The Q&A Archives: Bromeliads

Question: I love the look of the bromeliad, but I can't seem to keep them alive. I've been told not to overwater them, and to just add water to the top petals, but they still dry out and die on me.

Answer: Bromeliads are beautiful plants, but can sometimes be difficult to grow. In nature, bromeliads' roots are adapted to clinging onto trees. The plant relies on rainfall and leaf litter to fill up the central cup with both water and ample organic material for food.

Obviously, few people have a tropical rainforest in their homes, and this is where bromeliads really shine. The plants are highly adaptable, and for most people, it's actually better to grow them in a rich, fast-draining potting soil than it is to attempt to duplicate their native conditions. Plants grown in pots will quickly adapt. Their roots and leaves will absorb nutrients and water, and it won't be necessary to fill the central cup at all. In fact, if it's going to be cold or especially dark, it may be dangerous to keep the cup filled because it will encourage bacterial or fungal growth.

In general, bromeliads need a fairly specific set of conditions to bloom?and these conditions vary from genus to genus. Their bloom cycle is affected by day length, temperature, humidity, water and feeding.

While it can be difficult to accurately replicate the conditions any particular bromeliad needs to bloom, some research has shown that the plants can be forced to bloom by exposure to ethylene gas. If you want to force your plant to spike, place it in a tightly closed, clear plastic bag for up to 10 days with a ripe apple. The apple will give off ethylene gas as it decomposes. Make sure any water is drained from the bromeliad's central cup before attempting this.

Different genera of bromeliads are tolerant of different levels of light. Some can withstand full tropical sun, while others will quickly scorch. In general, however, the plants prefer well-lit, bright windowsills, but not direct sunlight. A south, west or east window is often perfect. Plants that are yellowish may be receiving too much light, while plants that are dark green, or elongated, may be receiving too little light.

Bromeliads are also highly tolerant of temperature variations, but remember that plants in hotter conditions will need more humidity. Ideally, bromeliads prefer temperatures between 55?F and 80?F. They should not be exposed to temperatures under 40?F.

So, for success, keep the soil moist but not soggy wet; don't fill the cup with water; provide bright light but no direct sunlight; and keep your plant out of hot or cold drafts.

Hope this information is helpful!

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