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Bromeliad Care – Why yours keep dying

Bromeliad Care – Why yours keep dying

Bromeliad plants (from the Bromeliaceae family) originate from the Andean highlands of South America. They’re over 100 million years old!

Of course, they’ve evolved since then and are broken down into separate species. There are around 2,500 sub-types of the bromeliad.

These interesting plants can adapt to almost any environment they’re thrown into and bromeliad care is full of surprises.

Some sites on the internet describe bromeliad care as easy. I do not fully agree. It is easy to care for bromeliads but it is also easy to kill bromeliads if essential plant care best practices are disregarded.

 

Bromeliad Flower Spike

Bromeliad Flower Spike. Let’s just admire for a second how beautiful bromeliads are

For example, bromeliads have tiny little hairs. The little hairs capture water so it can reflect sunlight. It’s protecting itself from the sun when it does this.

You don’t see that every day in a plant. We’ve been super impressed by these cool and colourful plants.

According to the University of Florida they are standing out because of their colourful leaves but also their flower spikes.

Do you need to know what soil to use for your bromeliad? Or the temperature it needs?

If you’re here to find information about caring for your bromeliad, you’ve landed in the right place.

We’ve taken everything we’ve learned about the bromeliad and put it into one article. Keep reading!

 

 

How Not To Kill Your Bromeliad

How Not To Kill Your Bromeliad

 

Bromeliad Plant Care Guide

 

Soil

Determining the soil for your bromeliad is a little different from most other plants.

This is because bromeliads don’t feed or absorb nutrients through their roots. Their roots are only there to give them support.

When you think about it, they’re equal to the legs of a chair.

Because of this unique situation, you don’t need to use a plant pot if you don’t want one.

You can mount your bromeliad on a tree or a large rock. The roots will wrap themselves around the tree to give the plant support.

This means you don’t have to have soil either.

But if you’re going to have your bromeliad plant indoors, you’ll need a pot. You should use bromeliad-specific potting soil or a fast-draining soil.

You can also make your own fast-draining potting soil mix to save money. A great mix for a bromeliad plant includes:

  • decomposed bark
  • perlite
  • sphagnum moss

Sand is another option. It’ll make sure all water goes right through instead of hanging out in the soil, ruining the roots.

Your soil should have a pH level of 5.0 or 6.0.

Bromeliad plants are very susceptible to root rot or wet feet. So be careful not to soak the soil. Keep it as dry as possible. This is an important bromeliad care aspect to be aware of.

Have a look at our extensive soil mix article to get to know more about the right ingredients in potting soil.

 

Light

The light requirements for a bromeliad plant depends on the species. It can go from one extreme for one species to another extreme for another species. There is no one light requirement to be mentioned in this bromeliad care article.

When your plant has flexible and spineless leaves, you don’t need super bright lights. They need lower lights since these plants grow in shady areas.

The bromeliad plants with stiff leaves are like most plants. They need bright but indirect sunlight. You can place your bromeliad in either a north or east-facing window.

Yellowing leaves and stems are often a sign of too much light. The leaves can burn as well from sitting in direct sunlight.

And when they’re not getting enough light, they turn a darker green colour. This is because they have to compensate for the lack of light.

To do that, the plant creates more chlorophyll. The chlorophyll takes in the little light it has access to and turns it into the energy the plant needs.

If you’re having issues finding the right balance of sunlight, a small grow light will be easy to adjust.

Depending on the light level bromeliads might even change their colour from one colour to a different one. We have a bromeliad that turned from a light green colour to a pinkish colour once we increased the artificial light it was getting from a grow light. Bromeliad care never fails to surprise you.

Our article about the different light levels and window directions will explain everything you need to know. about light for houseplants.

 

Watering

As we discussed, bromeliads don’t get nutrients or hydration through their roots.

So, watering your plant is going to be a bit different than watering other plants. You’re not going to water your bromeliad through the soil, bromeliad care is different in this regard.

 

Bromeliad are watered at the centre of the plant

Bromeliads are watered at the centre of the plant

 

Instead, find the centre of your plant. This is “the cup” or “the tank”. Fill the centre of this tank with water.

Never let the tank empty. Once it gets down pretty low, fill it back up with water.

Now, you don’t want to leave the water in the tank for long because it will damage your bromeliad.

Drain the tank once a week. If you have fast-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes, you can drain it into the soil.

If not, empty the water from the tank into a cup or bowl.

Avoid using tap water on your bromeliad plant. Tap water is full of chlorine and other chemicals that can harm it. Use distilled water instead!

This probably makes bromeliad care a little more demanding as you need to be able to source distilled water.

In our case, we bought a device that is able to create distilled water from tap water within a couple of hours as distilled water is not readily available where we live. However, supermarkets, hardware stores or pharmacies close to you might sell distilled water.

An alternative would be to use rainwater or reverse osmosis water. They also work just fine as a means to your bromeliad care.

Check out our air plants watering tips as a comparison.

 

Temperature

Bromeliad plants can withstand most temperatures, minus the extremes. This aspect of Bromeliad care is generally easy to fulfil as your room temperature will likely already be within the optimal temperature range.

But during the day they prefer to be in temperatures ranging from 70°F to 90°F (21°C-32°C). They like it hot since they originate from a hot climate.

At night, the temperature should be between 50°F to 70°F (10°C-21°C). Bromeliads don’t like temperatures below 50°F (10°C).

 

Humidity

Most bromeliad plants thrive off of high humid air. Since they grow on trees and rocks instead of in the earth, they get needed moisture from humid air.

If you can’t reach the high amounts of humidity, you can always create the humidity yourself.

Fill a tray full of pebbles and then fill the tray with water. The water shouldn’t fill above the pebbles. Place your plant and pot on top of the pebbles.

You can also mist the plant throughout the day to create humidity. Good Bromeliad care kind of demands you to do that if your humidity is not on the higher side anyways.

Try to achieve at least 60% humidity for your bromeliad plant so it can thrive.

 

Fertilizer

You don’t have to fertilize bromeliad plants often. They grow very slowly and they take their nutrients about as fast.

You only need to fertilize your bromeliad during the growing season. Or the warmer months. Spread it around the base of your plant.

Avoid using full-strength fertilizer. It should be 1/4 the strength of the average formula.

And use organic fertilizer for your plant. Skip overusing fertilizers full of chemicals.

Read our nutrients and fertilizer guide for everything you need to know about fertilizing indoor plants.

 

Propagation

Propagation for a bromeliad isn’t done from the usual stem cutting. Instead, these plants have “pups”.

The pups are clones from the mother plant or the original plant.

We’re going to go into the full steps of propagation for a bromeliad below. But what can be said here is that Bromeliads basically propagate themselves.

Multiplying plant and get more of what you love already is great and cloning bromeliads is the easy part in Bromeliad care.

 

Growth

The growth of a bromeliad plant all depends on the species. They vary and there are outside factors that go into it their growth as well.

Some bromeliad plants only grow to be a few inches tall. Other bromeliads can grow up to 30 feet tall (914cm).

The 30-foot tall plants are plants that have grown outside. They’ve had the space to grow so big.

But on average, an indoor bromeliad plant grows to be two to three feet tall (61-91cm).

 

Potting

In most cases, a bromeliad plant won’t need re-potting. Their roots don’t grow long at all. And they don’t live long either no matter how good your Bromeliad care is.

But if you do need to re-pot your plant for any reason, don’t get a pot that’s bigger than six inches.

Sometimes it’s hard for one of these plants to hold itself up after being re-potted. Wooden stakes will do the trick until the roots are stable.

Springtime is the best time to try to re-pot a bromeliad. 

 

Bromeliad Propagation Steps

Propagating bromeliad plants is different than other plants. But it’s a good experience and an enjoyable aspect of Bromeliad care.

Bromeliad plants have a life cycle of three to five years. Once they flower, they don’t have much time left alive.

So, propagating a bromeliad plant is a good idea.

  1. You need a pup to get started. The pups start to grow when the plant is close to passing away. Pups pop up around the base of a bromeliad plant. Before you cut away, the pup needs to be about 1/3 of the size of the mother plant. Push back all leaves so you can see where the pup and stem of the plant connect. Then take a sterile knife and place it between the area of the pup and stem. Bring the knife to a slant and cut away. Be careful you don’t cut into the body of the pup. And cut out at least two pups to get started. When possible, leave roots connected but if the pups don’t have roots, it’s not a big deal.
  2. If the mother plant is still alive when you cut out the pups, you need to fill the holes in the soil they left behind. If you waited until the mother plant was dead, you can skip this step.
  3. Now, when the pup has roots, you can place it in a pot of fast-draining soil. The soil should be only slightly moist. You’ll place the pup straight up with about 1/4 of it under the soil.
  4. When your pup doesn’t have roots, you need to let it sit out until roots start to form. This can take weeks for some pups. It depends.
  5. Once the pup has formed roots, you’re going to plant it in the pot and fast-draining soil you should have ready. Like before, stick about 1/4 of the pup into the soil, sticking straight up. You won’t see progress right away. It’s a long, long process. It can take years to get to full-grown status.
  6. After six months, you might (emphasis on might) need to re-pot your bromeliad plant. Once you’ve done that, you won’t need to re-pot it ever again.

 

Varieties of Bromeliad Plants

There are bromeliad plants that produce magnificent flowers and leaves. You have several fun species to choose from and although Bromeliad care for different Bromeliads varies, you will enjoy the different colours and sizes these plants can have.

Oh, and did we mention that pineapples are a member of the bromeliad family?

 

Bromeliaceae guzmania

This bromeliad is perfect for any plant lover because it comes in several bright colours. The bright colours include orange, purple, red, white, and yellow. They resemble the pineapple plant but in funky colours.

 

Bromeliaceae bromelia

Another pretty species of the bromeliad, this one is a popular indoor plant. It’s one of the bromeliad plants that take high humidity at all times.

 

Bromeliaceae aechmea

Bromeliad plants don’t live long after they bloom. They live long enough to grow, give you beauty, and then take it away. But this specific species last longer than others. It’s another popular bromeliad plant.

 

Bromeliaceae vriesea

You can choose between a flower or foliage option for this species. They’re easy to care for since they take low light instead of bright light to thrive.

 

Common Bromeliad Plant Care Problems

For the most part, indoor bromeliad plants don’t attract pests known to destroy other plants. I can’t stress how huge that it is and how it makes Bromeliad care so much more desirable.

However, there are a few bugs that might sneak through to your plant when you don’t expect it.

Aphids are one of those bugs that love all sorts of plants, including bromeliads.

They’re teeny tiny bugs that are difficult to see. They have soft bodies and they’re either green or yellow. And these bugs steal all the nutrients from your plant.

Since they mate fast, you want to get rid of them as soon as you discover them on your plant.

Otherwise, your bromeliad will end up infested with these gross pests. And the more aphids there are, the more aphids there are stealing nutrients.

Getting rid of aphids is easy. Wipe down your plant with either soapy water or insecticidal soap (and water).

Another pest you could come across is the ever-popular mealybug. These tiny, white, and waxy bugs hide under leaves.

Mealybugs start their attack by eating the leaves of the plant.

For mealybugs, try using 70% isopropyl alcohol and water. Like you would with soapy water, wipe your plant down.

You might have to repeat the process a few weeks down the road if your plant still has mealybugs hiding out.

And then there are scale bugs. They’re a little bit harder to get rid of than the other two pests.

Scale bugs don’t look like bugs when you first see them. They appear as little brown dots on the leaves of your bromeliad plant.

These suckers will devour every bit of your plant, from the roots to the top. With enough of them infesting your plant, your plant isn’t going to survive.

Some of the adult scale bugs have a hard shield or hard armour that surrounds them. This means you have to remove the adults from the plant and you can’t rely on only treatments.

You’ll remove these adults with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Wipe down the areas with the adults, making sure there are no more left before you move on to the next step.

Now, use soapy water to wipe down your entire bromeliad plant. This should remove all the eggs.

Repeat the process in a week. This is in case you didn’t remove all the eggs the first time.

 

Tips for an Unhappy Bromeliad Plant

It doesn’t matter what type of bromeliad plant you’re caring for, you want a happy and healthy plant you can enjoy. Bromeliad care is no fun if your Bromeliad is slowly dying.

But there are a few problems you might come across when you have one of these fun plants in your home.

 

Your Bromeliad Plant’s Leaves are Turning Brown (or Black) on the Tips

When your bromeliad plant’s leaves start to turn brown, you start to wonder what you’re doing wrong.

It takes one innocent mistake to cause brown and scorched leaves. Your plant is getting too much direct sunlight or artificial light.

But don’t worry, it’s an easy fix.

When you’re using sunlight, all you have to do is move your bromeliad plant to an area where there isn’t direct light.

If you use grow lights, you can either move your plant to a better angle or adjust your lights.

 

Your Bromeliad Plant has Small Brown or Purple Spots

Brown or purple spots on a plant is from the fungal disease Helminthosporium leaf spot.

This icky fungus rears its’ nasty head when you over-water your plant.

When this disease progresses, the spots grow larger until they destroy the leaves. Eventually, it will cause your plant to wither away and die.

You have to water your plant less and make sure it’s getting enough air circulation.

They seem like unimportant small details. But if you continue to over-water and don’t provide circulation, the disease will kill the plant.

Using a sterile pair of pruning shears, cut off all the diseased areas on the plant.

Last, you might want to consider treating your plant with a fungicide to slow the fungus down. Make sure the fungicide you use doesn’t have copper sulfate in it.

 

Your Bromeliad Plant has Blisters Under the Leaves

You’re probably confused seeing blisters on the bottom of your bromeliad’s leaves. They not only look like blisters but they’re actual blisters. This is not the most enjoyable Bromeliad care topic.

When you’re dealing with liquid-filled blisters, you’re dealing with “rust disease”.

Soon, not only will your plant have blisters, but white or yellow spots will pop up on top of the leaves.

This unfortunate disease is from a fungal parasite that’s spread from one plant to another.

Treating bromeliad plants for rust disease is difficult and won’t always save your plant. But you can sure try!

First, cut off all infected areas on your plant. Get rid of these infected areas right away and destroy them.

Separate your plants until you’re positive none of them is infected or infected anymore.

 

Bromeliad Care Frequently Asked Questions

Why is there a weird white and chalky residue in my bromeliad plant’s tank?

This white and chalky residue in your plant’s tank is from using tap water to water it. Avoid using tap water and start using distilled water instead.

To get rid of the chalky residue, wipe the tank out with a wet cloth.

 

How do I get rid of the hard water deposits on my bromeliad’s leaves and at its’ base?

Mix a gallon of distilled water with a tablespoon of white vinegar. Wet a sponge with this mix and dab at the water spots.

Let the vinegar mix sit for five minutes and then wipe it off with a wet cloth.

Start using distilled water instead of tap water to water your plant from now on.

 

What kind of grow light should I use for my indoor bromeliad plant?

When using artificial lights for a plant, fluorescent light tubes are the best choice.

Fluorescent lights offer a larger spectrum of light in case you need to change things up for your plant. They also create less heat so your plant won’t fry.

 

Is it safe to use a copper wire to mount my bromeliad plant?

No, you need to keep any bromeliad plant away from copper at all times. Copper is toxic to bromeliads and will kill them.

Keep in mind, there are copper sulfate fungicides out there. You want to avoid these fungicides at all costs for obvious reasons.


 

Conclusion

What we learned is that bromeliads come in different sizes and colours and their care varies greatly among different types. They are tolerant of a range of temperatures but their light needs depend mostly on the type of bromeliad you are dealing with.

Bromeliads do not need soil in a way other plants do and their roots are merely here to attach similar to air plants. The way you water bromeliads is different from most other houseplants as you are filling the centre (cup) of the plant.

We enjoy Bromeliad care mostly because of the diversity of these indoor plants. They are so variable in how they look and just look stunning. They even might change the colour depending on the light intensity. How cool is that!

 

Bromeliad Care Sheet

Bromeliad Care Sheet

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