How to Grow Bromeliads

Looking to liven up a drab office or bedroom? Choose an exotic-looking bromeliad and you won't be disappointed.

  • Place indoor plants in bright, indirect light. Or, grow outside in bright shade in zones 10 to 12 year-round or during the summer in cooler regions.

If you've ever eaten a pineapple, you've eaten the fruit of a bromeliad. Been to Charleston or Savannah? The Spanish moss that drips from the trees, giving those cities their distinctive look, is also a type of bromeliad! And while you could try growing your own pineapples or Spanish moss, the bromeliads most interesting to gardeners tend to be a little more houseplant-like, though no less exotic in the looks department. You'll often find them for sale at garden centers or grocery stores, sporting wild red and yellow leaves or maybe even a big pink flower in the center. (Air plants are also bromeliads, but they have completely different care requirements, so we won't cover them here.)

Bromeliads make great indoor plants, though those lucky Floridians, Californians, and others living in frost-free areas can grow them outdoors year-round, too. Here's what you need to know to grow bromeliads.

How to Choose Bromeliads

We'll be honest: in Northern climates, pickings will be slim, so you'll pretty much need to take what you can find. In Southern and Southwestern areas, though, there will be more choices. Don't worry, though—they're all gorgeous, so just choose the one that catches your eye.

Growing Bromeliads

Where to Grow Bromeliads

Bromeliads grow best in bright, indirect light, both indoors and out. Don't put them where the afternoon sun will shine directly on their leaves, as that can cause them to burn, but don't stick them in a dark corner, either. Bromeliads that don't get enough light will grow long, floppy, green leaves with little of their trademark color. If you see that happening, just move them so they get more light and the color will return.

Once nighttime temperatures in your area are consistently above 60 degrees, it's okay to move a bromeliad you've been growing indoors outside for the summer. Keep them in a sheltered, protected area for a few days—this is called "hardening off" and will help the plants get used to the change in environment. After a few days, you can move them farther from the house. They'll do fine with morning sun, but will need to be shielded from baking afternoon rays.

How to Plant Bromeliads in Containers

  • Find a pot that has multiple drainage holes and is no more than ⅓ larger than the root ball of the bromeliad you're looking to plant.
  • Well-drained soil is crucial for healthy bromeliads, so fill the pot ⅓ full with Miracle-Gro® Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix, which is specially formulated for low-water plants. Or, if you tend to have issues with fungus gnats around houseplants, use Miracle-Gro® Indoor Potting Mix—it contains no compost or bark, both of which can shelter the pests.
  • Place your bromeliad so that the top of the root ball is about ¾ to 1 inch below the rim of the container (to leave space for watering).
  • Fill in around the root ball with more potting mix.
  • Pour water in the cup formed by the leaves of your new plant (more on that below), set the pot on a catch tray or saucer, and move it to its new home.

How to Water Bromeliads

Bromeliad houseplants have a center "cup" formed by their leaves, and that is where you'll water them. Keep the cup full, using distilled water or rain water, as bromeliads can be sensitive to the minerals and chemicals in tap water. Room temperature water is best, so you don't shock the plant. Every 10 days, dump the water out of the plant and refill with fresh water. (Add a little less water when the plant is in bloom, to help keep the flower spike from rotting.) The soil in the pot should be kept slightly damp so the roots don't dry out.

How to Feed Bromeliads

In the wild, bromeliads collect bits of insects, leaves, flowers, and other decomposing material that drop into their cups. At home, though, they'll need their meals served to them. A month after planting, feed your bromeliad with Miracle-Gro® Ready-to-Use Orchid Plant Food Mist, making sure to follow label directions. True, bromeliads are not orchids, but they come from similar families and should be fed in the same way: by misting the leaves. As always, be sure to follow label directions.


What to Do When if Your Bromeliad Blooms

Many bromeliads won't flower, but if you do get a bloom, you'll need to remove the flowering stalk after the bloom fades by cutting down as close to the plant as you can. Here's the downside of blooming: Once a bromeliad has flowered, the mother plant will slowly begin to die. Before she does, though, she'll produce babies, called pups. You can either leave them in the container to replace the mother or divide them up. To do that, carefully break off the pups and place each one in a small pot filled with Miracle-Gro® Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix or Miracle-Gro® Indoor Potting Mix. Water gently, then sit back and get to know your new bromeliad family!