How to Grow, Plant, and Care For Bromeliads Indoors & Outdoors

Thinking of growing some Bromeliads in your garden, or even inside your home? These plants are fairly easy to grow, and care for. There are also multiple varieties which can make it difficult to figure out which one is the best to choose. In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know to plant, grow, and care for Bromeliads, no matter the variety you choose!

Bromeliad Garden Planted and Growing

It isn’t surprising that many people are tempted to plant and grow bromeliads with such striking beauty. However, many are held back by their lack of knowledge concerning this unique plant.

There is a wide variety of bromeliads to choose from, with many having different qualities and necessities. If you want your bromeliad to thrive, it’s highly recommended that you do some research first.

So, what do you need to know about bromeliads? Furthermore, what do you need to grow, plant, and care for them? In this article, you’ll learn all you need to know about their care, and why they make wonderful plants for your home or garden!

What Are Bromeliads?

Fingernail Bromeliad
Some of the most well-known tropical plants are known as bromeliads.

Bromeliads are a part of the Bromeliaceae plant family. You can identify this plant by its prominent, sword-shaped leaves and their unique-looking bloom, which is bright in appearance. The bloom is a brace that encapsulates a flower.

Bromeliads grow on other plants for survival, making them “epiphytic.” Therefore, you can find these plants on trees, stumps, or other plants for support. These plants originate from tropical rainforests, where they grow naturally on tree bark. Here they absorb nutrients and moisture from the air.

Bromeliads use their roots to grip and stay in contact with their hosts. To get moisture, they use a central vase or tank located in the center of the rosette of leaves which fills with water during rainfall. Often, wild frogs will raise their offspring in these tanks.

These plants are highly adaptable to gardens or pots, as long as you use soil enriched with organic matter. As a houseplant, you can pot bromeliads in soil with mostly peat moss and bark chips. They can get mounted on pieces of bark as well if you have it available.

Properly growing bromeliads in pots requires a free-draining mix. You can use a free-draining mix such as orchid potting mix. If you prefer, you can grow your bromeliads on trees or even stumps. Just take some sphagnum moss at the roots and secure them down with a piece of jute or a fishing line.

Many people discard their bromeliads after they bloom. However, those with a bit of patience can use one bromeliad to proliferate an entire garden. Bromeliads are resilient and easy to take care of, making them great starter plants for beginners.

Bromeliad Variations & Gardening Tips

Many types of bromeliads make for a great house plant. Interestingly enough, there are more than 3,000 known species of bromeliads, categorized in about 75 genera native to Central America, South America, and subtropical North America. Moreover, the bromeliad plant has many cultivars bred for sale.

Below are seven categories of bromeliad plants perfect for indoor growing:

Aechmea (Aechmea Spp.)

Aechmea Chantung
Aechmea chanting, or the Zebra Plant, is the most common variation of bromeliad.

The Aechmea species happens to be the most robust and resilient species of bromeliad. Their resilience is probably the reason why it is the most popular of the indoor bromeliads. Their genus includes the A. Fasciata (an urn plant) and the A. Chanting, better known as the zebra plant.

These plants are large and aesthetically pleasing; they have flowers and bracts that noticeably stand out. Their color will last for as long as six months, and then the plant will begin to fade permanently. Thankfully, you can propagate them.

Height: Depends on the species

Quantity of sun exposure: Indirect and bright light

Native area: South America, Central America, and Subtropical North America

USDA growing zones: 10-11; typically grown as a houseplant

Guzmania (Guzmania Spp.)

Guzmania Lingulata
The leaves of the guzmania bromeliad can be more stunning than its bloom.

The leaves of guzmania bromeliads come in a plethora of colors, including red, purple, orange, yellow, and white. The flowers, on the other hand, are modest. These plants will provide you with some weeks of color as a table to plant.

Just as is the case with other popular bromeliads, you can keep them as houseplants, and they will reproduce from the “pups” located at the base. Avoid placing the plant in direct sunlight.

Height: Depends on the species; however, most grow to approximately 24 inches

Quantity of sun exposure: Indirect, bright light

Native area: Central America, Subtropical North America, and South America

USDA growing zones: 10-11, typically grown as a houseplant

Neoregelia (Neoregelia Spp.)

Neoregelia Bromeliads
Neoregelia bromeliads do not have flowering bracts, but they have vibrant leaves.

This type of bromeliad is more prevalent and shorter than the other extravagant types because they don’t have flowering bracts. On the other hand, the Neoregelia produces spectacular foliage which will supply you with months of color. This particular species is more cold-tolerant, allowing them to survive in temperatures as low as 40 degrees.

The N. Carolinae is the most common of the Neoregelia species, and they have narrow leaves that are often not uniform in color. When in the flowering stages, the center of the cup changes red and small flowers emerge.

Height: Varies according to species; most will be less than one foot

Quantity of sun exposure: Indirect and bright light

Native area: Central America, Subtropical North America

USDA growing zones: 9-10; typically grown as a houseplant

Vriesea (Vriesea Spp.)

Vriesea Carinata
One colorful variation of bromeliad is the vriesea carinata.

The Vriesea bromeliads are quaint but yet beautiful all at the same time. Within this species, there are both flowering and foliage types available. However, the former is much more prevalent. These plants are colorful and flat flower bracts along with tiny blossoms.

The plant’s foliage is feathery and often not uniform in color. Since these plants are smaller, they make for the ideal desktop plant for low-light conditions.

Height: Depends on the species

Quantity of sun exposure: Indirect and bright light

Native area: Central America, Subtropical North, and South America

USDA growing zones: 10-11; typically grown as a houseplant

Tillandsia (Tillandsia Spp.)

Tillandsia Xerographica
Air plant is a common name for tillandsia bromeliads.

Tillandsia is one of the larger genera in the entirety of the bromeliad family. These genera contain more than 500 species. Most of these plants are epiphytes. Other Tillandsia species are terrestrial, and few others grow on rocks which makes them saxicolous.

Tillandsia produces tube-shaped flowers in blue, white, violet, yellow, and pink. They are very fond of light and will thrive in direct sun. When it comes to humidity, they’ll require high levels from 50 to 70 percent. Also, typically you have to mist them regularly to keep them healthy. They are often considered as a primary houseplant, along with spider plants, even though they don’t live as long.

Height: Depends on the species

Quantity of sun exposure: Indirect and bright light, and can handle direct sunlight.

Native area: Southern USA to southern South America

USDA growing zones: 11, typically grown as a houseplant

Billbergia (Billbergia Spp.)

Billbergia Nutans
Billbergia nutans are commonly used as houseplants.

Most of the plants from this species are epiphytic. However, if used as a houseplant, the Billbergia plant is usually placed in potting soil. You can blend it with peat moss and bark chips, making it considerably easier to water the plants. Although these flowers don’t live very long, they are beautiful, and they can be blue, green, purple, white, or yellow.

These plants feature pointed leaves that have a rosette pattern. You can find others with grassy leaves that cascade. Popular species are as follows: B. Saundersii, B. Nutans, B. Distachia, and B. Pyramidalis.

Height: Depends on the species

Quantity of sun exposure: Indirect and bright light

Native area: Brazil, Mexico, and Central America

USDA growing zones: 10-11; some species can handle frost briefly

Hechtia Genus (Hechtia Spp.)

Hectia
Hechtia bromeliads thrive in warm, dry climates.

Native to Mexico are about 50 species of the plant Hechtia genus. You can find them growing beside succulents on rocky slopes and alongside cacti. When it comes to cultivated plants in general, these are the most durable and resilient, enabling them to go dormant to survive extended drought periods. This plant features rosettes that fit tightly to the ground along with long leaves which have sharp spines.

The Hechtia bromeliad is just like the other bromeliad types, which flower once before dying. Some succulents like Frizzle Sizzles die after doing the same. They produce “pups” right beside the parent plant. The best temperature for these plants is about 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and they should get placed in gritty soil like a cactus mix.

These bromeliads can survive dramatic shifts in temperatures as low as 20 degrees and as high as 100 degrees and above. These plants are featured prominently in the appropriate temperatures.

Height: Depends on the species

Quantity of sun exposure: Full sun with partial shade

Native area: Mexico

USDA growing zones: 9–11

Bromeliad Variation Wrap Up

These seven genera of bromeliads are some of the most spectacular houseplants that there are. It’s a good chance that a local garden center will have some of the most popular species of each genus in stock. However, for the more obscure species, you can shop online with retailers who specialize in bromeliads.

How to Grow Bromeliads

Tropical Plant in a Pot
Caring for a bromeliad is rather simple, as long as it is under the right conditions.

Generally speaking, bromeliads thrive in warm rooms where bright light is very plentiful. Their central vase should contain water at all times. It is best to use collected rainwater when possible because they are sensitive to the chemical in tap water.

If collecting rainwater is impractical, try leaving the tap water standing for about 24 hours – this allows the chemicals to transform into gas and escape the water. Alternatively, you can simply boil some cool water from the tap to get rid of the chemicals.

The plant will die once it has flowered; however, it will produce “pups” at the base. These pups can be potted to grow new plants. Bromeliads are fond of humidity, so you should moisten the leaves frequently.

The method that you pot the plant and the potting medium you choose can dramatically affect the moisture of the bromeliads. For example, pots made of plastic hold moisture for longer. If you live in a dry area, then a plastic container will be best in this situation.

Unglazed clay pots allow water to escape because they’re porous. That can be a good thing if you live in a humid environment. This pot will prevent your plant from remaining too wet. Be sure to have something beneath the pot to catch the water, or else you could damage your furniture or floor.

When potting a bromeliad, never use regular soil. Soil is too dense and will not allow the water to drain quickly enough, which bromeliads need. Use potting mixes or alternative porous materials instead.

Where to Grow Bromeliads

Green Aechmea Fasciata Growing on a Wooden Log
Bromeliads of any variation succeed in a well-lit space and with plenty of water.

Most bromeliads perform best in warm rooms that have lots of bright light. To flower, bromeliads need to be approximately 68 degrees Fahrenheit. When the plant is blooming, placing it in an area with a slightly lower temperature will allow it to last longer.

If you have a bright bathroom that remains warm and relatively steamy, this is the ideal place for many bromeliads since it mimics their natural habitats. This plant will thrive in conservatories as well, although the hottest summer days can burn the leaves. Never place bromeliads near radiators because their leaves will burn.

How to Care for Bromeliads

It should be perfectly fine to keep your bromeliad in the same pot that it was in when you purchased it. In the instance that you’d like to repot your plant, try a half-and-half mix of compost you can use for a variety of purposes. It must be peat-free also; a suitable candidate is an orchid compost.

Watering

Wet Tropical Plants
Keeping your bromeliads hydrated is imperative in keeping them healthy.

You won’t water your bromeliads in the same way that you typically water houseplants. Instead, you’ll use a sort of tank located centrally between the leaves.

It’s best to use rainwater if you can, or if not, you can boil some tap water and let it cool down or leave it out for a day.

After about two or three weeks, you can empty the rosette by flipping the plant upside down. You will then refill it with a new batch of water. That helps to keep bacteria from building up. You should also keep the compost watered, however, don’t overdo it. Just make sure that it never completely dries.

Fertilization

Multi-Colored Tropical Plant
These slow-growing plants do not need much fertilizer.

You don’t have to do much in the way of fertilizing when it comes to a bromeliad, although it’s a good idea to apply a water-soluble fertilizer from time to time. Be sure that you don’t put any fertilizer in the central tank where the water goes.

Alternatively, sprinkle some fertilizer throughout the base of the bromeliad. Liquid fertilizer is beneficial for air plants if you dilute it to half strength or no less than ¼ of its full strength. You can spray it directly into the plant.

While plant owners seek to promote after growth by using fertilizer, bromeliads grow slowly in general. Therefore, constantly adding fertilizer can be detrimental, causing the vibrancy of the colors to diminish while also making the leaves look straggly and unkempt.

The compost only needs to be moist during the summer months. Don’t add water to the compost in the winter unless you notice it’s dried out.

Try putting the plants in a moist area, such as a tray with gravel. Keep your plants in areas with good ventilation, or think about moving the plants to an outdoor location that features some shaded areas, even if it’s hot or warm outside.

Propagation

Young Plants in Pots
Pups grown on the side of the plant are used to propagate bromeliads.

Remember that the majority of bromeliad plants will only bloom once during their lifespan. They have leaves with bright colors that people often think are their leaves, but they are called bracts. Bracts are structures that look like leaves, and they will house the eventual inflorescence or flower head.

Bromeliads grow by adding new leaves to their middle. Over time, the space will get overcrowded, and there won’t be any more space for new leaves to grow.

You have the option to cut the flower back if it starts looking leggy. You can do this by using a knife that’s sharp and sterilized. Be sure to cut the spikey section as far back as possible while trying not to injure the rest of the plant.

Once your bromeliad matures, it will begin reproducing offsets, also called pups. This is also referred to as blooming. Blooming occurs for a few months; colorful bracts may take longer.

Unfortunately, the original plant will die over time, but this usually doesn’t happen until after many pups have come to life.

Humidity

Bromeliad Plants Growing on a Tree
Humidity is important in keeping a bromeliad happy.

Like the bromeliads that grow outdoors, the indoor variant of this plant thrives best at approximately 60 percent humidity. That level may be challenging to maintain, especially if the home uses a furnace for heat during the winter.

To raise humidity levels nearby your bromeliad, consider using a humidifier close it. Then, take a shallow tray or plate that you can fill with decorative stones or small pebbles. Add some water to the makeshift tray, right beneath the surface of the stones. Finally, take the bromeliad’s pot and put it on top of the rocks or near it.

The water from the tray increases the moisture in the surrounding air, which will help get your humidity levels up. If you decide to put the potted bromeliad on top of the tray or saucer, ensure that it’s not directly in the water. Otherwise, the roots will rot from the excessive moisture.

You can also try putting other plants in the immediate area. When plants convert water to vapor, it gets released back to the atmosphere. That also raises your humidity levels.

You can even use a simple spray bottle to get your plant what it needs to thrive.

Bromeliad Pups

Small Pup Growing on a Bromeliad
Pups grow at the base of the mother bromeliad.

As previously stated, the pup is the bromeliad plant’s offset or offspring. They can develop at any point, but they’re usually born once the blooming period is over.

After the maturation process occurs and a healthy bloom ensues, the mother (the first plant) will produce no more leaves. The pups that have started growing won’t be visible within the bloom immediately, but you’ll recognize that you have pups as the cup begins forming from the base of the original plant.

You may even notice that the mother plant can produce more than one set of pups at a time. Once they get to be a specific size, you can harvest them, plant them, and care for them separately.

The mother plant will continue to grow and develop for the following year, possibly even producing another set.

The formation of pups isn’t particular to a specific species of bromeliads. The propagation process happens similarly for all of the various types of bromeliad plants.

When and How to Remove Pups

Removing a Plant Pup
Moving bromeliad pups is a delicate process.

It’s very beneficial for the pups to stay attached to their mother because they will mature faster by staying put. When they’re connected, they can absorb nutrients and minerals from mom to help expedite their growing process.

However, if you choose to remove them prematurely while they’re still small, the mother plant can use its remaining energy to produce more offsets. As long as the offsets are at least half the size of the original plant, you can remove them safely.

Roots are another factor that can signify that the pups are ready for removal and can survive alone. The roots are not completely necessary for the survival of the pups, so don’t get too anxious if you don’t see them before attempting to remove the pups.

Depending on your goals, you can remove the posts to get as many pups as you can or cultivate the ones you have.

To remove the pups, prepare a sterilized and sharpened knife. Then, cut the pups off as close to the mother as possible without damaging it. You can peel off the outer leaf barrier on the pup if you want to display the entirety of its base.

After you’ve taken the pups out, put more soil around the mother so that it can gather more nutrients and recover.

What’s the Best Way to Pot Bromeliad Offsets?

Propagating From Plant Pups
Carefully pot your bromeliad pups to help them grow on their own.

Now that you have removed your bromeliad pups from the mother, you must insert the ends you cut into a fungicide. Before putting it in an individual pot, you should also dip the ends in a rooting hormone.

Get a small pot about four inches high and a lightweight medium with a good drainage system. You might notice that your plant is a little off balance because the roots aren’t fully developed yet.

They may not even be present yet; therefore, the top can be heavier without an anchor.

Don’t put it too deep into the potting mix because you’re trying to keep it from toppling.

Grab some wooden stakes or sticks to keep the plant in place upright until the roots are strong enough to support its weight.

The three keys to a healthy plant are humidity, warmth, and light. New bromeliad pups don’t require as much light as a mature bromeliad that’s fully grown. It does need to have a lot of bright light that’s indirect, but not too much humidity.

Moderately moist is a good benchmark for your pup because you don’t want it to be wet. Since root rot is even more of a risk at such an early stage, just keep it mildly moist. 

Remove the sticks you were using to hold it up once you see that the roots have come in strong. You can then start letting the plant receive more light.

Make sure the plant gets a lot of sunshine during the mornings from June through September. They should be in the shade for the majority of the day afterward.

It’s a fantastic feeling to see your plant go into bloom, watch the pups form, and add them to your garden. You can continue to repeat this process for upwards of three years.

Since bromeliads are an excellent starter plant, you can start a good solid collection by properly caring for them so that they can multiply.

Pests and Diseases

Plant Pup With Root Rot
Root rot is a common way bromeliads die, which happens from watering it too much.

If you notice brown leaves, this may indicate that the air surrounding the plant is too dry or that the water you’re using is too hard.

If the leaves are yellow, it might mean that the plant is too big for its pot or container.

If your plant has pale green leaves, it might be receiving too much sunlight directly, or there’s a lack of humidity.

Take note of brown and soggy leaves, as this signifies root or crown rot from overwatering the plant.

Your plant might attract certain insects such as scales, spider mites, and mealybugs from time to time. These types of bugs don’t move fast, and they eat sap. Stickiness is one of the first signs you’ll see nearby your plant or on its leaves.

This stickiness can eventually attract black mold, so you want to consistently wipe the leaves clean of any insects, as some are hard to spot. You may also consider moving your plant to a different location if possible.

It’s worth trying an organic insecticide that has nourishing plant oils if you continue to notice a problem like small webs between the leaves or sticky spots.

Bromeliads Buyer Tips

Rows of Pink Tropical Plants
Numerous house plant retailers specialize in exotic plants both online and around the country.

If you have a local florist, there’s a good chance they carry some variation of bromeliad. If you want a wider variety, you should try visiting a specialist.

The most typical bromeliads found in your local supermarkets and smaller garden centers are from the Guzmania species. The plants from this specific genus usually have multicolored bracts that come with flowering.

Bromeliad connoisseurs intentionally engineer this species to be easy to take care of and grow in your home. They don’t need much light or water, and you won’t have to do much to maintain them.

Before making a purchase, there are several parts of the plant that you should examine:

First, check out the soil inside the container. Bromeliads are very susceptible to crown and root rot. Therefore, you have to inspect the soil to see if it’s moist. It should be soggy, just not dried out.

If the bromeliad is inside a waterlogged container, its roots will start to rot or may have begun rotting already.

Check the leaves next. You should feel them make sure they’re stiff instead of droopy or weak. They should also be a bright green color instead of yellow or containing any brown spots.

If you notice anything other than green and stiffness, you shouldn’t purchase that particular bromeliad plant as it may have potential problems with growth.

Inspect the plant for insects in and around it. Those pesky creatures can start multiplying quickly in a nursery or greenhouse setting. Not only do you want to keep bugs away from the bromeliad, but you don’t want to risk getting a bug-infested plant that will infect your other house or garden plants.

You may feel tempted to select the brightest plant with colorful leaves. However, those plants are already somewhat mature. Instead, consider the plants that are just starting to sprout color as those are young and will last longer.

If you want a fresher plant, ask the shop owner when they will receive new shipments. Getting the best plant may require some waiting, but it is well worth it.

Remember to consider where exactly you will put your bromeliad. Ensure that you have the perfect spot for it once you bring it home.

Finally, follow any additional instructions that might be recommended to you when you purchase the plant. Remember to only care for your plant with distilled water, rainwater, or water that has gotten filtered unless otherwise recommended. Additionally, consider the lighting – too much or too little could be detrimental to your plant’s health.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now feel prepared to plant, grow, and care for your bromeliads. Be sure that you’re keenly aware of your plant’s light and watering needs.

There are many beautiful species to choose from, but each will add a pop of color and elegance to your garden. Purchase your plant from a verified shop, and select a healthy-looking and robust plant that is primed for reproducing pups.

Remember that while bromeliads aren’t the longest-lasting plants, you can proliferate your garden with only a single plant.

It takes a little time and patience, but these bright and beautiful plants are a great addition to any indoor or outdoor home decor. Happy Planting!

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