Growing and Caring for Bromeliads
One of the most beautiful flowering houseplants is the bromeliad. The leathery foliage is often quite vivid and exceptionally stunning. Green stalks are patterned with colorful stripes, speckles, or bands, and the stalks form a natural cup in the center. It is from this cup that flowers appear, either resting in the center or upon slender stalks.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Kathy Bosin adds, "One great way to learn more about bromeliads is to join the Bromeliad Society International. With a website filled with useful information and annual conferences, you can find a lot of useful information."
Most people are familiar with at least one bromeliad--the pineapple (ananus comosus.) There are more than 2,000 varieties of bromeliads, separated into 44 genus. They are indigenous to the Western Hemisphere, and their habitat varies greatly. Epiphytes encompass the majority of bromeliads, and they root themselves in trees and shrubbery. Those growing on the ground are considered terrestrial varieties, and saxicoline types thrive in rocky locations.
The flowers of the bromeliad are strikingly beautiful and very exotic in appearance, but it's the bracts beneath the flowers that are the real showstoppers. These leafy structures beneath the inflorescence can be more vibrant and showy than the flowers themselves. Once the flowers have withered away, berry-like capsules form, and they are also quite eye-catching and colorful.
You can enjoy growing beautiful bromeliads in your home. They are very easy houseplants to grow. You don't require a green thumb to achieve success, but bromeliads do have some specific needs and requirements. When proper care is provided, they will thrive between 3 and 4 years. The offsets can be harvested and propagated into additional houseplants that will grace your home with exotic beauty and fascination.
Ideal Growing Conditions
Place your bromeliad in a bright location, but out of direct sunlight. The direct rays of the sun can burn the leaves and blossoms. A west or east-facing window that receives ample light is an ideal location. If your houseplant is receiving too much light it will begin to fade and the branches will droop.
Bromeliads thrive in warmer outdoor temperatures, but can live indoors in temperatures ranging between 65 and 70 degrees F. When temperatures are a minimum of 75 degrees, bromeliads produce their stunning blooms.
Placing your houseplant in a warmer location will promote flowering, but a bromeliad that hasn't bloomed can be encouraged to do so by placing it in a brown paper bag along with a whole apple of any variety. Keep the plant in the closed bag for a few days. The apple releases ethylene gas that helps develop a bud. About a month and a half later, your exotic houseplant will produce a beautiful breathtaking bloom.
Watering and Care
Some bromeliads thrive in the desert, so they don't require large quantities of water. The cup in the center of the plant holds and retains valuable moisture. Empty and refill the cup approximately once a month. Simply extract old water with a bulb syringe or soak it up with an absorbent paper towel. It's important to refill the cup immediately since the cup should always contain water.
Allow the soil to completely dry out before watering, and then saturate the soil thoroughly if your bromeliad is the leathery-leaved variety. When water begins exiting the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, the plant has received enough water. Succulent thicker-leaved varieties require much less water.
TIP: Kathy advises, "The most common difficulties people have with bromeliads have to do with watering too much. Keep your bromeliad in a small pot--their root systems are small, and it's easy to over-water pots that are too large for the plant. Most bromeliads will do well with one weekly watering--be sure the soil is dry before adding water."
Provide the plant with humidity by placing the pot on a saucer filled with pea gravel. Fill the saucer until the water is just below the top of the gravel, and set the pot in place. As the water evaporates, the plant will receive valuable moisture through humidity. Alternatively, the plant can be lightly misted on a daily basis.
Propagating and Potting
Bromeliads only bloom once, and after which they produce babies or offsets. These offsets can be propagated and planted. What a great way to gain many new houseplants from one single plant!
Begin propagation by carefully removing the original plant from the pot, and remove a portion of the soil from the base. Doing so exposes the offset.
Next, sterilize a sharp knife by wiping it with rubbing alcohol. This protects the plant from harmful bacteria and disease.
Cut away the offset close to the base, and coat the base of the offset with a rooting hormone containing fungicide. Propagated plants treated with this type of rooting hormone are more likely to survive and thrive.
Pot the offset in soil mix especially for cacti, or combine sand and peat moss to make your own. Thoroughly water the base, and subsequently provide water when the potting mix feels dry. Once the plant grows large enough to form a cup, fill it with water, and care for the new plant as you did the original.
The exotic beauty of the bromeliad will fascinate you as it grows into an attractive thriving houseplant that with proper care will flourish in your home for years. It will add color and style to your decor, and it will surely become one of your favorite houseplant varieties.