Bromeliads are beautiful easy to grow indoor and outdoor plants that bring a sense of texture and color to your home. This article is all about bromeliads care and everything you need to know about growing dramatically showy bromeliads.
We are going to discuss, among other subjects, whether these plants need sun or shade, how often do you need to water your bromeliads, how to prune your them, and lastly, how you can continuously enjoy their flowers throughout the year.
Quite Epic, right?
Let’s get to it:
Basic Bromeliads Care Tips
Select suitable potting mix for your bromeliads
Terrestrial bromeliads (those that grow on the ground) often require a growing media which can either be soil or a soilless potting mix. Ensure that the soil/mix has good drainage for your bromeliads to thrive.
Bromeliads are not picky. This means you can prepare your own mix using either 50% of orchid bark and 50% standard potting soil or equal parts of sphagnum peat moss, medium grade horticultural perlite, and fine fir bark for the mix.
Epiphytic bromeliads on the other hand do not grow well in conventional potting mix but thrive best in a medium such as tree-fern bark, cork-oak bark, or on a tree-fern slab.
A good example of such bromeliad is the gray-scaled Tillandsia.
Expose your bromeliads to enough light
While variegated bromeliads prefer direct sunlight, there are others that are naturally used to growing under a tree canopy where there is partial sun and shade e.g. those with soft green leaves.
These plants will obviously survive for a while in lower light conditions but will occasionally need a fair amount of direct sunlight to initiate flowering, pupping as well as bringing out its color.
It is therefore important to understand the type of bromeliad you have and give it the required amount of light.
Bromeliads are not heavy feeders and most of them will do without any fertilizer but it doesn’t hurt to feed your bromeliads with a balanced liquid fertilizer. For example all-purpose orchid food diluted at 1/2 strength.
Fertilize your plants every month during warm seasons for a much healthier and colorful plant.
You can also apply specialized fertilizers formulated for bromeliads only. whichever you choose, do not over fertilize them!
Caution: Never allow fertilizer to sit in your bromeliad’s cup as this might lead to foliage burn and rots. (The cup is the vase-shaped space at the center of the overlapping leaves. Also known as the tank)
Water your bromeliads
There are two types or categories of bromeliads - terrestrial and epiphytic. These two have different growth habits. This means they also require different watering schedule and method.
So let’s take a look at how you can water each of the bromeliads.
How to Water Terrestrial Bromeliads in 2-Steps
Step #1: Water your container grown bromeliads just like you do to other house plants.
Allow the excess water to drain out of the pot through the drainage holes at the bottom. Then fill the pot with water one more time so that the soil is completely moist but not soggy (heavy with water).
Using a watering can, slowly fill up the bromeliads’ cup with water to approximately ¼ to ½ full.
This helps in replacing water after evaporation.
After every 10 to 14 days you are supposed to remove water from the cup by gently tipping the container grown plant upside down. Then re-fill the cup with fresh water.
This practice helps in removing salty stagnant water and debris from the plant.
Step #2: As for outdoor growing bromeliads, flush the cup with fresh water each time you water the surrounding soil.
Do this by directing a steady stream of water into the cup causing the old water to run out of the cup and into the soil below.
How to water Epiphytic Bromeliads
Mist your epiphytic bromeliads with water from a spray bottle once every 1 to 2 days.
Ensure that you keep the nozzle approximately 10 - 15 cm away from the plants’ foliage so that mist droplets cling to the leaves.
Continue spraying until water starts to drip off the plant then stop.
Increase the misting frequency during fall, winter or in case your bromeliads are exposed to air conditioners and heaters.
Bromeliads bloom only once in their lifetime so it is impossible for them to re-bloom. However, this should not worry you.
Thankfully, these plants produce exact clones of the mother plant (otherwise known as pups) which will produce new blooms upon maturity.
Using sharp and sterilized knife or pruning shears, separate the pups from the mother once they are about a third to half the size of the mother plant.
By this time, the roots will have formed and it will take them shorter time to mature and flower as compared to younger pups.
Allow the detached pups to acclimate for a day or two before planting. This way you avoid the pups from getting shock due to rapid changes in growing conditions.
Most bromeliads take approximately 12 – 18 months from planting to bloom while there are others that take as long as 36 months.
So be patient and give your bromeliads enough time to mature.
The blooms though, last for quite a good period of time about 3 -6 months – which is worth the wait!
Pro Tip: If you want to continuously enjoy the bromeliads’ beautiful flowers, you should plant the pups at different dates for them to bloom differently.
Prune your bromeliads
Bromeliads require little pruning with some of the lower leaves dying occasionally and needs to be removed.
Flowers also need to be cut off as soon as they turn brown or die off. This applies to bromeliads with a flower stalk, for example, Guzmania.
Pruning helps the mother plant produce new pups which can be grown into new bromeliads.
It also helps in keeping the plant clean thus avoiding attack by pests and diseases.
Pro Tip: Always use clean, sharp and sterilized knife or pruning shear.
Protect bromeliads from pests and diseases
Although bromeliads are usually pest free, they cannot escape chances of infestation by various pests especially when not well taken care of.
Look out for below pests and save your bromeliad from dying unnecessarily.
These soft bodied insects develop in masses and form waxy coatings and egg sacks on the bromeliads ’leaves, flowers and sometimes roots.
Mealybugs suck sap from the flowers and leaves causing damage to the plant.
When they infest the roots, your bromeliad will experience sudden decline in growth and appearance.
Control mealybugs by wiping with an alcohol soaked cotton swab.
2. Snails and Slugs
Snails and slugs are mostly found in outdoor landscape bromeliads. They damage the plant by feeding on the leaves and flowers leaving behind chewed plant edges and large holes.
Slugs usually feed at night so check your bromeliad after dark for snails and slugs.
To control these pests you need to maintain hygiene of both crop and field.
Use hands or traps and baits to remove slugs.
In cases of heavy infestation, use chemical control but this should remain your last option.
Thrips are hard to spot because of their small size. Even an adult thrip won’t measure more than 1/8th of an inch!
Only damage signs like blotched flowers and deformed leaves will help you know that your bromeliads are under thrip infestation.
Treat thrips with an insecticidal soap as soon as you spot them since they reproduce quickly.
Scales are very common pests in both indoor and outdoor bromeliads.
They appear as small brown dots or ovals on the leaves.
Control scales by hand picking adults or using an alcohol soaked cotton swab.
Alternatively, use an insecticidal soap every 3-7 days for control.
Aphids are small yellow, green or red bugs that suck sap from the plants roots or leaves.
Although they do not cause major damages to the crop, aphids can upon heavy infestation lead to stunted growth.
Spray your bromeliads with a light stream of water regularly to knock off aphids. In cases where some bromeliads look heavily infested it is advisable that you rogue them off to stop the aphids from spreading to other plants (throwing them altogether).
Natural predators like lady beetles are also good at keeping infestations in check.
If need be you can use insecticides but only after getting guidelines from a professional.
Mites are very common in bromeliads and they cause damages similar to those of aphids and thrips.
Their infestation is characterized by appearance of fine webs on the underside of your bromeliad leaves.
Just like thrips, mites multiply rapidly and reach maturity in approximately 7 to 10 days after hatching. Which means that you need to act on them with urgency.
Apply an insecticidal soap to control mite population.
Weevils is another common pest especially in outdoor bromeliads. The adults feed on the leaf tissues and lay eggs which then hatch into larvae.
The larvae mines deep into the tissues at the base of the plant leading to damages that at times are difficult to control.
Handpick weevils from your bromeliad plant whenever you come across any.
Pro Tip: Always keep your bromeliad plant clean by removing all dead leaves and trash so that pests will not find a hiding place.
Not many diseases affect bromeliads but these plants usually become prone to fungal infections especially when subjected to mechanical injury, insects, or sunburn.
Below are some of common diseases affecting bromeliads you need to look out for:
1. Helminthosporium leaf spot (Exserohilum rostratum)
Bromeliads show signs like small, water-soaked spots on the leaves when infected with Helminthosporium leaf spot.
These spots first appear like yellow blisters and as time progresses they change color to brown and are more sunken and bigger.
As the infection advances, the leaves start to collapse and fall off the plant.
Use a recommended fungicide for control. You could start with Bonide Multi-Purpose Fungicide which is quite effective.
2. Rust disease
Rust in bromeliads appears as rust colored bumps on the underside of the bromeliad’s leaves.
These blisters then make their way through the leaves eventually showing as white or light yellow spots from the leaf top.
To control this disease, remove the infected leaves and spray all plants at seven days intervals using recommended fungicide. For example Dithane M45
Pythium is a parasitic plant pathogen in the genus Oomycetes. It is also responsible for plant rot but primarily attacks the plant’s root system.
Infection signs include dark and mushy roots which lead to plant turning color to greyish- green.
Eventually the plant wilts and dies.
To prevent this problem, do not overwater your plant.
4. Root and crown rot
These two diseases are caused by a fungi Phytyophthera cinnamomi found in many potting soils.
Signs of crown and root rot in bromeliads include; unpleasant odor emitting from the center of the plant, the crown appears brown and soggy while the leaves fall off the plant easily.
Avoid overwatering or soppy potting mix if you want to protect your bromeliads from these rots.
Also ensure there is good air circulation around the plants.
Caution! Bromeliads are very sensitive to copper so always use a copper free fungicide.
You have just read all about bromeliads care.
You have also learnt that through good plant care, for example selecting a suitable growing mix for your bromeliads, exposing them to enough light depending on variety, fertilizing your plants, watering as well as pruning are of great help when growing healthy and showy bromeliads.
Moreover, you need to protect your bromeliads from pests and diseases as these are the greatest risk to plant health and performance.
Back to you.
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