Bromeliad Plant Care

Bromeliad is the name for a family of plants that is incredible diverse. According to the Smithsonian, there are 2,877 different species. There are as many ways to care for a bromeliad 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 some tips for both indoor and outdoor general bromeliad care and maintenance.

Outdoor Bromeliad Care
Almost all bromeliads are native to tropical climates. Their original habitat was humid, 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 you 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 and determine how much direct sun it gets and at what times of day and then purchase a bromeliad whose needs align with your site specifications.

It is also important that your bromeliad remains moist. If you live in an arid climate there are some bromeliads that are suited to handle dry air. You can also mist a bromeliad regularly if the humidity is less than ideal (60%). Be sure to mist during times of the day when the leaves will be dry before they are exposed to any direct sun.

For people living in climates that have a colder season bromeliads do well during the summer in containers on porches and patios. If you want the bromeliads to appear as part of your landscaping dig a hole and bury the container. This way the bromeliad will look like it is growing in the ground, but it can be easily moved inside before any frost sets in.

Indoor Bromeliad Care
Bromeliads make great indoor plants. They have few needs and very few problem pests. With the right care you can enjoy bromeliads in your home year round or seasonally during the winter for many years.

The first care concern is water. Bromeliads are adapted to withstand drought, but cannot survive root rot that comes from being overwatered. It is important that your bromeliad is planted in a medium that allows for fast drainage and that your pot allows water to move through easily. Each time you water the potting medium thoroughly soak it so that the water runs out 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. Many bromeliads also have what is often called a tank. This is the part of the plant where the leaves meet together and form a sort of cup. Bromeliads can also take in water by filling the tank.

However, if you fill the tank you must clean it frequently to prevent salt build up and remove any fungus. Sitting water in the tank also risks rotting the flower spike. Watering just the potting media should be sufficient for most bromeliads so you don’t have to risk keeping the tank full. If you have an epiphytic bromeliad, meaning a bromeliad that is growing on a rock, tree bark or other mount instead of a pot with potting media, watering is a bit different. You can simply keep the plant moist by misting it regularly. 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.

Another moisture concern is humidity. Just like bromeliads that are grown outdoors indoor bromeliads also need ideally 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. There are several options for increasing the level of humidity. The first is you could buy a humidifier and run it regularly close to the plant’s location. The next is you can take a tray fill it with small pebbles or decorative stones then fill it with water. You can set your pots on or near the tray and the water will add moisture to the air. If you set the container on top to the tray make sure it is not setting in the water. This will keep the bromeliad’s roots too soggy. Another option is to place a few more plants in the vicinity of the bromeliad transpiration will help raise the humidity. The final option is simple, but requires a bit more diligence use a spray bottle to mist the plant regularly.

Pots and Potting Media
Pots and potting media can directly affect the moisture levels in the bromeliad. If you are in an arid region or raising you bromeliad in a heated home. It would be wise to use a plastic pot because they tend to hold in more moisture. If you are living in a very humid area a clay pot should work well. Never use soil to pot you bromeliad it is too dense and will become soggy. Instead you can use potting mixes specially formulated for bromeliads or mix your own using porous materials.

Bromeliads have a wide range of tolerance for light. Some varieties prefer bright light while other thrive in almost constant shade. For the most part bromeliads like bright sunny spaces, but not direct light. Exposure to a lot of direct sunlight for an extended period of time can cause damage to the leaves. In the winter, a south facing window is ideal.

It is not necessary to fertilize bromeliads very often. You can occasionally use a water soluble fertilizer, but be careful to watch for salt build up. If you want to encourage the production of pups (offshoots of the mother plant that can eventually be repotted on their own) then fertilize slightly more frequently.

Bromeliads flower only once. The brightly colored leaves that are often mistaken for flowers are actually bracts or modified leaves. Typically small flowers grow within these attractive bracts. Some species send up a flower spike that extends well above the plant. Once a Bromeliad has flowered it will no longer produce new leaves. It will (or already has) produced pups. The flower on a bromeliad can last 2-3 months and the colorful bracts even longer.You can cut back the flower once it becomes unsightly. Eventually the mother plant will also die. It will however, introduce pups. Pups can be allowed to grow with the mother plant. Or once they have grown to be about six inches they can be repotted and allowed to grow into an individual plant. Pups grown separate from the mother plant will take about 2 years to reach flowering stage. Pups left attached to the mother plant will grow slightly faster.

Following a few simple steps can keep you enjoying bromeliads, both indoors and out, for several seasons.
• Make sure the plants stay moist but not soggy.
• Provide bright light without direct sun.
• Maintain optimal humidity.
• Keep air flowing around the plants.
• Fertilize sparingly
• Provide adequate drainage.

Always read the specifications for your particular bromeliad so that you can provide the proper amount of light and water and enjoy a piece of the tropics in your own home!