Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Easy-to-care-for bromeliads make excellent house plants

Easy-to-care-for bromeliads make excellent house plants
August 25, 2013 12:00 am

Bromeliads are known for their lasting brilliant-colored blooms and tropical appearance.  They are extremely easy to care for, making them excellent indoor plants.


Bromeliads fall into two categories depending on how they grow.  Epiphytic bromeliads are tree growers, sending roots over bark.  The plant grows by absorbing water and food from the air.  These plants survive on high humidity.  Some epiphytic bromeliads have soft and pliable leaves, while others have harder, more leathery leaves.  The leaf structure is formed from the degree of light they receive.  Non-epiphytic bromeliads are grown in soil or rock in an open, warm, sunny spot.  Because they are out in the open, they are armed with spines and hooked teeth to discourage predators.


Light requirements vary for the different types of bromeliads depending on their leaf texture.  Rock dwellers and terrestrial (ground) bromeliads require bright light, while the tree dwellers prefer bright diffused light with a few hours of direct sunlight.  Think of the dappled sunlight coming through the canopy of a rainforest.  If the light is too low, the plant will stop growing and rest.


Warm room temperatures are suitable for these plants throughout the year.  The bromeliads with thinner leaves may die if exposed to temperatures below 55°F.  Nearly all these plants require high humidity when growing.  Stand the pot on a tray of moist pebbles to increase the humidity around the plant.


When watering bromeliads, the center cup of the plant needs to be filled with water at all times.  Empty out the cup on a monthly basis, so the water does not become stale.  Water the soil in the pot moderately, letting the top ½” dry out before watering again.  Bromeliads enjoy a gentle shower in the rain.  The leaves can absorb moisture and it also washes the dust off the leaves.

Potting and Repotting

For non-epiphytic bromeliads, the potting mixture needs to be porous and lime-free.  Bromeliads do not have an extensive root system, so a relatively small pot works well.  Clay pots with potting soil will dry out faster than plastic pots.  If using a plastic pot, place a few clay pot pieces in the bottom for extra drainage.


New plants or “pups” grow from the base of a mother plant.  They can be removed with a sharp knife when they are about half the size of the mother plant and repotted in their own pots.  It is important that the pup has a good root system of its own and is planted in a soil mixture that drains well and holds the plant in the pot firmly.