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KNOWLEDGE TO GROW - Growing Bromeliads By Karen Weiland Purdue Master Gardener


Bromeliads are a tropical plant and one of the easiest to grow indoors. They have very colorful foliage and are very adaptable to tolerating some of the rather not-so-great environments that exist in our homes. There are few pests and diseases that attack Bromeliads which make them all the more attractive.

Bromeliads can be one of three things: epiphytic or growing in air, terrestrial or growing in soil and saxicolous or growing on rocks. They like bright, indirect light and can be placed outdoors during the summer months. Epiphytes grow on other plants, not as a parasite, but they use the usually woody plant as an anchor and gather water and nutrients from the air with small hairs. Saxicolous grow the same as Epiphytes only on rocks. Peat moss, sphagnum moss, orchid mixes and soilless potting mixes make for happy terrestrial Bromeliad roots. A recommended soil recipe would include ½ orchid mix and ½ soilless mix. The coarse mixture will need to hold moisture yet drain quickly and contain an acidic pH. Do not use garden soil and do not place a layer of draining material in the bottom of the pot. Speaking of pots, either clay or plastic can be used but keep in mind that when using a clay pot, the soil will dry out faster than when using plastic.

Most Bromeliads thrive in high humidity and good air circulation. To increase humidity, place a tray filled with water and pebbles or decorative rocks under the pot. You can also mist the plants occasionally. This is particularly helpful during the dry winter months. You may like to use a water soluble fertilizer, but mixing it at 1/8 to ¼ the amount recommended on the container. Do not apply fertilizer during the winter months after the plant has reached maturity or when it is about to flower.

Some Bromeliads die after flowering. They develop little offshoots called “pups” around the base of the plant which can then be removed and repotted. The mother plant can also be cut back and the “pups” can be left to grow in the original pot. There are other Bromeliads that will produce new plants on stolons (long shoots that grow along the surface of the soil). As with the “pups” they can be left on or removed and repotted.

As always, Happy Gardening!