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Bromeliad Care: How to Grow This Beauty Indoors

Bromeliads are wonderful houseplants. They're colorful & flowering. Here's what you need to know about bromeliad care to grow them indoors.

a large, colorful neoregelia bromeliad in a metal urn planter sits on a table next to a window

Oh Bromeliads, how I  love you!  I’m so happy that I’m able to grow a variety of these pineapple relatives in my garden here in Santa Barbara. 

Bromeliads are tough, interesting and don’t require much fuss. That’s my kind of plant to have in a climate where gardening is a year-round activity.  They’re a very popular houseplant so I want to share with what I’ve learned over the years about caring for them 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 which are native to the subtropics and tropics, but in all cases, the bromeliads certainly held their own.

They were sold as “color plants” and certainly were a lot more long lasting and much more forgiving than begonias, azaleas, mums and the like.

rows of colorful neoregelia bromeliads with scarlet red centers in a greenhouse

The flowers on Neoregelias are very tiny (& they appear deep inside the cup) but their foliage is the main draw.

I’m hanging out on my back patio talking Bromeliads:

I’ve not only cared for and placed 100’s of Bromeliads on commercial accounts but I’ve also grown them as houseplants too.  I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with you:

Light

Like many other tropical plants brought indoors, bromeliads like nice, bright light but no prolonged periods of direct, hot sun.  In nature, they grow under the canopies of other plants where it’s bright but direct sun is limited.  They’ll survive for a while in lower light conditions but need a fair amount of it to bring out the color and 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.

Watering

I’ve found that bromeliads like a good watering every month.  Water the growing mix thoroughly & then let it all drain out of the pot.  The majority of bromeliads are epiphytes (meaning they grow on other plants, rocks, logs, etc & not in the soil) so never keep them soggy or let them sit directly in water.  Keep the cup, which is center part 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 2 as bacteria can collect in the dirty water.

In the cooler, darker months back off on the watering, to maybe every 2 months, & keep the cup 1/4 full to almost dry.  You don’t want your Bromeliad to rot.  Bromeliads with a cup (like Aechmeas & 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 & mineral, so in that case, use rain 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, then you can use this for potting up your Bromeliads too.  I use a mixture of succulent & cactus mix, orchid bark, worm castings, & compost.  Another good additive is coco coir, which is a more environmentally friendly alternative to peat moss.

Bromeliads have a small root system so you don’t have to worry about repotting them too often.  Every 4-5 years is probably just fine & you only need to go up 1 or 2 pot sizes.  And, it’s best to not repot them in the cooler months when the roots are resting.

2 aechmea bromeliads with pink flower stalks side by side on the ground

This is Aechmea fasciata, the Bromeliad that was the most popular in my interior plant-scaping days.

Fertilizing

Bromeliads aren’t fussy & 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 1/2 strength in the spring or summer.  There are fertilizers which are specially formulated for bromeliads but whichever you decide to use, don’t over fertilize them!

Temperature / Humidity

Temperature isn’t too important as bromeliads tolerate a wide range of temps.  Mine grow outdoors & our winter months can get into the 40’s & into the 80’s/90’s in the summer/fall.  Humidity is more important as these plants are native to the subtropics & the tropics.  If your home is really dry, then mist them a couple of times a week or grow them over a tray filled with water & pebbles to up the ante on the humidity.

Propagation

The easiest way to propagate Bromeliads is by removing the pups (the little babies that appear off the base of the mother plant) & replanting them.  If you’re new to this, you might want to wait until the pups are a fairly good size so roots have formed.  I’ve also removed pups when they’re smaller & planted them with success.  Growers also propagate them by seed but it’s a much, much more tedious process.

rows of vibrant red, yellow & hot pink guzmania bromeliads on a table in a nursery

Guzmanias have bright, showy flowers but their foliage is rather plain.

Pruning

These plants require very little pruning which makes me very happy.  A bottom leaf will occasionally die – simply remove it.  If your bromeliad has a flower stalk, like an Aechmea or Guzmania, then prune it off after it has died.  At some point the mother plant will die (but don’t be sad – remember, I said new babies will appear) & you’ll need to cut that off after it completely goes.

Flowers

Yes, bromeliads 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.

Pests

Mine have never gotten any pests whether they were growing indoors or out.  They’re most susceptible to mealy bugs & scale.  You can wipe the mealy bug off with alcohol & a cotton swab.  Scale can be removed with your fingernail or a dull knife.  Don’t use an oil spray (like horticultural or neem oils) on your Bromeliads as they can smother the plant.

neoregelia & pink quill plant bromeliads sit on a table in a nursery

This is Pink Quill Plant, which actually has the genus Tillandsia (along with its other Air Plant friends).

Here’s a head’s up if you have kitties: they love to chew on those crunchy leaves but the good news is that these plants are considered non-toxic. Other than that, bromeliads make a fine houseplant and are as easy care as it gets. As a matter of fact, there are some bromeliads I’ve had my eye on so I think I need to add to my collection soon!

Happy Gardening,

Nell's signature
beautiful bromeliads in shades or red, pink & green in a grower's greenhouse

More Neoregelias.  These are my favorites – I love the patterned foliage.

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42 comments:

  1. Thank you for sending beautiful colorful plant pictures.
    I’m enjoying.

    The first time I knew your video was about the gorgeous bougainvillea video in your garage. I was so fascinated.
    I can’t forget it!

  2. Hi – I’m glad you’re enjoying the pictures. I love bromeliads, especially those ones with the colorful foliage. I just pruned that Bougainvillea a few weeks ago – it’s still blooming away! Best, Nell

  3. i have some bromeliads ,but didnt find the types . how can i identify my bromeliads types?

  4. Thanks so much for the tips! I just saw Aechmea fasciata at my local grocery store the other day and was entranced! I was afraid to buy it because I thought i’d just kill it, but with your tips I think i’ll give it a try!

  5. Hi Adrienne – Aechmea fasciata makes a great houseplant. Give it nice bright light & don’t over water it. We used them a lot when I was an interiorscaper! Nell

  6. Hi – Bromeliads commonly sold as houseplants fall into the following genus’: aechmea, guzmania, neorgelia & tillandsia (cyanea). You can do an internet search & see which you have. Nell

  7. May 18, 2017
    Nell
    I just received a Pink Quill Plant, The info tag it does not say how tall it will get. Could you please let me know this information?

    Thank you,

  8. I love your videos! I lived in Tucson but now I am in Upstate NY. I recently purchased Neoregelia Mendoza, Billbergia Casablanca,Werauhia Sanguinolenta, Aechmea Frappuccino, along with some others… I am wondering what would be best??? I South window with no direct sunlight but right near window or West window with an hour or two of direct sunlight?

  9. Hi Denise – Mine right now is about 7-8″ tall & about 8″ wide. They don’t get much taller, but as they grow & pup, they spread. Just to let you know, they’re relatively slow growing. Nell

  10. Hi Johnny – Well thank you! I just moved to Tucson last year so all’s still new to me. I went to college in upstate NY by the way. The west exposure would be best but near the window, not in it. In the brighter summer months the south exposure would work, & in the darker winter months (which I remember!) you might consider moving them to the west window. Hope that helps & happy gardening! Nell

  11. I keep mine on my screened in porch & seems to be doing ok, but it doesnt have the beautiful flower. Will they come out eventually?

  12. Hi Sherry – Just know that bromeliads don’t flower until they reach at least 3-6 years old. Also, if the light is too low, they won’t flower. Nell

  13. Is there a certain “easy” type of bromeliad to grow? I like big flashy colors.

  14. Hi Daniel – I think all bromeliads are easy. Some do better in lower light than others. The Guzmanias have flashy flowers (which last about 4 months) but the foliage is solid green. The neoregelias come in some flashy foliage colors & patterns. Nell

  15. Hi, l just bought this plant. There are 3 adult bromeliads in one pot. Is this ok or should l separate them. Each mother bromeliad is flowering. I live in Ontario Canada.

  16. Hi Beth – It’s fine because bromeliads don’t have an extensive root system. Just know that they’ll eventually die after flowering & pups will appear that you can then propagate. Nell

  17. Hi…. great article…We have a stone fireplace and I’m wanting to introduce some moss, lichen and some bromeliads into to the cracks and seams of the stones (indoors). Given proper care, what do you think? Do you have any suggestions outside of the care instructions in this article.

  18. Hi Arthur – Thank you. It should work out if you have good strong natural light but not direct sun & if the stone on the fireplace doesn’t get too warm. You’ll need to mist them 2-3 times per week because it’ll be hard to keep water in the urns. Remember that the mother plant dies after flowering so you’ll need to cut it away while or after it’s turned brown. Hope that helps! Nell

  19. This is awesome for projects like biome project!

  20. Braden – For a tropical or sub-tropical biome! Nell

  21. Hi Nell – I too have been an interior landscaper (30 years.) When we started to use broms in the ’80’s, we quickly found that keeping water in the cups – which was always the recommendation – would almost always lead to plants’ rotting. We quickly ended that practice, and watering the soil was all that was needed. I always advise people to water them as if they were cacti, and NEVER put water in the cups – talking about indoor plants here. I’m curious as to why you are telling people to keep water in the cups.

  22. Hi Marlie – Yes, bromeliads are actually fairly drought tolerant & prefer to be on the dry than wet side. I keep water in the urns to the level of about 1/4 full. In lower light conditions, keeping the urn full can lead to rot. I filmed a video on how I water my bromeliads a few weeks ago & will be posting it soon. Nell

  23. I recently separated two pups from the main plant, but hardly any roots stayed on the pups.
    Can the pups be placed in water until roots develop? Thank you.

  24. Hello! I bot a bromeliad at a store awhile ago on a whim, and by the time I realized what I was dealing with, it had produced 7 pups. I separated them in late summer / early fall, and the mother plant died over the winter. I have been spraying them with water throughout the winter, and they look fine, but they are still very flimsy, as if no roots have grown to hold them in place. If you bump one, it moves very easily. Does it usually take a long time for pup roots to take hold? Thanks.

  25. Hi Jack – No, bromeliads are epiphytes so placing the pups in water isn’t a good idea. You can place them on moss or on top of a very light mix & root them that way. Slightly dampen as needed. Nell

  26. Hi Bill – It can take a while because their root system isn’t extensive. Bromeliads have a shallow roots & they’re mainly for anchoring them to the plant, tree, branch, etc they’re growing on. You won’t see much growth in the colder months because the plants are resting. Nell

  27. Hi,

    I just got a 4 inch bromeliad and was a little disappointed as I expected it to be bigger (yes, I’m an amateur). The florist told me that it would grow though. How long do these plants typically take to bloom? What can I expect?

  28. Hi Stacy – It depends on what type of bromeliad you have & how old it is. They can take up to 5 years to flower if it’s a pup. Some will grow bigger but the mother plant dies after flowering & you’re left with the pups (babies). As a houseplant, I’ve found the neoregelias to be the long lasting. Nell

  29. Hello, my brom has fasciated??? What can I do? Please help

  30. Hi Sue – I’m not sure what part (s) has fasciated. I’ve seen with in other plants but never with a bromeliad. Nell

  31. Thank you for the bromeliad tips. I was doing everything wrong!

  32. You’re very welcome Nancy! Here’s our bromeliads category for more posts: https://www.joyusgarden.com/categories/#bromeliads Nell

  33. Thanks for the tips. I have 6 pots of Aechmea fasciata. Some of them have multiple pups but haven’t bloomed in years. I started with only one blooming plant and was successful repotting the pups.

  34. You’re welcome Nell. It takes about 5 years for those pups to bloom by the way. Nell

  35. Hello Nell,

    I received my Bromeliad for my birthday last July. I think I have over water it. I read your post and I hope I can bring it back or repot flower. I’m not sure I understand how to do it. Please help sad?plant grower!!! This app does not alllow me to send a pic so I can show you. If you can email I will send pics to you . Thanks Nell

  36. Hi Bridget – Bromeliads, when growing as houseplants, don’t like to be kept wet. Here’s a post I did on potting up bromeliad pups which you can apply to the whole plant: https://www.joyusgarden.com/propagating-bromeliads-how-to-remove-pot-up-bromeliad-pups/ Nell

  37. Hello –
    I stumbled across this site as I am wanting to plant some “outside” broms in my front yard. I’ve been noticing a bright orange variety of late and wish to plant that type. Where do I get them? Unable to find at local nursureys……..(I live in San Clemente, Ca.), but am willing to drive a distance. Any ideas?
    Best,
    DJ

  38. Hi Nell
    I received a large bromeliad of about 4 together in one pot. It has been blooming beautifully since Feb. Now the ends of the colored leaf tips are drying out and some of the middles are dead. Not sure of the variety but wondering if this is the way the flower dies or is it in too much light or overwatering.

  39. Hi DJ – You’re in a great for plants. Kent’s Bromeliads is a good place to start. They’re a large wholesale operation but you can find a retailer near you. Rancho Soledad Nurseries has some & although they’re a wholesaler & grower, you can go there & buy directly. Rainforest Flora had a great selection but I believe they only sell air plants now. Check with them anyway. Hope that helps! Nell

  40. Hi, I have an aechmea bromiliad which has 2 babies growing from it. Do I have to take them off and put them in their own pot or can I leave them where they are? Will it cause the pot to break? If I separate them how do I go about it and what medium do I plant them in? Also do I water the babies or just the main plant?
    I’m not very greenfingered and the plant was a gift and I don’t want to risk killing it!
    Thank you in anticipation of a reply

  41. Hi Sheila – I’ve answered those questions in different posts. Check them out here: https://www.joyusgarden.com/category/bromeliads/ I keep a little water (about 1/4″) in the tanks of the babies. Nell

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