Here is a quick guide to how various types of materials can influence your plant’s growth:
- Plastic pots: Pots made from plastic tend to retain moisture for a longer time. Use a plastic container for your plant if you’re raising your bromeliad in a heated home or an arid region.
- Clay pots: An unglazed clay pot is porous and will let water seep out. These kinds of containers are ideal for humid areas where evaporation happens more slowly. However, when using such containers, add a pad or saucer underneath to catch seeping water.
Regardless of the container, you must never use regular soil when potting a bromeliad. Soil is too dense and won’t let water drain quickly enough. Instead, opt for potting mixes formulated for bromeliads.
The Central Tank
Many bromeliads have a tank — the part where its leaves come together to form what looks like a cup. Fill it with water and flush it regularly to prevent stagnation. However, watering will be different for epiphytic bromeliads.
Epiphytic plants, also known as air plants, grow on trees or rocks, not in soil. Keep your air plant moist by misting it regularly.
Never use a metal container to water your bromeliad. These plants are susceptible to metal. Watering from a metal container may cause devastating effects.
Water Needs of a Bromeliad
These plants have evolved to withstand drought but aren’t tolerant to over-watering. Watering too much will cause its roots to rot.
Plant your bromeliad in a medium that facilitates quick drainage. Remember to thoroughly soak the potting medium so that the water runs through the drainage holes. This technique will allow you to remove salt that may have built up within the potting mix. Keep in mind not to water your plant again until the top two inches of soil have become dry. Watering your bromeliad more than this will make the soil too soggy.
Just like their outdoor cousins, bromeliads grown indoors prefer to have 60% humidity. Unfortunately, this humidity level can be hard to maintain, especially in a furnace-heated home during winter. Luckily, there are many ways to increase the humidity levels in our homes. Follow these quick guides for your humidity needs:
Create a Humidity Tray
Find a shallow tray or plant saucer and fill it with decorative stones or small pebbles. Pour water into the tray, stopping just below the surface of the stones.
Next, set your potted bromeliads near the tray. The water will provide moisture in the air and increase the area’s humidity. If you choose to set the pot in the tray, do not place it directly in water. Keeping it out of standing water will protect your bromeliad’s roots from rotting due to excess moisture.
Place More Plants in the Area
Transpiration is the process that allows plants to convert water into vapor which they release into the atmosphere. Adding more plants in the vicinity will help to raise the humidity level.
Use a Spray Bottle
Mist your bromeliad regularly to keep the humidity levels from getting too low. While this will require a bit more effort, it is still a relatively simple thing to do.
Bromeliad Light Needs
This plant has a wide range of tolerance to indoor light. While some varieties prefer indirect, bright light, others thrive in almost complete shade. But for the most part, bromeliads will do well in sunny, bright spaces. Just keep in mind that exposing them to direct sunlight for too long will cause damage to their leaves. During winter, the ideal spot is a south-facing window.
Bromeliads need little fertilizing. Use a water-soluble fertilizer occasionally. Never place the fertilizer in the plant’s central tank. Apply the fertilizer around the plant’s base.
If you’re raising an air plant, it can benefit from liquid fertilizer diluted between ½ to ¼ strength. Spray the mixture over the plant using a spray bottle. It can be tempting to encourage quicker growth using fertilizer, but it’s not a safe technique to use. Bromeliads are slow-growing plants. Too much fertilizer will cause its leaves to become leggy and its vibrancy to diminish.
The sad part of raising these plants is that they mostly bloom just once in their lifetime. Their brightly colored leaves, called bracts, are often mistaken for flowers. These leaf-like structures may be able to support the growth of an inflorescence. Bromeliads can grow through the addition of new leaves at the center of the plant. However, the center can become crowded and won’t have room for new leaves to form. When this happens, the plant will concentrate its energy on making pups or offsets.
Flowers on a bromeliad can stay beautiful for many months, and its colorful bracts can last even longer. Once the flower becomes unsightly, you can cut it back by using a sharp, sterilized tool. Cut the spike back as much as possible, taking care not to damage the rest of the plant. While the mother plant will eventually die, it will hopefully leave its offspring for you to replant.
Propagating a Bromeliad
A bromeliad multiplies by producing offsets or pups. A mature bromeliad will send up a flower spike during its natural growth cycle, as mentioned above. This spike will include small flowers surrounded by colorful bracts. Once the flowers die, the plant may also begin to dwindle in the next few months.
Before this happens, it will send out small pups at the base, which you can cut off for propagation. Again, use sterile cutting tools and place them in individual containers until they grow roots. Once the roots are visible and have the central cup bromeliads are known to have, you can start potting them.
Are Bromeliads Toxic?
Luckily, these plants aren’t toxic to humans or pets. However, keep in mind that individuals with sensitivities to latex may have a skin reaction to this plant’s sap.
Indoor Bromeliad Varieties
Some of the most common kinds of bromeliads grown as houseplants include:
This species includes the most readily available and popular bromeliads, including G. Guzmania sanguinea, G. lingulata, and G. monostachia. These plants exhibit flat, long, and glossy green leaves. Some of the most common kinds have bright red bracts, however orange, yellow, pink, or purple colors are also available. Their blooms last a long time and can vibrantly decorate your home for up to four months.
Ananas comosus “Champaca”
This bromeliad genus includes a fruit that we all know and love; the ordinary pineapple. One variety of this species, A. Comosus “Champaca,” is known as an ornamental pineapple and is often grown indoors. This plant features miniature pineapples at the top of the flower’s spike along with spidery leaves.
This species is known to be the most diverse of all the bromeliads. These are popular as houseplants due to their colorful bracts, ranging from deep purple to bright pink. Neoregelia plants tend to create flat and short rosettes of leaves. Some miniatures are no more than an inch across, while other variants can grow as big as 40 inches wide.
The plants in this genus typically feature tropical, variegated foliage with feather-like blooms. While not as common as the ones above, popular varieties include the hybrid Vriesea “Fireworks” and V. splendens.
Common Pests and Diseases of Bromeliads
While bromeliads can be susceptible to aphids, mealybugs, and scale, they are mostly free from diseases and pests. They are more likely to suffer from the following issues:
- Hard water: Water that’s high in mineral content may cause water spots at the plant’s base as well as the center cup. When this happens, switch to demineralized water.
- Overwatering: If you forget to fill the center cup and instead over-saturate the potting soil, your plant may begin to rot. Remember that bromeliads prefer relatively dry conditions over being wet and soggy all the time.
- Using an improper container: Because this plant doesn’t have an extensive root system, it’s best to plant them in a small, well-draining pot. Doing this will prevent it from collecting too much water, which will leave them vulnerable to rot.
FAQs for Bromeliad Care
The good news is, no, these plants aren’t poisonous and are mostly safe for people and animals. However, if you suffer from latex sensitivities, handle this plant with care. The plant’s sap may cause a skin reaction if it comes into contact with you.
Some of the most common kinds of bromeliads grown as houseplants include:
- Guzmania: This species exhibits flat, long, and glossy green leaves. Their blooms will last and can provide your home with a splash of color for up to four months. Some of the available colors are bright red, orange, yellow, pink, and purple.
- Ananas comosus “Champaca”: A variety of this species, A. Comosus “Champaca,” is used as an ornamental pineapple and can be grown indoors. It features spidery leaves and a miniature pineapple at the top of the flower’s spike.
- Neoregelia: These are often used as houseplants with colorful bracts, ranging from deep purple to bright pink. They can come as miniatures that are no more than an inch across. Other variants can grow as big as 40 inches wide with flat, short rosettes of leaves.
- Vriesea: While not as common as other bromeliads, other popular varieties include the hybrid Vriesea “Fireworks” and V. splendens. These plants typically feature tropical, variegated foliage with feather-like blooms.
The pot you choose will have a direct effect on the growth of your bromeliad. Consider the following:
- Plastic pots: Plastic pots tend to keep your plants moist for longer. These are perfect for raising bromeliads in hotter homes or drier areas.
- Clay pots: Unglazed clay pots are porous, which means they won’t hold water very well. These are great to use in high humidity areas, so your plant won’t stay wet for too long. However, remember to use a pad or saucer under it to avoid spills and damage to floors and furniture.
- Check the leaves: A bromeliad’s leaves should be stiff and have a bright green color. Look out for leaves that appear droopy or have yellow or dark spots. These signs may indicate problems in the plant.
- Check for pests: These are bad news since they can spread rapidly throughout your home. Make sure that the plant you pick is free of bugs to protect your other plants.
- Go for a new plant: It may be tempting to take the colorful ones home, but how long they last won’t be guaranteed. Choosing a new sprout will ensure that it will last longer and display brighter colors as it grows. You will have complete control over how it’s grown; the whole process is up to you.
It’s essential to read the specifications on the particular type of bromeliad you own. The care requirements for each kind of bromeliad can vary. As such, you may find that there are a few things you need to tweak depending on the species. However, there are a few steps that apply to all kinds. Here are a few simple things that any bromeliad can benefit from:
- Maintain an optimal humidity level
- Give them indirect, bright light
- Ensure that they stay moist, not soggy
- Keep constant air moving around the plant
- Only fertilize occasionally
- Provide the plant with adequate drainage