Why Is My Bromeliad Plant Turning Brown & Looking Sick?

I get asked “why is my bromeliad plant turning brown” and “why is my bromeliad looking sick” every now and then. It’s time to do a post which addresses these concerns because there’s 1 reason which stands out above the others.

There are many things which can cause  houseplants (or plants in general) to turn brown. Here are a few reasons: too dry, too wet, too much sun or your water is too high in salts and minerals.

Some Of Our General Houseplant Guides For Your Reference:

My answer to “why is my bromeliad plant turning brown”:

In the case of bromeliads, if the leaves are turning brown and/or drooping, it’s because the mother plant is dying. It’s part of the lifecycle of a bromeliad – the mother plant dies out and the pups (a term used for babies in the plant world) carry on. These pups  usually appear before the mother even starts to die out.

I’ve presented this fact before in all the posts and videos I’ve done on  bromeliads but you may have missed it amongst all the care info. That, along with the fact that my guzmania was dying out, prompted me to do a post dedicated to this topic.

a guzmania bromeliad in a purple pot sits on a blue wrought iron patio table. The plant is dying out & 2 pups have emerged. There is a red flowering plant on the ground behind it
Guzmanias are extremely popular because of their tall, showy flowers.  Mine was dying out so here’s what that looks like. I didn’t take a before pic but this was taken after half the leaves had been cut off.

So you’ve brought your beautiful bromeliad home from the store or garden center and found just the right spot for it. The flower starts to turn brown after a few months, completely dies and you cut it off. Eventually you notice that the plant is slowly turning brown too. In the case of aechmeas, the leaves tend to bend and droop a bit.

If the tip of your bromeliad leaves are turning brown, no worries about that. These beauties are native to the tropics and the sub tropics so it’s just a reaction to the dry air in our homes.

One way you can be sure your bromeliad is turning brown because it’s drying out is to check the pups. If they’re healthy and looking good, then the plant is on the way out. If you’re keep the growing medium too wet, then the lower leaves will turn brown and ultimately turn mushy.

guzmania bromeliad leaves are lying on a tiled walkway. they have big brown spots on them_new
Here’s a close up of what the guzmania leaves look like as they’re dying out.

What you can do:

You can cut off the unsightly leaves 1 by 1, cut the mother plant back right when it starts to turns or wait until it’s completely brown and cut it back. I cut the leaves off my guzmania 1 by 1 and then when it was 1/2 gone, cut the mother plant back to the base (you’ll see this in the video above). This exposes the pups to more light and gives them room to grow.

You can either leave the pups attached to the base of the mother plant and let them grow that way, remove and pot up the bromeliad pups like I always do. I wait until they get to be a good size, at least 5″  or 1/3 the size of the mother, before taking them off so the roots are better developed.

2 guzmania pups still attached to the mother plant are in a purple pot. a knife with a red handle sits in front of the pot_new
What the pups look like after cutting the mother plant back – nice & green!

So don’t worry if your bromeliad is dying out like mine pictured here and in the video. It’s just part of their cycle of life but the pups carry on the legacy. Just be patient in regards to getting them to bloom again. with proper growing conditions, it takes 2 – 5 years for a bromeliad pup to reach maturity.

That’s why I choose to not save and pot up all of my bromeliad pups. I always have at least 1 recently purchased bromeliad in flower for that instant pop of color.

a close up of a neoregelia bromeliad. the leaves are green with a rose colored center (1)_new
This is why neoregelias are my favorites. Out of the 5 different types of bromeliads I did the series on 8 months ago, this mother plant is still thriving & looking great.

Happy indoor gardening,

Signed by Nell Foster

You May Also Enjoy:

Bromeliad Flowers Losing Color: When & How To Prune Them Off

Bromeliads 101

Vriesea Plant Care Tips

Aechmea Plant Care Tips

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16 Comments

  1. Hello I will like to know why my little pink flowers are turning brown… it started too bloom beautifully burñt know the blue flowers disappeared and the pink ones are getting brown

  2. Hi Carmen – The mother plant eventually dies after the plant blooms. Your plant is in the process of dying out. Pups (babies) will appear at the base. Nell

  3. Hi,

    I separated three larger pups off of my guzmania mother a few months ago. I potted the three pups separately, and now a center leaf on each pup has a long, light brown lesion on the edge. The lesion on each plant is anywhere from 1-2 inches long and is located about halfway from the tip of the leaf and the base. Is this a sign of root rot from poor drainage? I potted the pups in a standard potting mix. This may be the culprit, but I wanted to get an expert opinion.

    Thank you!

  4. Hi Chelsea – Yes, that sounds like too much water. Guzmania are epiphytes meaning they grow on other plants, not in the ground. Potting soil keeps the roots too wet. Nell

  5. Anyway to save one that may have been overwatered? I bought two with yellow blooms in a beautiful container but noticed one was a little limp and turning brown from the bottom. Should I repot it or say my goodbyes now?

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