How To Care for a Colorful Bromeliad Plant [Full Guide]

The bright bromeliad plant is that perfect combination of an exotic plant without the challenging care regimen associated with exotic flora.

Its adaptive nature and eye-catching color varieties only add to our love for this elegant houseplant.

Bromeliad care requires conditions resembling its native habitat in the understory of tropical rainforests in Western Africa and South America.

How do you care for a bromeliad? To thrive, bromeliads need a rich, loose soil that drains well and to be given plenty of bright, indirect sunlight. Keep temperatures between 70 and 75°F, and maintain 40-60% humidity levels. Water bromeliads once per week, and fertilize with a diluted liquid fertilizer once every 1-2 months.

Bromeliads are slightly different compared to most houseplants in terms of their care and reproduction, but don’t let that deter you from growing this easy-going, beautiful specimen.

This guide details the ideal growing conditions, how to propagate, pro tips, and more

Caring for Bromeliads: Basic Guidelines

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Complete Care Guide for Bromeliad

Bromeliads belong to the Bromeliaceae family containing over 3,000 documented plant species – one of which includes the pineapple.

It was this bromeliad that Columbus introduced to Spain following his 1493 voyage to the New World.

From their origins in the West Indies, additional species soon found popularity in 18th century Europe, leading to the cultivation of the ornamental bromeliads sold today.

Bromeliad at a Glance

  • Plant Type: Evergreen epiphyte
  • Scientific Name: Bromeliaceae family of 75 different genera
  • Average Height: 2 feet
  • Average Width: 3 feet
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Produces Flowers: Yes
  • Common Pests: Mealybugs, scales
  • Life Expectancy: 2-5 years
  • Difficulty of Care: Low

Ideal Soil for Bromeliad

Bromeliads perform best when grown in loose, organic soil for fast draining. Plant author and curator of Get Busy Gardening Amy Andrychowicz recommends making:

“Home-made soilless potting mix from 2 parts sphagnum (peat moss) with 1 part coarse organic materials like orchid bark and perlite (lightweight granular rock to aerate the mix).”

As for pots, passionate gardener Anne of Anne’s Entitled Life warns against using “any metal containers, especially copper as exposure causes damage and even plant death.”

Bromeliad Water Requirements

Once weekly watering will suffice since they’re very drought tolerant.

Water the plant in its central “cup” (formed by its rosette of leaves) rather than in the soil, and feel that the soil and cup inner has dried before each watering to prevent root rot.

As bromeliads are sensitive to tap water chemicals, use distilled water.

Bromeliad plant with arrow to indicate where to water it.

Bromeliad Lighting Needs

Ideally, you should place them in bright, indirect sunlight, though thankfully bromeliads are equally tolerant of low-light conditions.

In areas of poor natural light, place them under a low-power grow light, like this fully adjustable clamp lighting set.

Ideal Temperature and Humidity Range for Bromeliad

These tropical native plants prefer a temperature range between 70-75°F (21-23°C) during the day and 60-65°F (15-18°C) at night. They’ll thrive in 40-60% humidity.

Maintain these levels by keeping them away from drafts and AC vents, and use a humidifier in the winter.

In the warmer months, misting the leaves twice weekly or using a pebble water tray (see how to make your own here) is a great way to regulate humidity.

Best Location for Bromeliads

The bathroom or near your kitchen sink will offer the moderate-high humidity your bromeliad needs.

Conservatories or sunrooms can also be ideal as long as they’re kept in filtered sunlight.

Bromeliad Growth Habits

Most bromeliad plants grow in a compact habit of thick foliage that forms a rosette, eventually producing pineapple-shaped blossoms from its center.

Bromeliads are also epiphytic, meaning they grow upon other plants, logs, and trees for support in the wild.

Fertilization Type & Schedule for Bromeliad

As naturally slow-growers, they won’t require much fertilizer to thrive, so opt for a liquid organic fertilizer diluted to half strength or use a slow-release pelleted fertilizer (like this one made specifically for bromeliads).

Feed your bromeliad every 1-2 months from spring to fall, and fertilize less so during winter.

Signs of Nutrient Deficiency

Improper sunlight or imbalanced watering can cause the foliage to turn yellow or brown or dry out and feel crispy.

Likewise, over-fertilizing can strip bromeliads of their nutrients, causing curling leaf edges and, in some cases, a halt to flower production.

Pruning Bromeliad

Trim overly brown or yellowing foliage and remove spent blooms using sterilized pruning shears – removing the flower stalk as close to its central cup as possible.

After flowering, mature bromeliads will begin producing “pups (offset growths forming at the base of the plant).

You can encourage pup growth by pruning back parent leaves that may be crowding it.

Does Bromeliad Produce Flowers?

Mature bromeliad plants will bloom once in their lifetime, producing colorful flower spikes from their flower bracts after 1-3 years. The flowers often last for several months.

Many confuse the actual flower bracts (the leaf-like structure forming the rosette shape) with the Bromeliads flowers due to their bright colors.

Is Bromeliad Toxic?

Bromeliads have been declared non-toxic to pets and humans by the ASPCA, although they are best kept out of reach from children in case of allergies.

The top of a beautiful bromeliad with brilliant red leaves.

Bromeliad Propagation

Once a bromeliad nears the end of its life, its pups begin to grow, and this is the perfect time for you to begin propagating (removing the pup shoots to create offspring plants).

Here’s what to do:

1. Let Pups Grow to 1/3 the Size of Parent Plant Before Harvesting

Mature pups stand a better chance of surviving propagation once they have reached around 1/3-1/2 the size of the mother plant, as this is evidence that the parent bromeliad has transferred all its energy into the next generation of growth.

2. Remove Parent Plant From Container & Trim Off Pups

Take the mother plant out of its pot for better access to the growing pups. Take a sharp sterilized knife or pruning shears and trim the pups as close as you can to the plant base.

You’ll recognize the pups by their smaller leaves cupping the base stalk.

3. Dip Trimmed Ends in Rooting Hormone & Place in 4-inch Pot

Prepare a 4-inch flower pot for your pup cutting by filling it halfway with your ideal bromeliad soil formula.

Stand the pup ends in rooting hormone (I have great luck with this one) for 5 seconds to encourage growth, and place each one in a newly filled pot.

4. Use Stakes To Support the Pups’ Growth & Water Well

The pup cuttings will be top-heavy at first, so support their weight with small stakes to hold them up while they are producing roots.

With the help of supports, the pups won’t need planting too deeply in the potting mix.

Place them in bright, indirect sunlight, and keep the soil well watered but not soggy.

Repotting Bromeliad

Bromeliads benefit from being repotted every few years to accommodate growth and provide quality soil if your current medium is draining poorly.

Repotting is also a good opportunity to decide whether to stick with the mother plant or propagate.

When To Repot Bromeliad

Bromeliads need repotting every 2-3 years into a larger container with fresh potting mix. This is best done in the spring while the roots are active and can grow in new potting medium.

You’ll know repotting is necessary as the roots will become cramped and function poorly in an ill-fitting container over time, exhibiting slower growth or nutrient-deficient foliage.

Signs That It’s Time To Repot

  • Potting mix drains poorly/dries out quickly
  • Soil base is rootbound
  • Stunted growth and discolored foliage

How To Repot Bromeliad

1. Fill a Container Halfway With Fresh Potting Mix

Pick a new pot at least 2 inches larger in diameter than your existing one and fill halfway with fresh potting mix.

If your current soil formula was too dry or slow to drain, this is an opportunity to add more organic-rich, porous material to the mix, such as bark and/or perlite.

2. Remove Plant From Current Pot & Inspect Roots 

Gently remove the plant from its current container, and loosen the soil to expose its stubby crown root system.

Healthy roots should appear pale and feel firm while unhealthy roots are soggy and brown.

In the case of brown, soggy roots, the parent plant sadly cannot be saved, but matured pup shoots can be salvaged from a dying bromeliad.

3. Place the Plant in Its New Pot & Water the Cup Well

Re-plant your healthy bromeliad into its new pot and fill the pot with fresh potting mix.

Take care not to plant too firmly or too shallowly in the soil, and use stakes if necessary to help position it well to prevent damage to actively developing roots.

Water its cup “tank” as usual, and place the plant in suitably warm, humid conditions.

Bromeliad Common Problems & Solutions That Work

Bromeliad Common Pests

Indoor bromeliads occasionally attract sap-sucking bugs, but damage can be minimal with quick detection and an ideal growing environment.

Scales

  • Signs of Trouble – Small brown oval-shapes gathered on leaves, sticky residue on foliage.

  • Solution Horticulturist Melanie Dearringer suggests “killing scales on contact with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.” Additionally, drench the plant in distilled water to wash off potential scale eggs.

  • Prevention Use an organic spray solution on your bromeliad once a week. Mix 2 teaspoons of organic neem oil with 2 teaspoons of mild hand soap in 1 quart water – neem oil is a natural repellent due to its bitter taste and sulfur-like odor. Find it here.

Mealybugs

  • Signs of TroubleWhite cotton wool-like bugs on foliage/near roots, sticky residue on leaves.

  • Solution Wipe them off with a damp cloth.

  • PreventionSpray foliage weekly with organic insecticide solution, and review humidity and temperature levels as mealybugs adore hot environments.

Bromeliad Common Diseases

This plant is prone to fungal disease when its potting mix veers into soggy territory, so keep a close eye on your watering schedule and general care to prevent excessive damage.

Stem Rot

  • Signs of Trouble – Brown, soggy leaves near base of plant. Outer leaves shedding.

  • Solution Bromeliad Plant Care contributor Celeste Booth advises “dipping the plant base in root hormone containing fungicide and repotting in fresh soil to encourage recovery.”

  • Prevention – Reassess your watering regimen and err on the side of too little watering than too much. Also, ensure soil mix and inner cup are dry in between watering.

Rust Disease (Anthracnose)

  • Signs of Trouble Raised brown bumps filled with liquid on leaf undersides.

  • SolutionPrune back affected leaves and use neem oil spray or a similar organic solution to naturally keep plant rust under control.

  • Prevention Review temperature levels and watering frequency to prevent heat/water stress.

Other Common Problems

Besides pests and disease, poor general care can cause your bromeliad plant to display the following issues, so take care to spot these early:

Browning Leaves

  • Signs of Trouble – Light brown leaf tips, brown spots on foliage.

  • SolutionPrune back damaged leaves or trim affected tips in line with leaf shape.

  • Prevention – Keep plant in dappled light to prevent sunburn and ensure water intake is adequate.

Dry Foliage

  • Signs of TroubleCrispy, withering leaves.

  • SolutionMove your bromeliad to a higher humidity location such as the bathroom.

  • PreventionMaintain proper humidity levels by using a humidifier (like this ultra-quiet model), setting up a pebble water tray, or placing your bromeliad plant near other houseplants.

Bromeliad Common Questions

A close-up look at a red bromeliad plant.

How Long Do Bromeliads Last?

Under ideal conditions, bromeliads can last 2-5 years.

The propagation and good care of the offset pup shoots allow you to enjoy future generations of your original bromeliad parent plant for many years.

Can I Put My Bromeliad Outside?

Yes, bromeliads thrive year-round in tropical climates when kept on shady patios or under trees.

Twice weekly watering is encouraged to prevent dried-out substrate, and they should be moved to a garage for shelter during winter, depending on its cold-hardiness.

What Are the Most Common Bromeliads?

Popular bromeliad varieties include the Aechmea for its long-lasting pink fluorescence, the Neoregelia for its striking central foliage color, and the Guzmania for its bright flower spikes in red, orange, pink, and yellow.

3 Key Tips for Success With Bromeliad

1. Pot Size Matters To Avoid Overwatering Issues

Bromeliads have shallow roots acting as anchors rather than deep burrowers, so don’t use a pot much larger than 6 inches to prevent the potting mix from retaining too much water and risking rot.

2. Always Use Copper-Free Fungicide

Most commercial fungicides contain copper which can kill your plant, so Horticulturist Jessie Keith of the Black Gold gardening company advises using “systemic fungicide containing propiconazole.”

3. Flush Out the Central “Tank” To Remove Salt Buildup

Fertilizing leaves salt residue in the soil and on the foliage, interfering with nutrient intake, so drench the plant’s central cup every 6-8 weeks and allow water to drain through the pot holes completely to flush out residue.

Conclusion

To summarize, the bromeliad plant won’t require complex care, but some specific issues will affect its vigor, such as sensitivity to copper and tap water chemicals.

As long as its indoor conditions are just right, this striking plant can add grace and color to most corners of your home for several years.

Graphic outlining care for bromeliad plants.

Sources:

https://www.bsi.org/new/what-are-bromeliads/

https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/bromeliads/ 

https://www.annsentitledlife.com/how-does-your-garden-grow/how-to-grow-and-care-for-bromeliads/

https://getbusygardening.com/bromeliad-plant-care/

https://omysa.com/blogs/planting-101/how-to-care-for-your-bromeliad-plant

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/bromeliad/growing-bromeliad-plants.htm

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/bromeliads-care-guide#3-care-tips-for-bromeliads

https://www.bromeliads.info/preventing-and-managing-root-rot-in-bromeliads/

https://www.justaddiceorchids.com/orchid-care-blog/splitting-and-repotting-bromeliads

https://www.bromeliads.info/beginners-guide-bromeliad-pups/

https://blackgold.bz/what-is-causing-spots-on-my-bromeliads/

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/bromeliad/growing-bromeliad-pups.htm

https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/growing-bromeliads/

https://www.bromeliads.info/common-bromeliad-care-mistakes/

https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/bromeliads.html 

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/bromeliad/bromeliad-care-after-flowering.htm

https://www.bromeliads.info/common-bromeliad-fungal-disease-anthracnose/