Growing Bromeliads: Easy and Fun

Beautiful Bromeliads

Spring is finally here.  This is the time of year when I find myself making a  trip to the local garden center.  While my gardening style has even killed some silk plants, each year I seem to give it the “old college try” …one more time.

This year, though,I have been doing some research before making an investment.  (It can cost a lot of “green” to pretend to have a green thumb!)  Conclusive in my research, I have settled on Bromeliads as the perfect “plant victim” for my garden project.  They are easy to find for sale in places like a Farmer’s Market, Publix, Wal-mart, Home Depot or even your local Botanical Garden and they are reasonably inexpensive.

Bromeliad colors

Usually, you will find Bromeliads for sale in local stores already in bloom, (and what interesting blooms they are!)  There are so many different types of Bromeliads that you will find.  Actually, Spanish Moss and Pineapples are both kinds of Bromeliads.

Pineapple Bromeliad

Often, they’re so colorful and exotic they look like they might be fake but not even the silk ones can compare to Mother Nature’s artistic talents.  The bloom of a Bromeliad is the end of the life cylce yet,  the plant may live for another year or two.  Once a plant has flowered it will produce off-shoots or “pups”. When the pups are about half the size of the mother, cut the pups away with a sharp knife as close to the mother plant as possible and plant them in a container or strap them to a tree.

Bromeliads used to be considered expert houseplants or more fit for a greenhouse than a home.  However, the reality is that they can be very adaptable to regular home conditions.   While they might do better if the climate were that of a tropical rainforest, Bromeliads are very adaptable  and it is actually better to grow them in a rich, fast-draining potting soil than it is to attempt to duplicate their native conditions.

Central Cup

Growing tips for the best results from your Bromeliad plant:  

Light:  The bloom cycle for a Bromeliad varies from genus to genus however, all are affected by the length of day.  Generally speaking, they love a bright lit window sill but not direct sun light.  A South, West or East window should suffice in order to keep their leaves a steady shade of bright green.  Leaves that are turning a light yellow are receiving too much light and leaves that are too dark of green are not getting enough.

Temperature:  Tolerant to fluctuating temperatures, he most favorable temperature for a Bromeliad to grown is between 55 and 80 degrees.  The hotter the temperature, the more humidity they will need.  Do not expose them to temperatures below 40 degrees.

Water:  While in their natural conditions, Bromeliads can be very tolerant of drought.  In a home environment, however, if the conditions are right with the light temperature and humidity, you can keep the central cup filled with water.  You never want the plant to rest in standing water so a regular watering weekly during growing season and reduce watering during the winter rest period is sufficient.  Should you use the central cup for watering, be sure to flush out any build up of salts, from any standing water, that might be evident.

Free-form Bromeliads

Potting Soil:  The best soil for growing Bromeliads is a fast-draining potting soil.  A mixture of 1/3 sand and 2/3 peat-based soil mix is a good mix.  Because they are epiphytic (meaning they can grow on top of another plant without attaching itself to it for nutrition), they can also be strapped to a tree, as mentioned above, or place on boards and logs.  If not planted in soil, you will need to water them more often and consistently all year long.

Fertilizer:  As you can tell, these plants are pretty low maintenance.  That said, you will want to fertilize them during the growing season.  Use a liquid fertilizer at 1/4 or 1/2 strength. Using a slow-release pellet fertilizer and water the central cup, a single pellet dropped into the cup will suffice for a season.  Slow-release pellets can also be mixed into the soil compost.

While the Bromeliads are tropical in nature, their beautiful blooms can last up to six months, making even the most novice gardener look like a pro!  (Keeping my fingers crossed again this year. )