How to Grow and Care for Bromeliad

Common Name Bromeliad
Botanical Name Bromeliaceae genera
Family Bromeliaceae
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size Varies by genera and species
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Well-draining
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Blooms once; timing varies
Flower Color Red, green, purple, orange, yellow
Hardiness Zones 10-11 (USDA)
Native Area North America, Central America, South America

Bromeliad Care

Bromeliads generally need a fairly specific set of conditions to bloom, varying from genus to genus and even from species to species in a single genus. Their bloom cycle is affected by day length, temperature, humidity, water, and feeding.

When cultivated as indoor plants, most bromeliads are planted in a mixture of potting soil and sand. Watering is done either by moistening the soil or filling the center depression (“cup”) formed by the rosette of leaves. Also, bromeliads can be grown without soil by fastening or gluing the plant to an object that allows it to remain upright.


Provide bright, indirect light unless you know your bromeliad prefers a different light level. Other genera of bromeliads are tolerant of varying levels of light. Generally, varieties with soft, flexible, spineless leaves usually prefer lower light levels, while those with stiff, hard leaves prefer bright indirect light. Some can even withstand full tropical sun, while others will quickly scorch.

Plants that turn yellowish might be getting too much light, while dark green or elongated plants might receive too little light. Increasing light exposure can help the plant bloom, provided the other conditions are appropriate.


Bromeliads grown indoors thrive in fast-draining potting soil that holds moisture but drains well. A mixture of two-thirds peat-based soil and one-third sand is often ideal. You can also use orchid mix, charcoal, or soilless potting mix. Many bromeliads that are epiphytic can be grown in containers, or you can try to grow them as authentic “air plants” mounted to boards or logs (typically secured with ties or glue).


Although native to tropical, moist environments, some bromeliads are very tolerant of drought conditions, but they prefer moist, not soggy, soil. In a typical house, it’s usually not necessary to keep the central cup of the plant constantly filled with water. But this is an option if the light levels and temperature are high. If you do centrally water your bromeliad, make sure to flush the central cup every so often to remove any built-up salts. But in general, it’s enough to water these plants very sparingly through the soil weekly during the growing season and reduce watering during the winter rest period. Never let the plant rest in standing water, as bromeliads are prone to root rot.

Wait until the top two inches of soil feel dry to the touch before watering. Plants you are growing as epiphytes (as air plants without soil) need more attention: mist them with a spray bottle, and give them a good soaking by submerging them in water once per week.

Temperature and Humidity

Bromeliads are tolerant of temperature variations, but most bromeliads need protection from cold. If you want to add these plants to your landscape but live in a climate with freezing temperatures, consider planting bromeliads in pots that can be brought inside in winter. Bromeliads prefer temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Though some cold-hardy types can survive temperatures down to 20 degrees, they should generally not be exposed to temperatures under 40 degrees. They grow well indoors in 40-50 percent humidity. In many climates, bromeliads can be moved outdoors during the summer. Remember: bromeliads are native to tropical, humid, shady forest floors or grown in trees. Try to mimic those conditions for your plants.


Bromeliads are not heavy feeders. During the growing season, use a liquid fertilizer diluted at half strength. Avoid feeding mature plants in winter or when the plant begins to flower.

Growing Outdoors

You can grow bromeliads outdoors. They do best in tropical environments, so you will need to bring your plants indoors during the colder months. When placing them outside, you can grow them in a container in shallow soil on a shaded patio, under a shady tree, or a larger plant that will give it some shade during a bright, sunny day. Direct sun can burn bromeliad leaves.

Containers dry out quicker than inground plants; water when the soil dries out; soaking the soil well. The water should drain easily from the drainage holes. You can also water the plant’s natural cup formed by the plant’s leaves at its base.

Types of Bromeliads

Although houseplant bromeliads are usually grown in a blended potting mix, many species are epiphytic plants when found in their native range—the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas.

The most common bromeliads, and usually the easiest for beginners, include:

  • Guzmania: This genus includes most of the most common and readily available species, including G. lingulata, G. zahnii, G. Guzmania sanguinea, and G. monostachia. These plants have long, flat, glossy green leaves. The most common varieties have bracts that are bright red (one common name for this plant is scarlet star), but depending on species, there are some that are yellow, orange, purple, or pink. The blooms are very long-lasting, holding up for two to four months.
  • Neoregelia: This is the most diverse of all the bromeliad genera. Those species used as houseplants have some of the most colorful bracts, ranging from pink to deep purple. These plants form short, fairly flat rosettes of leaves; some miniatures are no more than 1 inch across while other plants can be as much as 40 inches wide.
  • Vriesea: The species in the Vriesea genus features tropical, feather-like blooms and variegated foliage. Among the popular varieties are V. splendens and the hybrid Vreisea
  • Ananas comosus ‘Champaca:’ Ananas is the genus that includes the common pineapple, and the cultivar of one species, A. Comosus ‘Champaca’, is an ornamental pineapple often grown as a houseplant. This bromeliad features spidery leaves and miniature pineapples on top of the flower spike.

Propagating Bromeliads

Propagating bromeliads from shoots is preferred over the less common and difficult way of growing the plant from seeds. Bromeliads multiply by sending up offsets, or pups. In a natural growth cycle, a mature plant will send up a flower spike that includes small, sometimes insignificant flowers surrounded by showy bracts. (It’s really the bracts that are most appealing in these plants.) The bracts are often long-lasting—sometimes for months.

After the flower dies, the plant also begins to die over the next few months. However, the parent plant will send out one or several smaller pups at its base. When these pups reach about one-third the size of the parent plant, they can be carefully cut off with a sterile, sharp knife and potted individually in their own containers. The pups typically have a few roots, but if not, they will form roots once potted in their new containers.

Common Pests

Although sometimes susceptible to mealybugs, aphids, and scale, bromeliads are largely free of severe pests. You can eliminate mealybugs and aphids by spraying the plant with a mixture of water and a few drops of dish soap. Dab scale bugs with a cotton swab doused with rubbing alcohol.

How to Get Bromeliads to Bloom

While it can be difficult to accurately replicate the conditions any particular bromeliad needs to bloom, some research has shown the plants can be forced to bloom by exposure to ethylene gas. So if you want to force your plant to spike, place it in a tightly sealed, clear plastic bag for up to 10 days with a ripe apple. The apple will give off ethylene gas as it decomposes. Make sure any water is drained from the bromeliad’s central cup before attempting this.

Common Problems With Bromeliads

Though bromeliads are somewhat easy-going plants, they can be prone to some cultural issues. Stay aware of the following problems:


When you’re watering, if you’re over-saturating the potting soil rather than filling the central “cup” formed by the leaves, bromeliads can develop rot. These are plants that prefer relatively dry conditions. Always plant bromeliads in containers with drainage holes, and allow the water to run through the container to ensure that the roots aren’t sitting in water. Also, never use a metal container for watering. Bromeliads are very sensitive to metal. Avoid metal pots as well.

Hard Water

Water high in mineral content can cause water spots on the base of the plant and in the center cup. It is best to water with demineralized water.

Improper Container

Bromeliads don’t have a large root system, so plant them in small, well-draining pots that won’t collect a lot of water. Planting them in a too-large pot without drainage can lead to rot.


    • These showy plants may look high-maintenance but they require little help to thrive. Luckily, their leaves do a lot of the work by absorbing moisture and other nutrients from the air.

    • Bromeliads are slow-growers and can take from one to three years to mature into blooming plants.

    • Most indoor bromeliads can live between two to five years before the mother plant dies.

    • As a general rule of thumb, bromeliads will thrive in the same conditions as epiphytic orchids. They are considerably more tolerant than orchids of fluctuations in temperature, drought, and careless feeding.

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