The neon inflorescences are just one part of what makes the bromeliad such a sought-after indoor plant. In this guide I’ll explain how to encourage your plant to bloom as well as how to care for your bromeliad before and after it blooms.
Before blooming, bromeliads like moist, well-draining soil, low to direct light, and temperatures at 55 to 85 degrees F and 60 percent humidity. After blooming, remove the pups and continue the above care.
This guide to bromeliad care before and after blooming will tell you everything you need to know to get the most out of your bromeliad plants season after season. There’s lots of great information to come, so keep reading!
How to Encourage Bromeliad Blooming Through Proper Care
The bromeliad is beautiful when in bloom. While I’ve heard of some indoor gardeners trying to force the process by using ethylene gas and apples, what really gets a bromeliad blooming is correct plant care.
Here’s what to do.
Provide Well-Draining Potting Soil
Well-draining potting soil is a must for the bromeliad.
If you’re more into potting mix, some indoor gardeners have had good luck with orchid mix and even soilless potting mix rather than potting soil.
I must mention a caveat here that may come up several times throughout this guide (fair warning). There exist 75 unique bromeliad genera and over 3,500 species. Their care is not identical.
For instance, some bromeliad species are air plants, which means they can grow completely out of the soil. Others though cannot.
You must know which bromeliad species you have. That will help so much in allowing you to provide the exact right care.
If you do use soil for your bromeliad, it should be ever-so-slightly on the acidic side, with a pH of 5.0 to 6.0.
To encourage soil drainage, a bit of sand (one-third) in the soil should suffice. I would caution you against using more than that, as then the sand dries out the soil too much.
Another soil amendment I recommend you add to your bromeliad’s pot is peat moss. The moss holds onto nutrients longer. Use two-thirds peat moss.
Sand has a more neutral pH and peat moss is more acidic, FYI, except for Canadian sphagnum.
Water the Soil to Keep It Moist
With so many bromeliad species out there, they grow in many places, but usually in warm climates such as Africa and the Americas. To replicate those conditions from the comfort of your living room, water the soil to keep it moist.
In very hot and humid conditions, you may use a central water cup for the bromeliad that you’d refill now and again. For most offices and homes though, that shouldn’t be necessary.
After all, no bromeliad will bloom if it’s in standing water for too long. Instead, the plant will become susceptible to root rot, which can potentially be fatal.
How do you know how moist the bromeliad’s soil is? Use the fingertip test!
Remember, if the soil feels very wet, even soggy, then you’re overdoing it. Scale back on the watering for the next several days if not longer.
What about bromeliads growing as air plants? They don’t even have soil!
No, they don’t. What you’ll do instead is fill a shallow basin with water and plunk the bromeliad in for a while. You’ll only have to do this once a week.
To maintain moisture in between the weekly dunkings, you can mist your bromeliad plant.
Use Varying Levels of Sunlight
Here’s that caveat again. With thousands of bromeliad species, their lighting requirements can and do vary wildly.
Some bromeliads like dappled shade, with dappling referring to the natural cover that a larger overhead plant provides the bromeliad.
Other species like bright, indirect sun, which means the sunlight comes through a window with a medium like a curtain.
As a testament to their tropical roots, some bromeliad genera can handle full sunlight. These bromeliads are few and far between though.
Please be 100 percent confident in which bromeliad you have before you expose it to sunlight (or artificial light).
The colors of your bromeliad can fade in the dim light while bright light can burn your poor plant and wreck its flowers.
The key to understanding what kind of lighting your bromeliad needs is all in its leaves.
- If your bromeliad has hard, stiff leaves, then provide bright, indirect light.
- For those bromeliads with soft, spineless leaves, they can only withstand low light.
Keep Temperatures Between the 60s and 80s
If there’s one area where most bromeliad species can agree, it’s that warmer is better.
At the very least, the temperature should be 55 degrees and up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
A few bromeliad species can tolerate very cold temps down to the low 20s, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to expose your plant to those kinds of temps if you can help it.
The rule that most indoor gardeners abide by–and I encourage you to do the same–is to go no lower than 40 degrees.
How hot is too hot for the bromeliad? Once temperatures exceed 85 degrees, your bromeliad may become stressed and begin to look droopy or wilt.
Maintain Above Average Relative Humidity
Bromeliads, being classified as tropical plants, demand humidity, especially if you want to see the indoor plant bloom.
Humidity–which is the measure of moisture in the air–is all around us, even if we don’t necessarily feel it.
The average indoor relative humidity at home or in your office is between 30 and 50 percent.
That’s not humid enough for the bromeliad though. You need to provide 60 percent humidity or higher.
One way you can do that is by using a humidifier. Another option is to grow the bromeliad in a warmer part of your home such as the bathroom.
Use Diluted Liquid Fertilizer
Fertilizer is plant food, and the more food the bromeliad has, the more energy it can store to bloom. That said, you must be careful not to overdo it.
During the active growing season, you should feed your bromeliad liquid fertilizer. Dilute it to one-eighth to one-quarter original strength. Apply the fertilizer monthly.
If you feel like your bromeliad isn’t growing as quickly as you’d like, you can increase the fertilization rate to every two weeks, but no more frequently than that.
Once your bromeliad reaches maturity, you should stop fertilizing it. Depending on the species and the correctness of your care, this can take anywhere from one to three years.
Watch Out for Pests
Pests are not really an issue with the bromeliad, although scale, aphids, and mealybugs have been known to suck the juices from this lovely, colorful indoor plant.
In the case of microscopic scale insects, you only need some rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab. Dip the swab into the rubbing alcohol and apply it to each insect you see on your bromeliad. Make sure to target the leaf undersides too!
For aphid control, pour water into a spray bottle and squirt in several dollops of dish soap. Spray your plant where you’ve seen the insects once every two days. After two weeks, your bug problem should be solved.
If you’re struggling with mealybugs, you can use the cotton swab and alcohol method. You can even combine dish soap (several drops) with rubbing alcohol (a cup) and a quart of water.
How to Care for Your Bromeliad After Blooming
If you do the above, then sooner than later, your bromeliad will begin to bloom. This period usually lasts for several months. In some cases, if your bromeliad is truly happy, it could bloom for about a year.
When it’s all over, here is how you care for the bromeliad.
Collect the Pups
A while after the bromeliad finishes blooming, you’ll notice offshoot plants around its base. These are known as pups.
The pups grow from the mother plant and look like mini bromeliads. Once the mother plant is done blooming, she can produce pups for up to a year, sometimes two years.
How many pups you’ll get out of a bromeliad depends on when you remove them.
If you take the pups off the bromeliad when they’re small (and thus young), they’re not receiving nutrients from the mother plant and will have to fend more for themselves.
However, the mother plant can focus on expending energy towards growing new pups rather than feeding the ones attached to her.
By leaving the pups attached for longer, you’ll get fewer, but the ones that are connected to the mother plant will grow faster.
You’ll have to decide when the correct time is to harvest the pups. They should be at least half the size of the mother plant for the pups to have a chance at survival when detached.
The pups will produce the same appealing flowers as the mother plant when they mature. When I say the same, by the way, I mean identical. It’s like direct DNA being shared between a mother and her children.
Water with Filtered Water
Your bromeliad already underwent a season of fertilizing, so if you weren’t using filtered water before, you’ll want to switch to it now.
Filtered water is free of salts and minerals that might already linger in the plant’s soil due to the fertilizer.
The watering schedule for the bromeliad does not change after blooming. You still want to maintain moist but not soaking soil, watering when the first couple of inches of the soil feel dry.
Maintain Other Care
The rest of the bromeliad’s care as I established above shouldn’t change post-bloom. Keep up the right lighting, temperature, and humidity for this plant!
Fertilize Every Two Months During the Active Growing Season
When spring has sprung and the bromeliad is considered active again, you don’t need to fertilize it nearly as much as when it was blooming.
Still use liquid fertilizer, but only a half-dose this time. Apply the fertilizer once per two months rather than several times per month. Stop in the winter.