Bromeliad is the name of a very diverse plant family that includes terrestrial species, such as pineapples, and epiphytes, such as the grey-leaved Tillandsia species. Bromeliads are tough and interesting plants that don’t need much fussing over. They natively grow in warm, wet and humid areas like shady forest floors or attached to tree-hosts. However, many popular types of bromeliads can be grown in the garden in frost-free areas, while in cooler regions they will grow well in containers and make great indoor plants.
Although this group is so diverse some general principles of bromeliad care remains consistent. Here are some tips on how to grow and best care for yours!
Pots and potting media directly affect the moisture levels in the bromeliad, therefore it is important to consider before planting. In arid regions or in a heated home, plastic containers are optimal as they tend to hold moisture for a longer period. In areas high in humidity, it is preferable to opt for an unglazed clay pot as it allows for water to seep from the pores and your plant will not stay overly wet.
Use special potting mixes specially formulated for bromeliads or mix your own using porous materials. Bromeliads require little fertilizing. For tank bromeliads, use a water-soluble fertilizer and place around the base. Be careful not to place fertilizer in the central tank. Dilute liquid fertilizer to ½ or ¼ the strength for air plants. Do not fertilize too often as bromeliads are slow growing and will cause the leaves to become leggy and vibrant colours to diminish if given in excess.
Most bromeliads thrive in bright, sunny areas, however, direct sun exposure for extended periods can cause leaf damage. For bromeliads growing indoors, the south-facing window is optimal during winter.
Did you know?
Many bromeliads have tightly-overlapping leaves at the base to form a “water tank”, and use it as a source of moisture and food. These water tanks also form habitats for numerous critters, especially aquatic insect larvae, which helps their host take up nitrogen.
Make sure the plant stays moist but not soggy. Bromeliads can withstand drought but are much less tolerant of being overwatered so be sure to provide it with adequate drainage to prevent the roots from rotting.
Be sure to fill the tank with water and flush it regularly to prevent water stagnation. If you have an epiphytic bromeliad, you can simply keep the plant moist by misting it regularly.
Tip: Be careful not to water your bromeliads using a metal container as bromeliads are very sensitive to metals.
For bromeliads growing indoors, it is important to maintain optimal humidity by regularly misting the plant with a spray bottle, and ensuring good ventilation around the plant.
What is an epiphyte?
A non-parasitic plant that grows on the branches of other plants simply for support. Epiphytes gain water and dissolved minerals through its fleshy leaves and aerial roots.
Most bromeliads only flower once in their lifetime and the bloom can last several months and the colourful bracts (modified leaves) even longer. Cut back the flower using a sharp, sterilized tool without injuring the remaining plant portion. Eventually, the mother plant will die but fortunately she would have produced pups, also called offsets, which can be propagated to continue its legacy.
Explore some more!
Take a look at these Bromeliad profiles to pick the perfect one for your home.