How to Troubleshoot Bromeliad Problems

Author: Celeste Booth32 Comments

Care and Culture, Diseases, Insects

Bromeliads are a stunning addition to any interior landscaping design. Most bromeliads do not require complicated care, but every now and then a problem may arise that needs some attention. In this post we will discuss a few warning signs to look for and how to resolve the problem.

1. The flower is turning brown, wilting and looks like it will die.

Spotted Bromeliad

Spots are okay, but it’s time to take action when leaves turn brown.

Unfortunately, the death of a bromeliad flower is inevitable. Most bromeliads, with the exclusion of a few species such as those in the genera Dyckia, flower only once.  The plant may live for months or years even after the flower dies, but eventually the plant will die too.

Bromeliads produce new growth from the middle of the plant. Once the inflorescence is formed, the plant can no longer grow. However, before the plants die they will produce offshoots called pups. The pups can be separated and replanted or left to grow in a clump. Bromeliads are often sold while flowering or shortly before flowering when the inflorescence is most colorful therefore the flower may begin to die after only a few months of ownership. Once the inflorescence becomes unsightly you can simply cut it off near the center of the plant with a sharp, sterilized blade.

2. The leaves at the base of the plant are turning brown or soggy.

Bromeliads can be prone to root rot. Many bromeliads are naturally epiphytic meaning they grow attached to a substrate above the ground. Roots often act as anchors rather than delivering water to the plant. Some epiphytes can be planted terrestrially, but they should be in a very well draining mix. Roots that perpetually sit in water will begin to rot causing damage to the entire plant.

Bromeliads can also succumb to heart rot. If the center of the bromeliad emits a slight rotting smell, appears brown and soggy, or the leaves fall off easily when touched it may be suffering from heart rot. If the rot isn’t too advanced, you may be able to  save the plant with a fungicide. If the bromeliad has produced healthy pups you may want to separate and repot the pups and dispose of the rotting mother plant.

Potting mixes formulated specifically for bromeliads can be purchased. If the problem is not too severe you may be able to get away with holding off on watering to make sure the potting medium dries completely in between waterings. Be sure to repot the bromeliad in new medium and consider using a faster draining potting mix and a pot with better drainage. Bromeliads like humidity, but if the location of your bromeliad is to wet and the soil remains constantly soggy, you may need to find a drier location with more air circulation for your bromeliad.

3. There is a salty build up on the leaves.

This is a problem that occurs in bromeliads with leaves that form a tank where water is stored. Mineral build up on the leaves comes from watering with tap water. As the tap water evaporates off the leaves and out of the central tank it leaves behind a mineral build up. This usually appears as a sort of white, chalky or salty substance.

To remove the build up spray the leaves with distilled water and wipe them down gently with a soft cloth. Watering the plant with rainwater will prevent the build up from happening again. It is also important to flush out the tank about once a week. This will keep the water from stagnating and being a potential breeding ground for fungus, disease and pests.

Over-fertilizing can also cause build up on the plant as well as damage the leaves. Most bromeliads do not require fertilizer, but to encourage growth and blooming you can use a very diluted, evenly formulated fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer seasons.

4. The tips of the leaves are turning brown or there are brown or yellow spots on the leaves.

Bromeliad Fertilizer

Be careful not to over-fertilize your bromeliad.

Bromeliads are usually not too particular about the amount of light they receive, but if they get too much direct sunlight, they can scorch. Many bromeliads are native to the understory of South American rainforests. Therefore, they are well adapted to getting a lot of indirect, filtered light that makes its way through the canopy.

If your bromeliad is sitting in a window that gets too much direct sunlight, it can scorch. Brown tips or light brown spots on the leaves are indications that the plant is getting too much sun. When you move a bromeliad outdoors for the summer, take care to ensure it is not exposed to too much direct sun.

5. The bromeliad was supposed to be variegated but it is mostly a dark green color.

While many bromeliads can tolerate low levels of light, they may not look their best if they are not getting enough light for their species. When bromeliads get little to no sunlight, they will respond by turning a deep green instead of showing of their true colors. The dark green compensates for the lack of light allowing the bromeliad to survive in less than ideal conditions. Try giving your bromeliad exposure to more indirect light to bring out its vibrant colors.

6. The bromeliad is drying out.

Different species of bromeliads prefer varying levels of humidity. Neorogelias, for example, like it very humid while Dyckias can tolerate arid conditions. Most Bromeliads fall somewhere in between. If your bromeliad looks like it is withering away, try increasing the relative humidity. Fill a tray full of pebbles and add a few inches of water. You can set the bromeliad container on or near the tray. Just make sure that the container is not sitting in the water soaking it up.

You can also move the plant to a naturally more humid location such as a kitchen or bathroom. Placing other plants near the bromeliad can slightly increase the relative humidity around the plant as well. If your air is seriously dry, such as in a centrally heated home in the winter, consider employing a humidifier near your bromeliad. It is healthier for both you and the plant!

7. There is a cottony substance at the base of the leaves.

The cottony substance is caused by mealybugs. Bromeliads are not often invaded by pests, especially indoors, but occasionally they can show up. A small infestation of mealybugs or scale can be removed by thoroughly dabbing the bugs with rubbing alcohol and then washing and drying the leaves. Bugs usually stow away on new plants. A full infestation can be avoided if you keep any new plants separate from your collection and watch for pests for three weeks.

Bromeliads are easy to care for as long as you know how to troubleshoot. Stick to the following tips to raise a healthy bromeliad:

  • Cut off the flower when it turns brown. The plant won’t grow a new flower, but it will produce pups.
  • Keep the plants moist but not soggy in well draining soil. If it is a tank type bromeliad, water it with rainwater and rinse the tank regularly.
  • Keep up the relative humidity.
  • Provide plenty of bright yet indirect sunlight.
  • Check your leaf axils for pests.

Knowing what to look for and how to solve problems can help you nurse a bromeliad back to health or keep a strong plant growing well.

Frequently Asked Questions.” Bromeliad Society International.<>
“Why Grow Bromeliads?” Bromeliad Society International. <>

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32 Responses to “How to Troubleshoot Bromeliad Problems”

  1. vicki says:

    my bromeliad flower has started to dry out . I’ve had the plant for about 6 months. It also has a pup now growing fromt he bottom. What do I doto prolong the plan life? Do I cut the flower off and if so do i cut as low to the base inside as possible? Will it flower again?

    1. dakota davis says:

      If your bromeliad is getting a pup coming that means that the bromeliad you have is going to die so it’s making a copy of its self before it dies so once the big one dies just replant the pup not in dirt plant it on a piece of wood and you can do this because bromeliads are epiphytes just make sure that one you plant it on the log you tie the root system to the log securely so the plant won’t fall off but before you do this do research on the type of bromeliad you have so you will know what to do next time look up a bromeliad tree on google and you’ll See why they don’t need dirt it’s interesting and cool


    2. Sandra L. McCall says:

      Life flower at the very top of my plant has is all dried out and looks dead how do I cut it off. And will I get a new flower again? Also if I want to repot this plant, what kind of potting soil should I use?

  2. Janice Harper says:

    I just bought 3 bromeliad plants and I want to take the best care of them as possible, Can you give me some advise on taking care of these beautiful plants?,I read some information, but I am not sure I understand all of it. I recently had a mini stroke, so my in take is not as well as it used to be. I have lots of plants, but these or a mystery to me. I would appreciate any help you can give to me.

    Sincerely, Janice Harper

  3. Dixie Fechtel says:

    I had bromeliad pups growing in pots and just wrapped their roots in moss and placed them on an old tree stump in my yard. Two of them have leaves which are turning whitish . The stump gets about an hour of direct sun. Could that be the problem?

    1. Melanie Dearringer says:

      Exposure to too much light can cause your bromeliad’s color to fade or even bleach. Sounds like the lighting may be the culprit. Try moving it to an area with less direct sunlight.

      1. Jan Connor says:

        Have not used distilled water, dumb. The interior of the plant has turned to brown, gluey type much, and the cup of the leaves where the water gets put in have all died off. Therefore, it no longer has any way to keep it containing water in the cup area. I think we killed it. All the leaves are very dry, lost most of the color and we are so upset we have hurt her.

  4. Sol says:

    My bromeliad pups have holes or brown spots in the leaves. The mother plant looks fine. Will these holes go away eventually, or does the plant retain all it’s leaves as it matures? What did I do wrong?

  5. Marilyn says:

    The green leaves of my bromeliad are splitting. why?

    1. Celeste Booth says:

      Check your humidity levels and if the leaves start curling or becoming thin, it may be a sign they need more water.

      1. Valerie Mills says:

        I have 4 Alcantarea Imperialis planted in the garden and all are showing signs of splitting leaves. Could lack of water on long sunny days cause this problem?

  6. Kai-Leigh says:

    The plants stalk is brown and flaky. is there a way to help the plant or is it just dying?

    1. Melanie Dearringer says:

      If your bromeliad has already bloomed, what you are describing is a normal part of a bromeliad’s lifecycle. Our article “Reblooming Bromeliads: Your Questions Answered” explains this and also gives some tips on how to remove the stalk.

  7. brooke says:

    My bromeliads leaves at the base are dry and splitting starting at a center point and spiraling out. How could I fix the problem or is my bromeliad dying!? Help please!

  8. Tas says:

    My bromeliad the guzmania has a dried out centre. Is it dead and shall I remove it? The surrounding leaves are greeny yellowy browny. It has been hanging in my daughters bedroom window. What shall I do to revive it?

    1. Celeste Booth says:

      If it the bloom had died and seems unsightly, you can remove it with a sharp sterile blade.

  9. Jasmine Cleo says:

    Hi, I bought my bromeliad in Feb/ March of this year and it’s been on the floor in a corner of my bedroom, as it said not too much sun light.. I have also watered it here and there because I know it’s not good to over water them either! It’s now beginning of June, and it’s so dry, most of the leaves have turned brown and are super dry! I emptied all the water out of the pot. I’m not sure whether to put it on my bedroom window seal with my other plants .. And how much watering does it really need. Would it best to put it in my kitchen or bathroom for a little while so it gets more humidity.. Or can I put it somewhere else is my room. I love plants and I don’t want to have to get rid of it.. There are a few bright green leaves on it still so I think it has a lot more life left in it! The orange flower part hasn’t even opened yet lol. Would appreciate some advice on what to do next! Thanks 🙂

  10. Lizelle Venter says:

    I have 2 Vriesea’s outside on the pattio. They get early morning sun and the rest of the day shade. The stem of the flowers are turning white or pale yellow. What is wrong with it?

  11. Casey says:

    I accidentally scorched a few leaves with indirect sunlight. Do I remove the tips of the leaves, or all of the leaf, and how close to the base?

  12. Miranda says:

    The pups of my bromeliads is brown what should I do? The leaves look great but the middle where the pups grew what should I do to fix this?

  13. Naomi LaRue says:

    My brmeliad is flowering! After nearly 4 yrs I was about to give up. As I was admiring the flower, I noticed what looks like white fuzz at the base of flower stalk. When touched with finger nail it can be “skinned” off, looks bright underneath. The original plant was in bloom when I got it but so long ago I can’t remember if it had that too.

  14. Naomi LaRue says:

    Aechmea Frasciata, noticed today there were ants crawling up/down the flower stem and on the flower. Didn’t notice anyother pests that might attract ants. Some of the little flower buds, not opened yet, were looking dry/brownish. Do I need to get rid of the ants or are they doing good? Like they do for peonys. Thank you!

  15. Cheryl says:

    It looks like white mold on the very tip of the bloom can i take a q tip and rub it off or will I kill it??

  16. Naomi LaRue says:

    My brom is aechmea fasciata. It finally bloomed after 3 yrs! But the little pink & purple flowers that sprout from the big pink one seem to be drying out before they even open. I’ve noticed some leaves have long narrow brown marks & it splits there. It is outside, I wayer it in the soil with little bit in cup every couple weeks. Is it not getting enough water? Where it sits is sheltered fron weather but gets some sun.

  17. Trudi Thompson says:

    I have quite a few bromie plants and two have just lost the centres, I noticed one and when I looked I was able to just pull the whole centres out, do you know what is causing this, thanks

  18. Ine Ingenluyff says:

    Have bowl with 4 flowers,one died and some leaves turn do I treat it.?

    1. Celeste Booth says:

      A bromeliad’s flower will eventually die off, but if you don’t like seeing the browned bloom you can cut it off with a sterile blade.

  19. Joan Newton says:

    If you tie the pup brom. To a piece of wood, can you put the base of the wood in a little water.

  20. Chris says:

    I bought my bromeliad six years ago. I think the original plant, which had an orange flower, died a while ago and now I have looks like four distinct plants surrounding the core of the old plant. None of them has ever bloomed. In fact, they don’t look much like bromeliads at all anymore. They’re still green, but each is a spare, stark looking plant without the spread leaves you’d expect. I’ve never re-potted them or anything.

    Is there anything I can to help them thrive or have I left it too late?

    1. Celeste Booth says:

      Chris, if they are 1/3 or larger than the mother plant was, you can feel free to separate them into their own pots. It may take some time for them to re-bloom, so don’t lose hope yet.

  21. Katia says:

    Hi Everyone,
    I have a question and I’m very desperate and puzzled to what this could be and how to treat it. About a week ago I bought a bromeliad at a nursery store. Two days later I noticed a few dark brown spots-almost black- on both surfaces of a few leaves. On the underside they are raised and hard to the touch. I have noticed a couple of more leaves showing tiny brown spots as well, while others have a light yellowish small spots too. Any help will be greatly appreciated. I wish I could upload a pic. for you guys to see 🙁 Thanks in advance.

  22. Sharon says:

    I bought my Bromeliad 2 months ago and noticed just this morning that the flowers had white web-like substance on top. Would you know what they are, and what must I do to control it (if it’s a pest OR diaease). The soil too has a few white spots. Your help is appreciated, thanks!

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