How to Care for a Bromeliad Plant: 6 Things You Need to Know

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Tropical plants bring life and beauty to any home or office. Their unique textures and bright colors remind us of warmer climates and exotic locales, adding some excitement to the routines of everyday living. At the same time, when removed from their native environs and habitats, these flora require some extra tender, loving care. This goes double for the bromeliad plant.

The bromeliad’s thick, colorful leaves growing into a rose-like shape, the mature bromeliad inflorescence varies in hue among its many varieties. Its beauty depends largely upon whether the gardener knows how to care for bromeliad plant or does not.

Providing Adequate Light

Because there are myriad species of bromeliads, the optimal light intensity varies. Less luminosity will do for those plants whose leaves are softer, more supple and spineless. Those possessing more rigid leaves, by contrast, need more intense–though indirect–lighting.

An interesting property of this plant is its capacity to signal for more or less light. Too little light will trigger a higher generation of chlorophyll thereby darkening the leaves noticeably. Meanwhile, too much light will produce bleaching or sunburn, resulting in leaf patches that are white or brown, respectively.

One caution with regard to light. Changing the light exposure too quickly harms the bromeliad plant, even if transitioning from insufficient to sufficient brightness. Changes should be gradual when learning how to care for bromeliad plant, which requires time to adapt to environmental changes.

closeup on bromeliad flower

Be Careful When Watering

A common error among those learning how to care for bromeliad plant is over-irrigation. Again, this plant helps to determine how much is enough. The shape forms a cup that acts as a reservoir tank (a pineapple is a bromeliad). However, the cup should be flushed out if water sits in it without getting absorbed. As a rule of thumb, watering is appropriate every one to two weeks. While bromeliad roots should be moist, saturation will will bring on rot at the root or crown.

Bromeliads can receive hydration from the sink or shower in your house. Still, some horticulturists advise using only distilled water or, better yet, rainwater. The hard water that often runs out of the tap sometimes damages plants, retarding growth and staining leaf tips.

Feeding the Bromeliad

As wild species, bromeliad plants are genetically equipped to sustain themselves without external fertilizers. As houseplants, nevertheless, they lack the rich soil (or host trees for the epiphytic varieties) available to them in tropical ecosystems. For this reason, and in the interest of robust development and leaf bearing, modest amounts of plant food are best in the summer months when growth is most rapid.

Gardeners might surrender to the temptation to pour the fertilizer directly into the cup of the plant. They do better to resist such allure. To do otherwise will cause burn nor rot in the foliage. Too much fertilizer yields spindly leaves that are dull in color. Restraint might feel counter-intuitive but it is a fundamental tenet in how to care for bromeliad plant. Less is definitely more.

Maintaining a Warm Temperature

To anyone learning how to care for bromeliad plant, it does not take a botany class to know they like things warm. Room temperatures hovering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal. That said, this type of flora has enormous capacity to adapt.

If the air is on the hotter side, growers should compensate by upping the humidity in the room. In the case of colder surroundings–especially if growing them out of doors–covering the bromeliad will protect it from damaging frost. When puchasing seed or seedlings, customers should ask about the hardiness of their plant, i.e. what range of temperatures it can withstand and still grow to maturity.

bromeliad flower under natural light

Planting in Quality Soil

As noted above, many varieties of bromeliad are epiphytic, i.e. they frow on tree trunks, rocks and other plants, gaining most nutrients from the air. Yet even these species do just fine in soil. Key to successful soil growth are drainange and organic matter. Remember, their roots are subject to rot when overwhelmed with moisture. Short of finding the best sandy loam and creating the right compost, a pre-made potting mix is an expedient option.

Bromeliads grow very well in orchid potting mixes, for example. Supplemented with fir bark, tree fern, sphagnum moss, coco husks and perlite, this mix allows for efficient drainage while nourishing plant roots as needed. Plant-based kitchen scraps, grass clippings and egg shells make an effective organic compost to supplement the mix.

Propagating from Pups

The wonderful thing about bromeliad plants is that the leaves and foliage retain their striking hues long after the flowers have bloomed and faded. Over time, though, the plant will gradually die…but not without leaving a legacy. From the base of the dying plant grow offsets known as “pups.” Usually, several pups will emerge and they can be separated and planted themselves. When they are a third of the original bromeliad’s size, they are ripe for separation.

Central to successful detachment is cutting the pup at the very point from which it protrudes. There may or may not be root structure developing; it will flourish eventually. Pups should then be planted individually in small pots. Those without visible roots might need small stakes (e.g. pencils or chopsticks) to support the plants until the roots are better established. Until the underlying network is in place, lighting should be slightly dimmer than normal.

Summing Up

Like other flora, bromeliad plants thrive when the conditions converge: ample sunlight, an ideal temperature range, nutritious host material and just the right level of moisture. Given their striking foliage and long life, this vegetation is well worth the effort of learning how to care for bromeliad plant. The aesthetic improvement to house and yard alone make this type of flora worthwhile.

Best of all, bromeliads are the gift that keeps on giving. With each new generation of pups, gardeners can perfect their craft in growing these beautiful tropical wonders.

Image Source: 1, 2, 3

Jonathan E. Bass
 

Graduated from Middle Tennessee State University. I am currently a gardener. I have a small garden behind my house. I love it.

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