Image by Cori Redford
By Bonnie L. Grant
Bromeliad plants provide an exotic touch to the home and bring a sense of the tropics and sun-kissed climates. Growing a bromeliad as a houseplant is easy and brings interesting texture and color to the interior garden. Learn how to care for a bromeliad plant and you will have a long lasting unique houseplant that is low maintenance.
The unusual appearance of the bromeliad would seem to indicate that the plant is high maintenance and requires special gardening skills. The plant is prized for its thick foliage that grows in a natural rosette. Near the end of its life, a bromeliad plant may produce an inflorescence or flower whose form and color vary widely among each variety. The wide leaves are sword shaped or scoop-like and grow around a central “cup.” This cup catches water in the plant’s habitat.
Bromeliad plants are often epiphytic and cling to trees or other structures. They are not parasitic but simply use the structures as perches from which to gather sun and moisture.
How to Grow Bromeliads
These plants are widely available at nurseries and garden centers. The plants need medium to bright light as indoor specimens.
New gardeners learning how to grow bromeliads will find that the plant doesn’t need deep pots or thick potting soils. They do even better in shallow pots and may grow in low soil mediums such as orchid mix, a blend of bark, sphagnum moss and other organic amendments.
How to Care for a Bromeliad Plant
Bromeliad plant care is easy and requires no special tools or fertilizers. Feed the plants with a half strength fertilizer every month in the growing season.
Water needs are easily achieved by filling the cup at the base of the leaves. The water that collects in the pot should be emptied out weekly to remove debris and the dead insects the stagnant water tends to lure into the cup.
Set the pot in a saucer of gravel filled partially with water to increase humidity and help provide a moist atmosphere. Make sure the roots are not submerged in the water or this might invite rot.
Some bromeliads grow well as “air plants” which are glued or nested onto logs, moss or other non-soil organic items. You may have seen Tillandsia plants wired onto coconut shells with no soil. These plants collect all the food and moisture they need with their leaves but need a little help from you in the indoor setting.
Bromeliad Life Cyle: Growing a Bromeliad Pup
Don’t label yourself a “black thumb” if your bromeliad plant begins to die within a year or two. These epiphytes are not long lived but will generally start to die back after flowering. Although interior bromeliad plants will fail after a while and cease growth, they will produce offsets, or pups, that you can remove and start as new plants.
Watch for pups at the base of the plant and nurture them until they are large enough to break away from the parent plant. To remove them, cut them away from the parent and then plant them in sphagnum moss mix or any well-draining medium. Then sadly, it is off to the compost pile with the original bromeliad plant, but you will be left with a little carbon copy that you can tend to its full maturity, when the cycle starts all over again.
These baby bromeliads require the same care as the parent plant. As soon as the pup forms a cup, it is important to keep it filled with water so the new plant receives adequate moisture.
Growing bromeliads is a rewarding hobby that can continue for years if you harvest the pups.