Tips on Growing and Enjoying Bromeliads

By Robert Beyer

For epiphytic (non-terrestrial) varieties, we grow bromeliads in small pine bark as a soil base. This provides excellent aeration and circulation for the roots that form, and provides sufficient support for the plant. For terrestrials, use a loose and light organic soil mixture.

For small epiphytic Tillandsia’s, mounting them on driftwood or cork is an excellent and healthy way to display them.

Location is everything! Since different bromeliads prefer different levels of light, they will let you know how to please them. If the foliage becomes bleached or burned, reduce the light. If the plant isn’t producing the color you know it should have, increase the light. Finding the right level of light makes all the difference in bringing out the colorful qualities of these plants.

Good air circulation is a common and vital need to all genera of bromeliads.

Bromeliads should not be fertilized regularly unless you are trying to increase pup production. There are some exceptions. Tillandsia’s and Cryptanthus respond well to regular fertilization. Fertilization will reduce the coloration in most bromeliad hybrids that are noted for their color., e.g. Neoregelia’s and Billbergia’s. When fertilizing, use a liquid soluble 20/20/20 fertilizer at half the recommended strength.

How to display bromeliads is always a good question. Some suggestions follow. They can be grown in single pots or large hanging baskets with three plants average per basket grouped by commonality, e.g. Neoregelia’s in one basket, Aechmea’s in another, or mixed genera that share the same light requirements. Ways to display them include on single poles with pot loops in spiral form, incorporate them into a ground level display by digging out a hole, placing a one gallon nursery container in the hole -inserting an 8″ plastic pot into the nursery container with the plant potted in small pine bark to give the appearance they are terrestrial without them ever touching the soil, or by attaching them to wood or any other natural object. As long as the basic cultural requirements are met, bromeliads can be displayed in a number of other imaginative ways. They can also be attached to trees to resemble their natural habitat. However, collector or rare plants might best be grown as individual plants for greenhouse or other special display.

After the plant flowers, it will produce “pups” or young plants then die. The young pups will take over the next generation. Pups should not be removed until visible root structures can be seen at their base or they are at least 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the mother plant. Make sure the pups are cut off with a solid base. Some bromeliads reproduce so abundantly, you’ll be sharing them with friends. Dead flower stalks can be cut off if unattractive until the mother plant dies.

If you have a strong interest in Bromeliads and want to learn a lot more about them from other Bromeliad specialists and enthusiasts, come visit the Houston Bromeliad Society which meets at 7:30 PM on the third Tuesday of each month at the West Gray Multipurpose Center, 1475 West Gray, between Waugh Drive and Dunlavy near the River Oaks Shopping Center.

Cultural Chart

You can use the following chart on Bromeliad Culture as a general guide and introduction to growing

Chart

Special Thanks to Don Garrison, BS/H for editing this reference chart

The following characteristics of each genera are species specific.

  • INFLORESENCES can be cupped, bracted, branched, single spiked, or insignificant.
  • FOLIAGE can be smooth edged (Tillandsias), spined, or succulent.
  • BLOOM PERIODS range from less than one week (Billbergia’s) to greater than a month (Viriesea’s).
  • RELATIVE SIZES can range from less than one inch to greater than three feet wide and tall. These variances can occur within the same genera of bromeliads depending on the particular species.