Physical beauty can be short-lived, and that’s certainly the case for bromeliads. Known for their lush foliage and lovely flowers, bromeliads only bloom once in their lifespan. So how do you make sure your bromeliad blooms and stays healthy enough to produce more plants? Let’s break down the ins and outs of bromeliad care for the perfect blooms and generations of pups to come.
In nature, many bromeliads are epiphytes, which means that they attach their roots to tree bark and rock surfaces. They have a rosette center with a cup where they collect nutrients and water. Surrounded by thick green or silver leaves, a once-in-a-lifetime bloom is called an inflorescence. The spiky flowers usually come in bright colors such as red, orange, and pink.
When it comes to houseplants, bromeliads are generally low maintenance. Native to tropical environments in North and South America, they appreciate moisture and humidity. That said, they’re drought-tolerant plants that can handle occasional neglect. As bromeliads prefer to dry out in home environments, you only need to water your plant every other week or so. You’ll want to water both the soil and cup, making sure to keep the latter only halfway full to prevent rot.
Place your bromeliad in partial shade or indirect sunlight for four to six hours a day — extra brightness can help your plant bloom! Put these hardy plants in well-draining soil, such as potting mix with orchid bark and perlite. Bromeliads don’t require heavy feeding, but they do appreciate slow-release fertilizer or diluted fertilizer during the growing season. Make sure not to overfertilize, as this can cause your plant to become leggy and faded. Many gardeners also use Epsom salts to encourage growth in their plants. For increased nutrient absorption, mix a tablespoon of salt per gallon of water. The salt can allow your bromeliad to take in more nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur to grow strong and healthy.
A bromeliad needs to mature before it flowers, and this process can take up to three years. You can encourage your bromeliad to bloom with a little help from ethylene gas, which naturally comes from ripening fruit. Put ripe apple wedges into a large clear plastic bag. (Other fruits, such as bananas and kiwis, should work as well.) Wrap the bag around your plant and leave the fruit in there for up to 10 days. The fruit should give off ethylene gas, which will help trigger flowering. Before attempting this, make sure that the plant’s center doesn’t have any water in it. Patience is key afterward — it can take anywhere from six weeks to three months before a bloom appears.
The straightforward answer is yes. The blooms do tend to stick around, though. Depending on the species, flowers can last from a couple of weeks to a few months before they turn brown and desiccated. Allow the bloom to fall off naturally, or snip it off close to the center with pruning shears. Whenever you cut your plant, use sterilized tools to avoid transferring diseases.
If you buy a bromeliad from a nursery, chances are that it’s already in bloom. This means that your plant is mature and at the end of its cycle. Once a bromeliad blooms, it begins to die. Its death doesn’t necessarily mean that your bromeliad journey has to end altogether. You’ll still want to take care of bromeliads after they flower. When the bloom dies, pups should start emerging soon enough.
Bromeliad offshoots should usually be ready in about six months. You can cut off pups after they’re about one-third or one-half the size of the mother plant. At this point, some offshoots even develop small roots. Use a sharp, clean knife to cut the pups from the base and allow them callus for a few days before you place them into a potting mix. After your bromeliad babies settle, root systems will establish after a few weeks. You also have the option of leaving the pup on until the mother plant withers away. Once the original plant completely dries out, you can remove it. This method allows the pup to absorb as much energy and nutrients as possible from its mother plant.
However you decide to clean up your mature bromeliad, it can take well over a year for a bromeliad baby to reach its full size and begin the blooming cycle all over again. In the meantime, enjoy your bromeliad’s beauty as it grows!
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