How to care for bromeliads
Bromeliads are light-loving, low maintenance plants originating in the American tropics. The name is pronounced broh MEE lee ad. They are a member of the pineapple family and are related to Spanish moss. The family contains a wide variety of foliage color, sizes, and shapes. Leaves may be gray, green, maroon, spotted, or striped. Colorful flowers and fruits may be on the plant at the same time. Some have spines on leaf edges or at the point.
Many varieties grow in the form of a rosette. This contains a cup- or vase-shaped leaf arrangement that serves to collect water. In nature, they attach themselves to trees or rocks. They derive nutrients from air and rain. Their simple growth requirements make it easy to learn how to care for bromeliads.
Bromeliads have been cultivated for suitability for indoor growth. They have adapted to life in pots. They adjust well to either outdoor or indoor growing condition. The biggest danger they face outside is freezing. In colder climates, keep them in pots, and bring them in when there is danger of frost.
The plants need moderate to bright light, good air circulation, and well-drained soil. They will tolerate low light, but blooms will last longer in bright light.
Air circulation is very important. They receive carbon dioxide and moisture from the air. Place by an open window in good weather. Other times, a fan can be placed in the room.
To encourage plants to get nutrition from the air, place outside occasionally. Indoor air conditioning and heating tend to remove the humidity from the air. Time outdoors will revive the plants. While you have them outside, flush out the standing water.
Bromeliads do not have an extensive root system. They do not require large pots. Clay or plastic pots work equally well. The heavier clay pots provide more stability. Plastic retains water better, so plants require less frequent watering.
Avoid conventional potting soil. Roots need access to air. Use a light, porous potting mixture material.. The addition of perlite, sand, cork, or bark assures proper drainage. When planting outside, adding peat and compost will provide a suitable medium.
Some varieties may be attached to a decorative wooden base instead of in a pot. Fasten with wire or string. Cover with spaghnum moss for a more attractive display. Spray moss from time to time to keep it moist.
Most species only require water every week or two. However, if the plant leaves form a cup, it should be kept filled with water. For plants with hairy filaments on the leaves, water should be sprinkled onto the leaves. Tip plant to drain off any excess. Plants appreciate an occasional misting. Water the soil directly only if it becomes very dry to the touch. Rainwater is preferable to tap water. If using water from the tap, allow to sit overnight so chemicals can settle out.
Avoid standing water in plants. Flush out water left in cups so it does not stagnate. Overwatering can cause rot.
Propagation and blooms
A plant will only bloom one time. It slowly dies a year or two after flowering. Once the flower begins to fade, cut off the bloom. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears. Cut down as far as you are able to reach.
You will need to start a new plant in order to see another bloom. The parent plant produces growths known as “offsets” or “pups.” The pups can be left attached to the original plant. However, if you want more blooms, you will need to separate them and start new plants. Wait until the pups form a rosette as in the parent plant. Then cut away carefully with a sharp knife. Place in a separate pot, even if it has not developed its own root system yet.
Temperature and humidity
Since they are tropical plants, they tolerate high temperatures outdoors. Inside, they thrive best with daytime temperature of 70 to 75. Nighttime temperatures should be about ten degrees cooler.
Humidity should be between 40 and 60 percent. Most homes fall below that ideal. This can be counteracted by placing plants on a bed of wet gravel. As water evaporates, it refreshes the plants. Installing a humidifier is another solution.
Bromeliads have little need for fertilization. Using a general purpose liquid fertilizer is adequate. A slow release mixture for houseplants can be applied to the soil. Do not place in the cup of the plant. Use less than the label calls for.
Pests and disease
Bromeliads are rarely bothered with plant diseases. While a plant may appear to be diseased, it may be demonstrating the symptoms of overwatering or lack of light or air circulation. They may also suffer from injury or sunburn. Neem oil may be used for fungus or root rot. It is a natural product, safe for plants and humans. Small frogs may live in the cups of outdoor plants. They will eat mosquito larvae and other pests.
Plants may be attacked by scale insects, spider mites, or mealy bugs. These suck fluid from the plants and cause unsightly marks on the foliage. Remove insects as soon as possible. You may take the plant outside and douse it thoroughly with water. A solution of “safe” soap in water may also drive pests away. Spray the mixture on leaves. Isolate the infected plant from your other houseplants to avoid spreading to other plants.
Bromeliads will bring a wealth of color and variety to your indoor or outdoor garden. With a favorable environment they will flourish and bloom, bringing a splash of color.
Learning how to care for bromeliads includes propagating the next generation. Due to their short life span, caring for the pups is an important part of their care. Successful propagation will assure a continued supply of pleasure.