Colorful Bromeliads make excellent houseplants. They require very little care and are quite hardy.
Like an orchid, the bracts of the Bromeliad will keep their bright hues for a long period of time. Many will last a good 6 or 8 months before they begin to turn brown and wither away. Unlike an orchid, the original “mother plant” will not rebloom or send up another spike of colored bracts. The mother plant will, however, produce 2 to 3 “pup plants” at its base that, after a time, can be removed. These pups will take about a year to mature to blooming size.
Bromeliads will tolerate a wide range of light intensities, including low light. Generally, plants with hard, thick, grey, grey-green and fuzzy leaves will take the highest light levels. These are the Aechmeas, Tillandsias, Ananas (Pineapple) and Billbergia. Those with soft, green, thin leaves such as Guzmania, Neoregelia and Vriesia do best under lower light levels. If the leaves become yellowish or pale green, the light level is too high. If the plant becomes very dark green or the colored bracts darken, the light is too low.
A relative humidity of 40% to 60% is best. Unfortunately, the average home is well below 40 degrees, especially in the winter when the heater is on. Humidity around the plants can be improved by placing the pots in saucers filled with gravel or pebbles. Do not allow the pots to stand in water because this will waterlog the soil, possibly causing root rot. Misting is also helpful.
Because Bromeliads are epiphytes, they require good air circulation. Fresh air supplies them with carbon dioxide and moisture. Plants in stagnant air are more susceptible to scale insect and fungal disease. Simply opening a window on days that are not too cold is sufficient.
Bromeliads are tolerant of low moisture conditions. Most of the problems encountered with these plants are usually associated with rot caused by over watering. Plants grown in pots should be watered thoroughly until water runs out the bottom. Do not water again until the soil surface feels dry. Once a week is usually sufficient. Should the leaves start to curl up, the plant is too dry. Many Bromeliads form a rosette of leaves creating a vase. It is not necessary to keep this vase filled with water. Keeping it full of water, especially in low light areas encourages bacteria and fungus problems. The best method is to fill the vase after watering the soil. Empty it after a couple of weeks, and then wait a week before refilling. It is also helpful to hose or shower your plants off every month to get rid of dust on the leaves.
Epiphytes such as Tillandsia absorb water directly through their leaves. They should be misted or dunked daily in the hot summer months and once or twice a week in the winter. These plants are more susceptible to under watering. If the leaf edges of your plant begin to curl up, the plant is drying out. Soaking overnight will remedy this. It is a good idea to soak your plants once or every other week in the hottest times of the year.
Feeding should only be done in the late spring and summer. During the winter or under low light, Bromeliads need no feeding. Use a water-soluble fertilizer at 1/3 the recommended dosage applied to the soil. We recommend Maxsea 16-16-16 or Schultz Cactus Food once a month May through August. Do not fill the vase of the plant or apply to Tillandsias as the fertilizer salts can burn newly emerging leaves.
THE FLOWER IS FINISHED
Even when the environment is perfect, nothing you do will prevent the colorful “bloom” from fading and eventually getting ugly. You may not have any color but you can continue to grow the plant so it produces new pup plants. In all honesty, most people, without a little guilt, simply throw the plant away and get a new one. With a sharp pair of clippers, snip off the flowering stalk as far back into the vase as you can. You will have to do this with Guzmanias, Vriesias and Aechmenas. It is advised to place the plant in a brighter location if it was in low light.
New plants called ‘pups” will grow from the side of the mother plant near its base. Wait until the mother plant is nearly dead before removing them. The pups will be 1/3 to ½ the size of the mother. They can be removed with a sharp knife or clippers. A prepared orchid mix is ideal to pot them in or you can make your own mix using 1 part peat, 1 part fine bark and 1 part sand or perlite. Enclose the pot in a plastic bag for the first 3 or 4 weeks to maintain a humid environment. When your new plants have reached an acceptable size, you can treat them to bloom by putting them in a paper bag with an apple Apples produce ethylene, which stimulate flowering. Leave your plant in the “apple bag” for 3 or 4 days. You should begin to see a flower spike in about 6 to 8 weeks after treatment.