Bromeliads are tough, interesting to look at, and don’t require much fussing over at all. That’s just the kind of plant I want to add to my collection of tropical beauties. They’re very popular house plants so I want to share with you what I’ve learned over the years about bromeliad care indoors.
Oh bromeliads, how I love you. I was happy to be able to grow a variety of these pineapple relatives in my Santa Barbara garden (warning, this is an old post with old photos!) as well as in the house. Now that I live in the desert in Tucson, AZ, I grow them exclusively indoors.
I started out my post-college horticultural career as an interior plant technician, which is a fancy name for someone who runs all over the place and takes care of plants in offices, lobbies, malls, hotels, and even airports. Granted these aren’t the most welcoming environments for plants that are native to the subtropics and tropics, but in all cases, the bromeliads certainly held their own and did just fine.
They were sold as “color plants” (in 4″ and 6″ grow pots) and certainly were a lot more long-lasting and much more forgiving than begonias, azaleas, mums, and the like. By the way, Kalanchoes, Calandivas, and Phalenopsis Orchids were on the list of long-lasting blooming plants too.
Bromeliad Care Indoors
This is a general bromeliad care guide for growing bromeliads in pots. You’ll find specific types of bromeliads, along with care guides, listed right below.
Note: This post was originally published on 1/13/2016. It was updated with more info & new images on 11/7/2022.
I’ve not only cared for and placed hundreds of bromeliad plants on commercial accounts but I’ve also grown them as houseplants too. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with you.
There are so many types of bromeliads, species of bromeliads, and bromeliad varieties. Listed below are the ones most commonly sold in the houseplant trade. You’ll find links to their care as well as photos of them throughout this post.
Like many other tropical plants growing indoors, bromeliads like nice, bright indirect light but no prolonged periods of the hot sun. In nature, they grow under the canopies of other plants on the forest floor where it’s bright but the direct sun is filtered through.
They’ll survive for a while in lower light levels but need enough light to bring out and keep the color and also to initiate flowering and pupping (their process of making babies – see Propagation below).
It’s a bit vague without getting into foot candle measurements but you want your bromeliad to be somewhere near but not in a window or windows with a west or south exposure. During the darker months, you may have to move it to a spot that gets more light.
In commercial accounts, they were rotated out on a monthly basis so the exposure wasn’t as big a deal. Mine that grew outdoors were in partial shade and out of direct sunlight.
I’ve found that bromeliads like a good watering every month. Water the growing medium thoroughly and then let it all drain out. Make sure the pot has at least 1 drainage hole (preferably more) so the water can flow right through.
Depending on your home’s environment, you might need to water less often. And, in the winter, I water less often.
The majority of them are epiphytic bromeliads (meaning they grow on other plants, rocks, logs, etc, and not in the soil) so never keep them soggy or let them sit directly in water. This will lead to rot as the roots are primarily for anchoring.
Keep the cup, which is the center of the plant aka the tank or reservoir, 1/4 to 1/2 full of water at most. Be sure to flush out the cup every month or two as bacteria can collect in the dirty, stagnant water.
Another way to water bromeliads is to mist the central cup and the leaves and surface of the mix.
In the cooler, darker months back off on the watering, to maybe every 2 months, and keep the center cup 1/4 full to almost dry. You don’t want your bromeliad to rot.
Bromeliads with a cup (like Aechmeas and Neoregelias) are susceptible to salt damage which occurs because of the water quality or over-fertilizing.
Although most tap water is just fine, yours could possibly have high amounts of salts and minerals, so in that case, use rain, filtered, or distilled water.
Soil / Repotting
Bromeliads love rich, organic matter in their soil but they must have excellent drainage. If you have cymbidium orchid mix on hand, then you can use it for potting up your bromeliads too.
Bromeliads have a small root system so you don’t have to worry about repotting them too often. Every four to five years is probably just fine. And, you only need to go up 1 pot size.
It’s best to repot them in spring and summer into early fall.
Bromeliads aren’t fussy and don’t need much if any fertilizing. If you feel the need to feed them, then use a balanced liquid fertilizer or an all-purpose orchid food diluted at half-strength in the spring or summer.
There are fertilizers that are specially formulated for bromeliads. Whichever you decide to use, don’t over-fertilize them, which means using too much or doing it too often.
Temperature / Humidity
Temperature isn’t too important as bromeliads tolerate a wide range of temps. If your home is comfortable for you, it’ll be so for your bromeliads too.
Mine grew outdoors in Santa Barbara and the winter months got into the 40s and into the 80s/90s in the summer/fall.
Humidity is more important as these plants are native to the subtropics and the tropics. They grow best in high humidity but seem to tolerate the dry air in our homes just fine.
If your home is really dry, then it’s a good idea to mist them a couple of times a week or grow them over a tray filled with water and pebbles to up the ante a bit on the humidity.
The easiest way to propagate bromeliads is by removing the pups (the little babies that appear off the base of the mother plant) and replanting them.
If you’re new to this, you might want to wait until those new plants are a fairly good size so roots have formed. You can also leave them attached to the mother and cut back the growth as it dies. Yes, the mother plant dies after flowering the the good news is, babies will form.
I’ve also removed bromeliad pups when they’re smaller and planted them with success. Growers also propagate them by seed but it’s a much more tedious process.
More details for you on Propagating Bromeliads including how to remove and pot up the pups.
These plants require very little pruning which makes me very happy. A bottom leaf will occasionally die – simply remove it.
When the bromeliad flower dies, like an Aechmea, Guzmania, or Pink Quill, then prune it off after it has died. At some point, the parent plant will die (but don’t be sad – remember, I said new babies will appear) and you’ll need to cut that off after it’s completely gone if you’re leaving the pups attached.
Bromeliad flowers, depending on the genus and/or species, come in a variety of colors. Some have a stalk with a large showy flower atop it while others have small flowers which appear deep inside the cup.
In case you have read the above few paragraphs, the mother plant will die after flowering. The post below will give you more information on this.
Here’s why Bromeliad Flowers Turn Brown and what to do about it.
Mine have never gotten any pests whether they were growing indoors or out. They’re most susceptible to Spider Mites, Mealy Bugs, and Scale. You can wipe the mealy bug off with alcohol and a cotton swab.
Scale can be removed with your fingernail or a dull knife. Please don’t use an oil spray (like horticultural or neem oils) on your bromeliads as they can smother the plant if used too often.
The good news is that these plants are considered non-toxic. I get my information on this subject from the ASPCA website. Here’s a heads-up if you have kitties like me. They love to chew on those crunchy leaves!
Here are some of our houseplant guides you may find helpful: Guide To Watering Indoor Plants, Beginner’s Guide To Repotting Plants, 3 Ways To Successfully Fertilize Indoor Plants, How to Clean Houseplants, Winter Houseplant Care Guide, How to Increase Humidity for Houseplants.
Bromeliad Care Video Guide
Bromeliad Plant Care FAQs
How long does it take a bromeliad to bloom? Do bromeliads only flower once? What do you do with a bromeliad flower after it dies?
It takes a bromeliad about 5 years (sometimes longer) to bloom.
Yes, they only flower once and the parent plant eventually dies.
You cut the flower stalk all the way off.
How do you get a bromeliad to rebloom? Why is my bromeliad not blooming? How do I get my bromeliad to bloom again?
You don’t the bromeliad to rebloom. The parent plant will put out pups as it’s starting the process of dying, or just after. The pups will eventually bloom, but it usually takes a few years.
Your bromeliad may not be blooming because it’s too young. Or, the light levels are too low. Guzmanias, aechmeas, and pink quill plants are commonly sold with the flower stalk formed and showing color.
Same answer as the 1st question (you don’t), just different wording!
Do you water bromeliad from the top or bottom? How often do you water a bromeliad? Do bromeliads need water in the cup?
I always water mine from the top.
I keep water in the cup and water the potting mix every 3-4 weeks. I live in the desert so you may have to water less often depending on your climate. I watered my bromeliads less often in Santa Barbara where it was more humid.
Bromeliads, when growing in their native environments, get water from rain falling in the cups and over the foliage. The roots are primarily for anchoring. I keep the cups 1/2 full of water and that works in my desert climate. If you live in a more humid climate, keep the cup 1/4 full at most. In the winter months, you may have to keep it dry in those darker, cooler months to keep the center cup from “mushing out”.
Can bromeliads be outside?
Yes, they can grow outdoors year-round in temperate climates. I grew quite a few of them in my Santa Barbara garden. I planted them in their grow pots to help prevent root rot.
I lived 7 blocks from the ocean so the fog was their primary form of watering.
Are bromeliads easy to care for?
Bromeliad care is easy. I’m currently growing two of them and they require little attention.
In conclusion: Bromeliads do best in bright light (indirect sunlight is fine), well-drained soil, and like to be watered sparingly.
Bromeliads make fine houseplants and are as easy to care for as it gets. As a matter of fact, there are a couple of bromeliads I’ve had my eye on so I think I need to add to my collection soon!
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