Herself's Houseplants

Killing plants so you don't have to

Bromeliads




Bromeliads are highly tolerant of abuse, so they are a good choice of house plant for busy people.

These plants like a medium amount of sun, an east or west window sill works well. I have a couple that grow under table lamps and are quite happy to do so. If your plant is not flowering give it more sun. If it still doesn’t flower for you, place it in a clear plastic bag with a ripe apple for a few days. The ethylene from the apple will motivate the bromeliad to bloom. They may need more sun to get blooming going, but once blooming can do well in lesser lit places. If the leaves get long and floppy the plant probably wants more sun. But some varieties of bromeliad have floppy leaves naturally so it depends on what you have.

Water these plants by taking them to the kitchen sink or outdoors and spraying them with the hose. The leaves have tiny scales that absorb nutrients. Be sure to get all of the leaves wet. Allow the water to run down and puddle into the bucket of the plant. It will continue to absorb water and nutrients there. This does not have to be kept wet as some websites recommend. Remember this plant gets little, if potted nutrients from the soil, none if mounted. Spraying the leaves with water, or water with a little bit of fertilizer mixed into it is what it needs.

The flowers are actually quite tiny, it is colored leaves about the flower that make it appear larger. These leaves green up as they get larger. If the flower dies, the plant will die. Do not be too quick to toss it out. After the main plant dies off babies (pups) should begin to appear in the dirt around the original plant.

Since they are epiphytes they are not getting nutrients from the soil, pot them in a small pot and only re-pot when truly pot bound. You can also mount them instead of potting them. Just glue, tie or staple the plant to a piece of wood or put them in a shell or other interesting item. Do not use a hot glue gun. Goop or staples are the preferred method of attaching the plant to a mount.

Pineapples are the best known of this class of plants. They are very easy to grow. When you bring a pineapple home, slice off the top leaving about an inch of pineapple fruit attached to the leaves. Let this sit on your counter and dry. In about a week, or two it’ll be dry. Put this in a pot, putting the dried pineapple section under about an inch of dirt and leaving the leaves up in the air. Water when slightly dry until you see new growth, then water only when top inch of soil is dry.

We have some growing outside down here in Houston so some of the bromeliads can tolerate fairly cold nighttime temps. I put one outside here in Houston a few months back. Though it was not real happy about those 28′ nights and the two weeks of rain that followed it is holding its own. Check your specific variety for more information.

They do best if you rotate them outside occasionally as weather allows. Have a few plants for inside and a few for outside and rotate them weekly. They make great interior landscaping plants because they need little care and bloom for 2 to 8 months at a time.

These plants propagate by growing babies from the base of the mother plant except a few of them do so off the flower stems as a ‘spider plant’ does. When the babies reach 1/3 the size of the mother plant they can be separated from the mother. If the babies are on long stems, just cut the stem. If they are attached to the base of the mother plant use a sharp knife or razor to separate them from the mother plant. It does not matter if they have roots when you separate them, they are air plants. You can also just leave them attached to the mother plant if you prefer. Most varieties make very nice clusters of plants.

These plants are native only to Central and South America. One kind is found in Africa and is considered part of the proof of continental drift between South America and Africa.

If your plant begins to die, but you see baby bromeliads around the base of the plant this is just the normal life cycle. Your babies will grow up and replace the mother plant.

If your plant begins to die back and you do not see babies, this is likely from over watering. Bromeliads should be potted in a very small pot in a very light, loose soil. Add some mulch or orchid bark to the soil if you only have regular potting soil available.

Occasionally you might have a mealy bug problem with bromeliads.

See also:
Group glowering plants into one shallow pot

More information:
UF Bromeliads
Bromeliad Forum at The Garden Web
Bromeliad Society International