Bromeliads are one of the easiest and best tropical plants to grow in your home. They have beautiful foliage, and their flowers may last three months or more. They reproduce rapidly, and there are few pests and diseases that attack them.
Bromeliads in the genus Guzmania (shown here) are grown for their beautiful inflorescence (the flowering part of the plant) that remains for many months.
Most bromeliads are very adaptable, resilient houseplants. They can be either epiphytic (growing in air), saxicolous (growing on rocks), or terrestrial (growing in the ground).
Most bromeliads do well in pots and planters that provide good drainage and air flow.
Shown here: Puya chilensis
Most bromeliads benefit from high humidity and good air circulation. An easy way to increase the humidity is to place a tray of wet gravel under the pots. You can also buy a special humidity tray with a unique drainage system that lets you maintain water in the tray for constant humidity.
Available at NYBG Shop
Bromeliads can be grown in windows or under fluorescent light. Most thrive in bright, indirect light. The majority of bromeliads are happiest in temperatures that range between 65º to 90ºF during the day and 50º to 65ºF at night.
Potting soils should be acidic and hold moisture, yet drain quickly. Orchid mixes, peat moss, sphagnum moss, and charcoal all work well, as do soilless potting mixes. One easy recipe is half soilless mix and half orchid mix (fine grade).
Two things to avoid: Do not use garden soil and do not add a layer of drainage material to the bottom of the pot.
Shown here: Ochagavia carnea
Bromeliads that are grown in the air should be watered daily by drenching the plant. They also benefit from being soaked; immerse the plants in water once a week.
Shown here: Lowland Tropical Rain Forest Gallery in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at The New York Botanical Garden
To induce flowering, increase the light level. Most bromeliads flower in the winter. If you are having a difficult time getting a mature plant to flower, you can force it by placing a fruit bowl with apples next to the plant for 7 to 10 days. The ethylene gas produced by the fruit will help to encourage flowering, although you need to be patient.
Flowers of bromeliads in the genus Aechmea have colorful bracts that hold their color for several weeks to several months.
Shown here: Aechmea fasciata
Find out more about bromeliads in Encyclopedia of Exotic Plants for Temperate Climates by Will Giles. This lavishly illustrated book is an informative reference for bromeliads and many other plants such as cacti and ferns that make good companions in the indoor garden.
For more gardening tips, check out The New York Botanical Garden.