Many bromeliads are easy-to-grow houseplants, bringing long-lasting tropical color to a bright room. Some can move outdoors for a few months in the summer, and a few can survive year-round in very warm, sheltered gardens. Let’s see how to propagate, grow bromeliads and their care.
What are bromeliads?
Bromeliads are a large and diverse group of plants, often native to tropical regions. Together they form the Bromeliaceae family.
Many of them are exotic and unusual houseplants, such as air plants (Tillandsia) and pitcher plants (Aechmea). Pineapples (Ananas comosus) are also bromeliads.
Bromeliads that are commonly grown as houseplants thrive on warm, bright windowsills or in heated greenhouses.
They can also roam outdoors in the summer. Some of the more hardy bromeliads can be grown permanently outdoors in very temperate zones, such as Fascicularia bicolor.
Propagation of bromeliads by cuttings
Most rosette-forming bromeliads are easy to propagate from “saplings,” which are small plants produced around the base of a mature plant.
The first step in growing the pups is to remove them from the mother plant. The longer the young remain on the parent plant, the sooner they will mature and flower.
This means tolerating a dying mother plant whose leaves will turn yellow and eventually turn brown. It is a natural process and there is nothing to worry about as the parent puts all their energy into propagation through the offspring.
Most bromeliads can produce multiple broods, wait until the plant looks fairly dead before harvesting.
The offspring should be one-third to one-half the size of the parent plant before division.
You may start to see roots on hatchlings, but even if they haven’t formed roots, mature hatchlings may survive because they are epiphytes.
Use a sharp, sterile knife to remove hatchlings. It is often best to remove the mother from the container to better see where to make the cuts.
It separates the brood from the parent, taking with it a small amount of the parent with the displacement.
Place each offspring in individual pots burying the base 1cm deep, make sure they are firm on the ground and water until the soil is well moistened.
Use a free-draining compost mix of equal parts fine bark perlite (or compost) and coir. Or, failing that, garden soil with the same amount of sand.
If the mother plant still seems quite alive, transplant it and care for it as usual. Hopefully he can produce more offspring before he disappears.
Where to Grow Bromeliads
Most bromeliads like lots of light, heat and a little humidity.
Place them in a well-lit area, but out of strong summer sun, which can scorch the leaves. Some can tolerate more sun than others.
Keep it around 21°C in the summer to encourage flowering, but once the buds have formed temperatures below 12°C will help the show last longer. Provide a minimum of 10°C (50°F) in winter
They like moist air, such as in a bathroom or kitchen, or you can place the container in a damp gravel tray.
Keep plants away from radiators or heaters and cold drafts
Bromeliads can be moved outdoors for a few months in the summer once nighttime temperatures regularly exceed 50°F (10°C).
Place them in a warm, sheltered spot in sun or partial shade, but out of the midday sun. They work well in tropical style gardens, in vibrant summer flower beds and in contemporary settings.
Some bromeliads, such as fascicularia, puya, and Billbergia nutans, can survive outdoors year-round in warm or temperate zones.
They need a warm, sunny, frost-free location with well-drained soil or compost and sheltered from winter dampness.
Many bromeliads have a pit (or reservoir) in the center of the rosette, including pitcher plants (Aechmea), Guzmania lingulata, and Neoregelia carolinea f. tricolor.
The well should always be filled, ideally with rainwater or distilled water. Empty it and refill it every one or two months, so that the water does not rot.
In summer, water regularly to keep the soil moist but not soggy; in winter, water less often, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
Humidity around bromeliads increases, especially in the summer, because the air in most homes is usually quite dry, especially when the heating is on.
Place the container in a saucer with wet gravel or clay pebbles. Keep the water level just below the surface of the gravel, so it doesn’t saturate the compost in the container.
Spray the leaves regularly with water, especially in hot weather or when the heater has been on for a long time.
Bright, humid bathrooms and kitchens are often good places for bromeliads.
For plants grown outdoors in the summer, place them in a sheltered location away from drying winds.
Many bromeliads are slow-growing and come from nutrient-poor environments, so they generally need little or no feeding. Overfeeding can sometimes reduce the brilliance of leaf colors.
However, if you want to feed them, there are several methods for different types of bromeliads:
For central “well” bromeliads, add a balanced or low-nitrogen liquid fertilizer, diluted by half, once a month in spring and summer. Never put solid food in the pit as it can burn the foliage.
For pitless epiphytic bromeliads, spray the leaves with balanced leaf food once a month from spring through fall.
For bromeliads with terrestrial (terrestrial) roots, such as pineapples (Ananas comosus var. variegatus) and Cryptanthus, apply a medium-strength balanced liquid fertilizer to the compost every two to four weeks, spring through fall.
Bromeliads are tender and do not survive frost. They can be moved outdoors in the summer, but should be brought indoors in the fall, before nighttime temperatures drop below 50ºF (10ºC).
In very sheltered, frost-free locations, some of the hardiest bromeliads, such as fascicularias, puyas and Billbergia nutans, can survive outside in mild winters. Check out our guide to preventing winter damage.
Maintenance and troubleshooting
Growing bromeliads is easy and they are generally disease free. However, if the culture conditions are not suitable, they can show some of the following symptoms:
- The tips of the leaves turn brown and the roots rot: this is due to overwatering or waterlogging. Always let the water run off after watering.
- Humidity: Each plant needs a different level of humidity. Houseplants that need high humidity are best grown in a humid, regularly misted bathroom, or with the pot placed on a saucer of damp pebbles.
- White or brown leaves: They are usually caused by the sun. Protect plants from strong sun, especially in summer.
It may also be interesting to read: How to propagate, grow Torenia and its care.
- Pests: Some bromeliads can sometimes attract common greenhouse pests, such as mealybugs and scale insects. Inspect your plants regularly, because the sooner you spot the pests, the easier it will be to get rid of them.
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