Bromeliads are native to Central and South America. They grow on rocks, trees, and on the ground in wooded and humid areas. They’re some of our most fascinating and beautiful ornamentals.
Bromeliad foliage is colorful, ranging from silvery gray to dark green. It can be variegated with pink and off-white striping.
Bromeliad flowers appear in many shapes and colors. They’re often borne on spikes extending above the plant, but in some varieties, flowers are almost hidden in the center funnel of the plant and surrounded by brilliant inner leaves. The root system of most bromeliads serves mainly as an attachment to rocks, tree bark, or soil. Roots furnish very little food to the bromeliad plant, whose water supply is stored in a natural vase-like center formed by their durable foliage.
Bromeliads are ideally suited for home decoration. They can be displayed in pots, hanging baskets, dish gardens, or on bark or driftwood. They’re relatively easy to care for and don’t need to be in large pots or containers.
Some bromeliads (i.e., many Tillandsia sp.) should be misted with water frequently, while others require watering only once every ten days to three weeks. Once a month, they should be fertilized lightly at the roots with a water-soluble fertilizer. For indoor bromeliads, the amount of water left in the cup should be minimal. This may require the frequent addition of small amounts of water to the cup. Try to keep the root system moist but never wet.
Salts & Bromeliads
Bromeliads are highly sensitive to salt accumulation from water standing in the cup. Take care to invert the plant once every two weeks or so and flush out accumulated salts. Salts will make the leaves turn brown at the tips and eventually die. Distilled water and rain water, which don’t contain mineral salts, are best for watering bromeliads.
When the original plant completes its bloom, it sends out shoots or “pups,” after which the mother plant slowly declines. Propagation is achieved by removing the pups and cutting as closely as possible to the mother plant with a sharp, clean knife. Pups should then be repotted in individual containers.
Light & Bromeliads
Bromeliads with variegated foliage are more vividly colored when they receive bright light. Filtered sun is preferable; direct sunlight will usually burn bromeliad foliage.
Insects & Bromeliads
Normally, soft brown or black scales are the only insects to infest bromeliads. Scales can be sponged off with a soap or pesticide solution. If mature scales can’t be wiped off easily, use a fingernail or knife blade to dislodge them.