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 Growing Bromeliads

Cultural Chart / Growing Tips / Other Sites

 SOME FACTS & PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON BROMELIADS

Bromeliads are one of the best kept secrets in the plant world. They are diverse, fascinating, and relatively easy to grow.  As of May 2006, there are 56 genera and 3,056 species of identified bromeliads throughout the worldThey have been hybridized extensively and many new striking plants have resulted with both bloom and foliage that offer more color than any other plant I am aware of. Because bromeliads are "different" looking than traditional plants and most people consider them exotic, therefore perceived as hard to grow, bromeliads have not caught on among plant enthusiasts nearly as much as they deserve to. Newly discovered or hybridized plants often sell to collectors for big bucks, but in a matter of years become affordable to most people as they are reproduced asexually by dividing "pups" from the developed plants. Most plant nurseries don't offer bromeliads in wide varieties so the really nice and choice plants most likely will need to be purchased from specialty growers. Bromeliads in their native habitats (unique to the Americas) grow in such diverse places as 13,000 ft elevations to sea level, rain forests to deserts, and even as far north as the Virginia coast and as far south as southern Argentina.. Some are true "air plants" while others are terrestrial . Most are epiphytic deriving their nutrients from their cupped shape.  The optimum temperatures for bromeliads range from 70 to 90 in daytime to 45 - 60 at night F.   Most bromeliads like good air circulation and 50 - 75% humidity.  Studying the various genera and their cultural requirements can help anyone successfully grow these plants. The purpose of this page is to introduce you to the wonderful world of bromeliads and try to let you know what you are missing if they are not part of your plant collection.

 Cultural Chart

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

 


Special Thanks to Don Garrison, Houston Bromeliad Society 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 (Billbergias) to greater than a month (Vrieseas). 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.

Tips on Growing and Enjoying Bromeliads

  • 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 tillandsias, 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. Tillandsias and Cryptanthus respond well to regular fertilization. Fertilization will reduce the coloration in most bromeliad hybrids that are noted for their color., e.g. Neoregelias and Billbergias. When fertilizing, use a liquid soluble 20/20/20 fertilizer at half the recommended strength.  Never use urea based nitrogen fertilizer.  Avod mineral salts of any kind.  Most city water supplies are fine for bromeliads.  Never mount bromeliads on chemically treated lumber.   Water with pH of 5.5-6.5 is preferred (avoid alkaline water). 

  • How to display bromeliads is always a good question. Some suggestions follow. We grow ours in large hanging baskets with three plants average per basket. We group the plants by commonality, e.g. Neoregelias in one basket, Aechmeas in another, or mixed genera that share the same light requirements.  Other ways are to display them on single poles with pot loops in spiral form. Yet another way would be to incorporate them into a ground level display by digging out a hole, placing a one gallon nursery container in the hole, and inserting an 8" plastic pot into the nursery container with the plant potted in small pine bark. This gives the appearance they are terrestrial without them ever touching the soil. 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 IN THE HOUSTON GULF COAST AREA,  COME JOIN THE BROMELIAD SOCIETY OF HOUSTON 

IF IN THE AUSTIN AREA, COME JOIN THE AUSTIN BROMELIAD SOCIETY


Other Sites and Resources

An excellent and inexpensive 37 page full color booklet entitled "Bromeliads, A Cultural Manual",  2003, is available through the Bromeliad Society International. You can contact them for a copy.  Also check out "Blooming Bromeliads" on our Recommended Books page.

Bromeliad Society International : This is the site for the Bromeliad Society International with many informative links 

Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies:  This site is a wealth of information about   bromeliads and has a wonderful photo gallery.Tropiflora and Birdrock  are commercial bromeliad online catalogs that contains   information of educational value and excellent bromeliad photos.   

Bromeliad Society of Houston:  This site has wonderful information about the various genera of bromeliads and how to care for them properly.


Left:   Neoregelia x 'Kathleen' - developed by David Meade, a Houston area bromeliad grower and specialist.

Right:  Aechmea fasciata albo marginata in bloom