Their History & Care


Star-Tip 1066

Gardening Tips for successful and beautiful Landscapes and Gardens



Bromeliads are in the pineapple family, a family native to the American Tropics. Two widely known members of this family are pineapple and Spanish moss.

Bromeliads in the Desert Southwest are grown as interior plants. In their native habitats, they attach by special root structures to trunks and branches of trees and derive their moisture and nutrients from the air and rain. Some are called saxicolous because they attach themselves to rocks, while the rest are terrestrial and grow in the ground as most plants do.



Within the same genus there are sometimes tree-dwelling, ground-dwelling, and rock-dwelling species. In fact, epiphytic and terrestrial bromeliads can often thrive equally well if forced to switch places and life styles. It is this ability, in particular, that allows many epiphytic species of bromeliads to be grown in pots like most other plants.


Plants in the family Bromeliaceae vary widely in shape, size and color. Even species of a single genus often differ drastically in appearance. Most bromeliads cultivated for interior use, however, are alike: without stems and with a central flower spike and strap-shaped, leathery, arching leaves arranged in a rosette.

Most species are grown primarily for their colorful foliage and exotic shapes. Variations in foliage are as wide as those in flowering, and leaves may be green, gray, maroon, spotted or striped. Leaves range from grass-like and less than 2 inches long, to broad and several feet long in. The upper leaves of many species change color when plants are about to flower.


The "cup" or the "vase" is a water holding tank or reservoir formed in the center of many bromeliads by a rosette of overlapping leaves. Flowers are often small but colorful; however, the showy portion of the inflorescence is frequently made up of brilliantly colored bracts borne below each flower. Bracts may be separated, large and leaf-like or overlapping, forming dense spikes. Usually, the bright bracts remain on the inflorescence while seed-fruit matures. The combination of highly colored bracts and often contrasting colored seed-fruit, which remains on the plant for several months, adds to the aesthetic value of bromeliads.








Bromeliads are excellent indoor plants. They have colorful, long-lasting inflorescenses and some have brilliantly colored foliage as well. Bromeliads also readily adapt to the unfavorable growing conditions that exist in most homes.

Although many bromeliads are epiphytic (epiphytic plant - plant that derives moisture and nutrients from the air and rain; usually grows on another plant but not parasitic on it), living on branches and trunks of trees or on rocks in their native habitat, most can be grown in containers. Clay and plastic pots are equally satisfactory as containers unless plants are large, in which case the heavier clay pot is more stable. Because plastic pots retain moisture longer than clay pots, plants grown in the former need watering less frequently than those in the latter. Epiphytic bromeliads can also be grown in perforated plastic baskets and clay pots like those used for other epiphytic plants such as orchids.

Because bromeliads rarely have extensive roots, relatively small pots are adequate for most plants. The larger varieties can usually be brought to flowering in 5 to 7-inch pots. Terrestrial plants do not have to be moved into larger pots until their roots completely fill the current container. Move young epiphytes into pots one size larger every spring, however, until the maximum convenient pot size has been reached.


Some epiphytic bromeliads, grow poorly if planted in a conventional potting mixture. They grow best in a medium such as tree-fern bark, cork-oak bark, or on a tree-fern slab, or pieces of wood.



To mount a plant on one of these materials, wrap the base of the plant (including roots, if any) in sphagnum moss, and tie the wrapped base to its support by winding plastic-coated wire around the moss and the supporting material. Fasten the ends of the wire firmly but in such a way that it can be easily untied. Hang the mounted specimens in a convenient place. Spray the sphagnum moss and plant with water frequently enough to prevent complete drying of the moss. After supportive roots grow over the sphagnum moss and around the mount, remove the temporary wire.


Use Black Gold Orchid Mix (available at Star Nursery) for potting. If the plant is not stable in the pot, use a plant stake on each side of the plant until the roots have established enough to provide support.



To keep the plant alive and healthy, water the plant, its roots, and the supportive materials twice weekly throughout the year. Often tap water is high in dissolved solids (salts) which can be very harmful. Use distilled or Reverse Osmosis water, and add Dr Qs Plant Tonic to replace the missing mirco-nutrients. Read the label for instructions.


Water can be applied as a spray or the entire mounted plant can be submerged in water for a few minutes. The humidity around plants will influence their need for water. The humidity in a home which is heated during the winter months or cooled with air-conditioning during the summer months can be very low and plants may need to be watered more frequently than those grown in a moist environment.





2007, Star Nursery, Inc. Copy Provided courtesy of Star Nursery