Bromeliad Basics: An Introduction

Author: Melanie Dearringer45 Comments

Care and Culture

The bromeliad family is comprised of over 3100 species. Most of which grow natively in tropical America. The family is quite diverse including: tank bromeliads, air loving epiphytes, a number of succulents, and the most widely known bromeliad, the pineapple. They range in size from the small Spanish moss to the large Puya raimondii, which measures in at an outstanding 30 feet tall.

Bromeliads feature exotic looking foliage that can come in a variety of colors including: red, yellow, gold, green, white, purple, and more. This foliage differs widely from species to species. Leaves can be broad and fleshy or needle thin, proportionally displayed or asymmetrical, sharp and spiky or smooth and soft. Most bromeliads develop a flower stalk that rises from the center of the plant. The inflorescences that are produced last anywhere from two weeks to one year. 

epiphytic bromeliad

-Epiphytic bromeliad

Terrestrial bromeliads, like the pineapple, have a complex root system that is used like most other plants to gather the water and nutrients necessary for survival. While epiphytic bromeliads, like the Tillandsia (also known as an air plant), grow roots that function as an anchor attaching the plant to trees. Many people mistake epiphytes as parasites. However, these type of plants receive their nutrients not from the plant on which they are fastened to, but from the air, rain, and accumulated debris surrounding it.

As you can see, the bromeliad family is wildly diversified. There are, however, a few general care requirements that will remain true for most species.

For even more information on bromeliad basic care, check out these great articles:
Bromeliad Basics: Temperature
Bromeliad Basics: Fertilizer
Bromeliad Basics: Watering
Bromeliad Basics: Lighting
Bromeliad Basics: Potting Medium
Bromeliad Basics: Repotting
Bromeliad Basics: Propagation


Bromeliaceae via
Epiphytic bromeliad photo credit: Sean Murray via
WorldBromeliadDistribution photo credit: Mmcknight4 via


New Pro Containers

45 Responses to “Bromeliad Basics: An Introduction”

  1. Kathleen Pierce says:

    I received a bromelaid plant and the flower is leaning over to the side, is this natural or should I re-pot or stake the flower?

    1. bobbi says:

      leaning is usually towards the sun…….. just like any other plant, it tends to lean into the sunlight… try spinning the plant a bit on occasion to see if it straightens….. leaning is typical because of the long nature of the stem… let me know if this helps.

  2. admin says:

    @ Kathleen – It is completely natural for the flower to lean or grow to one side.

  3. Linda Grant says:

    What does one do with the bloom after it has died and dried? Cut it off? Where?

    1. Earl says:

      I was given a pot with four bromeliads that were blooming. seven months later, the blooms are drying out and turning brown. Should I cut the blooms out? I have about six or seven pups growing that are from two to six inches tall. What should I do now?

  4. admin says:

    @Linda – You can cut off the dead bromeliad bloom or wait for it to dry enough to pull it off. Cut it where death ends and life begins. 🙂

  5. wade smith says:

    The center stem is green …when will it turn red?

  6. Kirsten Wallace says:

    After I cut off the dead bloom, will another one come up or is it finished blooming forever?

    1. bobbi says:

      a healthy plant will bloom again …… not sure if it will bloom again in the same season……

  7. Doris Benton says:

    Help!!! My boss just gave me his wife’s bromeliad because it drying out, bloom is brown and leaves are turning brown! He wants me to “nurse” it back to health. I think it has about 3 pups on the side. What do I do????

  8. admin says:

    @Doris Benton- If I’m correct, it sounds as if the plant has fully dried out (roots and all). I believe your best bet at this point would be to begin the propagation process. Bromeliads can be propagated by removal of “pups” or “offsets” from the “mother plant” (asexual) or by seed (sexual).

    Here is my Bromeliads Propagation Overview, I hope it is able to provide you with the guidance you need to create new life for your Bromeliad.

    Have fun growing!

  9. Bonnie Sellers says:

    Do you cut or pull off the pups. Mine has one coming up on the side but its only about an inch tall now. Then do you put it in water or dirt to root? Also when the leaves get brown do I just remove them as close to the bottom as possible. Thanks, Bonnie

  10. Murray Klein says:

    If flower in the centre looks to be damaged dead or drying up,what do you suggest I do with the flower part?? Can it or should it be removed without hurting the existing plant

  11. Mary Christensen says:

    My new bromeliad is 10 inches tall, in a 6-inch pot, and has one beautiful red flower. I read your overviewt, but I’ still in the dark about how much & how often the to water it. I poured one cup of water into the rosette, but it disappeared & the soil was still very dry. I added one more cup & now the water is standing in the rosette. Is that too much? Is that normal? Should the soil feel damp? (It doesn’t now, even though it has had water standing in the rosette for 4 days.) Please enlighten me. I REALLY don’t want it to die!

    Thank you,
    Mary Christensen

  12. deborah camden says:

    does these plants like to be root bound? I have recently purchased 2 of them in 2in pots. when should I go up in size and repot?

  13. Erica Lopez says:

    got one from florist, but no roots can i repot it and will it grown

  14. catalina soto says:

    i bought one from florist and brought it home, my new puppy probably thought it was a toy and shredded the flower and all of the leaves off. now its just a ball with roots and a white stub where the leaves once grew, if i plant it, will the leaves grow back?!

  15. Debbie says:

    I cut one of the pups off, do I root it in water or dirt or does it matter.

  16. Anita Remington says:

    I have a question,

    will the plant be affected in any way if a put it near other plants? I have a bamboo stick, a mother-in-law’s tongue, and a some English Ivy.



    1. Kim says:

      Plants love to be near other plants, they seem to provide a healthy environment for each other, Bromeliad’s grow on big trees in the wild 🙂

      1. Mary robinson says:

        Could you please provide sources? THanks

  17. twanda says:

    my bromeliad hasnt bloomed yet and its turning brown at the top of the plant. what does that mean?

    1. Jean says:

      Why did the flower lose it yellow color

      1. Celeste Booth says:

        Hi Jean, It may be losing its yellow color as it fades and dies away. But the good news is that after the bloom dies the plant will produce pups (baby bromeliad plants) that will eventually grow into mature, flowering bromeliads.

  18. lax4life says:

    Hi I just bought a bromeliad at harrys (whole foods market) and it is sitting in my bathroom where it gets moderate INDIRECT sunlight. Also, one of the outermost leaves is turning yellow and shriveling–is that normal? The cup water sometimes turns milky looking, too. Is this from me spraying perfume/hairspray in the same room as it? It hasn’t bloomed yet either, how do I tell if it had already bloomed before I bought it? What do I need to do differently? BTW, it is sitting in the clay pot it came in with a drain on the bottom. I’ve never cared for bromeliads before, HELP!

  19. Louis says:

    Every time I buy a flowering bromeliad and I cut off the dead flower, the plant dies. Something seems to happen to the plant itself. The leaves start to brown and if I water it, the entire plants rots at the root. What’s up with that?

    1. bobbi says:

      Sure sounds like overwatering…
      I am not an expert… but too much water invariably rots roots in any type of plant.

  20. geof says:

    i found the best method for bringing back bromeliads is to get all the dirt off the roots and use plant wire to bind the plant to a cside of a corn flower or palm tree. then water once a week in the center, leaving the roots exposed to the air.
    note: though bromeliads enjoy warm weather, spear and pineapple species can be permanently damaged by temps over 80 degrees farenheit. plants damaged in this way can take several years to rebloom

  21. Michelle says:

    I bought a ‘bromeliad log” which I have hung up in my lapa, how do i care for it. it seems to be an air plant???

  22. Denise says:

    Can bromeliads be planted outside under a tree? and if so do they require any special attention as in fertiliser or special soil ?

    1. kate says:

      I had a pup for several years and it did nothing…….Finaly gave up and put it outside under a tree a lot of ivy grew over it it only got watered when I watered the yard. Today I found a beautiful flower on it.

  23. Cecile Wood says:

    I read to place part of an apple in the soil of the bromeliad & the plant would enjoy the apple. Is this true and if so, please give me the details. Thank you

  24. Charles says:

    Isn’t it true that about 5 years ago, the American Bromeliad Growers Association came out with an article stating that for years they have been mis-informing the public with the “how” to water the plants, that the watering thru the “cup” of the plant was not correct, they should be watered as any other house plant, by the soil. That watering the “cup” only caused leaf rot and stagnant water, resulting in an unpleasant odor.

  25. Shelly says:

    I just got a bromliad from my husband as a gift. The leaves are turning bronw, but the flower is ok what do I do>

  26. Mary says:

    I have just got a bromeliad and it is in a small pot will I be able to re pot it

  27. Terri C. Peace says:

    Ladies & Gentlemen:
    My youngest son gave me a bromeliad in a beautiful pot for Christmas and I’m embarrassed to say that I killed it. My mother-in-law who is now deceased told me how to water it and since that was years ago, I thought I must be remembering this wrong. I just watered it like any other houseplant and I think it got root rot and died (just keeled over at the soil line) How should I water this one?
    Thanks, Terri

    1. Rivka says:

      Perhaps you just over-watered it-gave it too much water.

  28. Jeannette says:

    The woman at the garden center told me not to water the soil but to water the center of the plant and that it was just about impossible to over water it. Now my baby is turning brown in spite of being warm indoors and exposed to the light. Is it possible to stop it from dying or is it too late? So sad….

  29. T SULEIMAN says:


  30. Melanie Dearringer says:

    Most bromeliads bloom only once. However, there are a few species such as Dyckia and Hechtia that aren’t affected by the new leaf growth at the center as they produce inflorescence from the side of the plant. There is also a genus in which some plants can re-bloom on existing flower spikes.

  31. tree lopping gold coast says:

    Hello, I want to subscribe for this website to obtain hottest
    updates, thus where can i do it please help.

  32. Kay A. says:

    How do I get rid of the dead dry leaves on the outside of an otherwise healthy looking plant?

    1. Celeste Booth says:

      You can cut them off with a sharp sterile blade if they are bothering you.

  33. cordelia Wiles says:

    Just got this plant for Mothers Day, I live in Fl. and I was going to keep it on my lanoni, should this be kept indoors, please help me, and do I need to repot it.

  34. Mia Wang says:

    What eats bromeliads?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *