Today I'm going to let you into a little secret of how to get a bromeliad to flower again. In fact one of the main items you need is a plastic bag. Intrigued? Well read on!
Guzmania, Aechmea and Vriesea bromeliads are favourite houseplants of mine. I love their brightly coloured inflorescences (flower spikes) especially at this time of year in the house. Furthermore they bring a little richness and exotica into a room.
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In their native habitat which is in the tropical rain forests of South America and the southern states of the USA, they are epiphytes. They cling to the branches of trees or lodge in rock crevices collecting rainwater in their funnels. While here in the northern hemisphere they are normally grown indoors in pots of compost or else mounted with wire onto wood and covered in sphagnum moss.
Bromeliads just like orchids will outlast a bunch of flowers any day - so are good value for money. They are resilient and very adaptable houseplants. Besides they have health benefits too. They give out oxygen during the day and absorb lots of nasty toxins around our homes during the night.
How do I get a bromeliad to flower again?
At the base of the rosette of leaves you'll see little offshoots growing. You call these pups. It's from these pups that you will get a bromeliad to flower from again. If they are not there don't worry as they will soon appear as the parent plant very slowly dies away.
Those of you who grow bromeliads outdoors have no problem getting the pups to flower. So how do I get a bromeliad to flower again here in the UK? Well, you have to be inventive!
In other words, you have to use the 'airtight plastic bag method'.
The bromeliad you purchased many, many months ago has now finished flowering. It has lost most of the colour from its inflorescences and you ask yourself
What do I do with it now?
Well firstly don't throw it away. Once your bromeliad has flowered for you it will NEVER flower again from that same rosette of leaves. It's because it's a monocarpic plant.
Monocarpic plants flower only once in their lifetime and then die.
Cultivating the Pups
Let those pups grow until they are at least a third or preferably half the size of the parent plant. The longer you leave the pups attached to the parent the quicker they will mature. It's at this stage that the pup has matured enough to be able to survive as an independent plant. You can either tease away each pup from the parent plant and repot. Or else leave all the pups to flower in the same pot. Just cut away the parent plant at the base.
If you have difficulty teasing the pup away from the parent plant use a sharp knife. Then let the cut dry for a day before repotting. It's best to grow these pups in a very free-draining compost like orchid compost. See the repotting section below for further details. Just don't plant the pups too deeply as they could rot. Best to plant them 10-20mm above the base of the plant,
They don't have a proper root system that absorbs nutrients. But what they do have are anchors or holdfasts. Pot these up in a pot similar in size to the one the parent plant was grown in.
It probably takes on average 12 months to reach the mature plant stage. Then you can force it into flower!
How to get a bromeliad to flower ... the air tight plastic bag method
- A mature bromeliad pup not in flower.
- One clear plastic bag that has no air holes in it. (Garden centres or pet stores that have an aquatics department will normally have large clear bags. Ask nicely and they might let you have one).
- Some ripe fruit like an apple, kiwi or banana.
I wish you could see the looks on peoples faces when I tell them what tools are required. It always brings a smile to my face and sometimes they don't even believe me at first.
Nurturing Your Bromeliad
They only require 1/4 or 1/3 strength of balanced fertilizer during Spring and Summer months.
Add this feed each month into a spray bottle mixed with water.
Mist the whole plant rather than pouring feed into the funnel or around the roots.
They don't absorb any nutrients from roots. In their natural habitat, the roots of nearly all bromeliads just anchor the plant onto the tree.
Avoid high nitrogen feeds as they elongate the leaves.
But there's an easy way to feed bromeliads!
Since Bromeliads grow in conditions similar to the ones required for orchids it's best to feed them with orchid food.
The best feed for Bromeliads is Growth Technology Orchid Myst (affiliate link). It contains a low level of nutrition which is perfect for Bromeliads. You just spray the feed over the leaves of the bromeliad.
You keep their funnels/vases in the centre of the rosette of leaves filled with water during Spring, Summer, and Autumn months.
While during the winter you keep the funnel dry but add a little water around the compost so that it doesn't dry out completely.
Change the water in the funnel every so often to prevent water stagnation and a build-up of bacteria.
When watering let the water spill over the vase so that it moistens the compost as well. Soft water or rainwater is best.
Don't water again until the top surface of the compost is dry to the touch. Too much water around the roots will encourage root rot, especially during the winter.
Temperature and Humidity
Bromeliads grow best at 55°F but can take shot periods less than this. They love to have their foliage misted especially if temperatures exceed 85°F. The plants love hot humid air rather than hot dry air. Misting is also beneficial during the winter months when its funnel/vase is kept dry.
They don't mind growing in shadier areas around the home but filtered light is best.
Their leaves will experience leaf burn if exposed to too much direct light.
Bromeliads are just like orchids as in their native habitat their roots cling to trees. Therefore an ideal compost to put in the pot is orchid compost (affiliate link).
However, some growers prefer a 50:50 mix of both orchid compost and houseplant compost (affiliate link) and they add finely chopped up pieces of sphagnum moss and perlite. There's a specialist bromeliad compost available online that is ready mixed with these ingredients (affiliate link).
Attaching Bromeliads To Driftwood
Some people like to attach their bromeliads to wood to make indoor bromeliad trees, rather than growing them in pots of compost.
- Just find a suitable decorative branch, a large piece of decorative cork, or driftwood (affiliate link).
- Wash any compost off the roots.
- Cover the whole root system with moist sphagnum moss (affiliate link).
- Wrap the sphagnum moss and roots with translucent thread (affiliate link) or fishing line a number of times until the plant is secure and tie with a double knot.
- Then tie this around the driftwood and tie off with a double knot.
- Water and feed the same as if it was a bromeliad growing in a pot.
If you are interested in houseplant care I have published some more blog posts:
How to care for Calathea crocata Tassmania Blooms – The Eternal Flame flower.