Bromeliads: How to Keep the Color Going

This easy houseplant lives for only a few years, but you can raise its "pups" to be as beautiful as the mother plant.

Blooming bromeliad

Blooming bromeliad

Image courtesy of HGTVGardens user Carol's Naples garden.

Image courtesy of HGTVGardens user Carol's Naples garden.

Bromeliads are one of the most popular and easy-to-care-for houseplants. With more than 2,000 varieties and counting, these tropical plants come in a huge variety of shapes, colors and sizes — any of them sure to make a unique addition to your home. Learn how to propagate these striking plants for months of exotic indoor blooms, and find some creative ways to display bromeliads in your home. 

Caring for bromeliads

  • Water the center cup or "vase" of the plant, and change the water in the cup about once a month. Occasionally water the base of the plant, making sure the soil dries out between waterings. 
  • Use a cloth rag to wipe away any dust that may collect on the foliage. Bromeliads have trichomes on the surface of their leaves. These water-absorbing scales help the plant absorb water as well as shield the plant from solar radiation in desert climates. 
  • Place bromeliads in a bright location like an east- or west-facing window. Don't position them in direct sunlight that can damage and burn the leaves. 
  • Indoor bromeliads thrive in temperatures between 65 to 70 degrees. However, to get your bromeliad to bloom, adjust the temperature to 75 degrees or above. One way to encourage your bromeliad to bloom is to place it with an ordinary apple in a brown paper bag. Close the bag and leave it alone for three to four days. The apple releases ethylene gas that promotes the formation of a flower bud. The plant should blossom in about six weeks after it has been removed from the paper sack. 

Propagating bromeliads 

Unfortunately, bromeliads last only about three to four years. But you can propagate your favorite bromeliads from the offsets or "pups" created year after year. Here's how to do it: 

  1. Remove the plant from its container, and pull away some of the soil around the base.
  2. Put on protective gardening gloves and use a sterile knife to cut away the offset as close to the mother plant as possible. (To sterilize a knife, simply dip it into a container of alcohol to kill any existing bacteria.)
  3. Dip the bottom of the offset into a rooting hormone treated with fungicide to protect the plant from disease and provide a healthy head start.
  4. Combine peat moss and sand for the potting mix.
  5. Fill a new container with the potting mix.
  6. Place the plant in the center, and tamp down the soil around it. 
  7. Arrange wooden shish-kabob skewers around the plant base to help keep the cutting steady and in place.
  8. Water the base of the plant until the offset produces a cup or vase in the center of the foliage. After the vase develops (in a few weeks), apply water to the vase as you did with the mother plant, watering the base only from time to time.
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