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Basic Cultural Notes

Get to know the basics...

Bromeliads require an acidic mix that retains moisture yet drains freely & also provides stability. The roots need aeration & will rot out in a tight or boggy mix. There are many ways to achieve this & different growers have their own favourite mixes.

Ingredients commonly used include peat moss, cocopeat, composted pine bark fines (11-20 mm in diameter), coarse sand, perlite, charcoal, small pieces of polystyrene foam, coarse ash & ‘clinker’.

We have our own mix which we sell in various size bags.

Commercial cymbidium potting mix is also suitable

Don’t plant pups too deeply – just to the base of the leaves. Stake to keep stable if necessary.


The major scale pest is fly-speck scale (tiny, black dots on the leaves). Brown scale is also sometimes a problem. Treat by spraying with a systemic insecticide or dipping the plant in a solution of it. A commonly used one is Confidor, You’ll need to spray twice within a fortnight. DON’T USE WHITE OIL WHICH WILL KILL THE PLANT.


These occasionally damage the flower stems. Treat with an insecticide recommended for this pest eg Malathion. Some use heavily diluted washing up liquid.

Vase Rot (Phytophthera cinnamonii)

This is caused by too much water & lack of aeration around the plant. It causes the centre of the plant to rot. If caught early enough, this disease can be treated by

  • Removing affected leaves
  • Draining all water from the plant
  • Drenching with a fungicide eg Virikop. DO NOT USE COPPER BASED FUNGICIDES WHICH WILL KILL THE PLANT.
  • You can also get other fungus spots on the leaves which also respond to Virikop.


Best time to catch them is in the early morning when they are sluggish.


If you have a problem, the easiest solution is to flush the vase out once a week to break the breeding cycle.

Heavy Metals eg copper, lead & boron

The effects can look like vase rot. Can come from treated wood or water from copper pipes & gutters.

Most bromeliads need good air circulation. They also thrive in humid conditions with a relative humidity of 50%-75% ideal. Many commercial growers put fans in their hothouses to maintain air movement. Misting of bromeliads in low humidity assists optimum growth.

Keep the central cup, if there is one, filled with fresh water. Don’t allow the water to get too old or stagnant, or the plant may rot. The water should be at room temperature, and should be poured into the center of the plant, the cup, and allowed to run through the leaves into the soil, so that the roots are moistened. Watering once a week is often sufficient. Mist the plant every few days if the humidity is 50 to 60%, or daily, if the humidity is lower. Soft leafed plants require more water and humidity than stiff leafed ones. Most vrieseas, guzmanias, and nidulariums like high humidity. Mounted plants need frequent misting unless the humidity is high, and do better with a weekly dousing in a sink, tub or bucket to thoroughly soak them.

Hard, spiny, thick leafed plants, as well as those with gray-green, gray or silvery leaves, can take bright light for extended periods of time. Soft, thin leafed plants and those with purplish (discolor) foliage do well in a spot with lower light intensity, but no bromeliad likes a dark environment. Nidulariums require the least amount of light and gray leafed tillandsias the most. The intense translucent red seen in many neoregelias usually cannot be held, if grown solely in the house. The other genera mentioned fall somewhere in between these two in light requirements. Symptoms of too little light are dark green, often soft, drooping leaves that are longer than normal. Symptoms of too much light are yellowed leaves, markings that are faded and bleached out, a leathery, stressed look to the foliage, and in extreme cases, sunburn spots and holes.

This really depends on the amount and intensity of the light the plants are grown in, and on the genus. Many growers do not fertilize neoregelias, or stiff leafed aechmeas as they look better when grown in a slightly stressed condition. Most growers refrain from fertilizing during periods of very slow growth, often caused by low light levels and lower temperatures present in winter. There is a consensus that guzmanias and vrieseas require fertilization to obtain large colorful bloom spikes. The strength of the fertilizer used should not exceed 1/4 to 1/3 of the recommended dosage, if fertilizer is applied once a month. If fertilizing more frequently, dilute the fertilizer even more. Slow release pellets such as Osmocote, can be added on top of the soil at a dosage of about 1/4 teaspoon for a 15cm pot every 3 to 4 months , but never place fertilizer pellets in the cup. Most plants do well if sprayed with a dilute solution of fertilizer from time to time.

Generally, they prosper at temperatures between 11 to 36 C.  They are not winter hardy except in tropical regions. They prefer temperatures below 36 C, but many tolerate heat if there is good air circulation. Guzmanias and soft-leafed Tillandsias are the least tolerant of hot temperatures and make excellent plants for cooler growing conditions.

Plants mature and bloom at different ages, depending on species and growing conditions. To encourage blooming of mature plants, try slow release fertiliser like Osmocote. Some blooms, notably the billbergias, last only a few days, while others stay attractive for many months. Those plants that require lower light levels are easier to bring into bloom in the house than those requiring higher light levels. Many bromeliads have such beautiful foliage that their bloom is regarded as a bonus, rather than an essential. A strong change in growing conditions, such as light or excessive dryness, may trigger a mature plant to bloom. There are chemicals that force bloom, but these are usually tricky to regulate, and often interfere with pup development. It is usually best to be patient, and allow nature to take its course.

The plant will replace itself with new plants called pups, offsets, or offshoots. Most pups grow off the side of the mother plant at the base. Remove these pups when they are about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the mother plant. Use a sharp knife or clippers, and cut as close as possible to the mother plant without injuring it. Some offsets are attached by stolons that are often very woody. Some kind of serrated knife or a small saw is helpful. If the pup has a long woody stolen, detach a large part before potting. The top can be twisted (not cut) directly out of the top of a super-market pineapple, hardened for a week or two, and then potted successfully. Some plants like cryptanthus, orthophytums, and some tillandsias, have pups further up on the mother plant. Their attachment is so fragile that they can be easily plucked off. Remove any brown leaves before potting and dip in a rooting fungicide such as Virikop.The mother plant will continue to produce pups until it dies. Some pups are difficult to root. In such cases, place the pup in a plastic pot tall enough to support the pup. Place a small amount of peat moss at the bottom of the pot and place the rootless pup atop that. Don ‘t put any other mix in the pot. Water as you would the other plants in the collection. Roots usually will appear readily. Offsets will usually mature in 1 to 3 years de pending on the genus and growing conditions.

Mounted Plants Bromeliads such as aechmeas, billbergias and tillandsias can be mounted to grow as epiphytes (air plants). Gray leafed tillandsias are drier growing and prefer mounting. Various types of wood, roots, tree fern slabs, rocks and cork are good materials for mounting. Driftwood that has been in sea water should be soaked for several days to leach out salts before attaching plants. Use plastic coated wire (never bare wire), staples, various glues, or narrow strips of nylon stockings to tie or secure plants. Be careful not to damage the base of the plant. Some tillandsias will never show root attachment even after years of growth. Mounted plants depend on their leaves to absorb needed moisture and food. Water the entire plant thoroughly at least twice a week, and douse them thoroughly in a tub or sink weekly. Don’t allow water to sit in the leaf axils of fuzzy or gray leafed tillandsias. Shake the water off, if necessary. Fertilize mounted plants sparingly with a dilute liquid fertilizer.