Encyclopedia of Houseplants

Add Some Tropical Appeal to Your Space With the Bromeliad Plant

updated Dec 24, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Photos by Gabor Schlosser)

Step aside snake plants and rubber trees, there’s a new leafy friend on the block to help you evoke all the vacation vibes of your dreams: bromeliads. These green leafy plants hail from the tropics and are known for their vibrant hot pink blooms. While they’re a bit high maintenance when it comes to their watering schedules and light preferences, the look of a healthy and happy bromeliad makes the extra work worth it. Below, learn how to best care for bromeliad plants in your home.

How much light does bromeliad need?

The ideal lighting situation for bromeliads consists of indirect, bright light. Too much harsh light and your plant may start turning yellow—but if it’s dark green and extra leggy, it might mean it’s not receiving enough light.

Potting Your Bromeliad

Bromeliads are very sensitive to moisture. It’s important that the pot and soil you choose are conducive to keeping them happy. While the plants are drought-tolerant and hate over-watering or standing in water, they do need moisture. Hence, if you leave in a dry, arid climate, a plastic pot that tends to retain moisture might be a good choice. On the other hand, if you live in a humid area, a porous pot is a good option, as it will allow excess water to seep away from the roots.

Bromeliads in the wild are epiphytic, meaning they derive their moisture and nutrient needs not from soil but from rain and the air. So it’s important that the soil you use provides very good drainage, such as a mix of 2/3 peat-based soil mix and 1/3 sand.

How do you water bromeliads?

These plants have some pretty specific needs when it comes to water, so keep these tips in mind.

  • Bromeliads don’t do well with overwatering and can handle droughts much better than too much H2O. 
  • Similarly to a money tree, a good rule of thumb is to wait until the top two inches of their soil is dry before watering again.
  • If you can collect rain water, that is best for watering your bromeliad. Otherwise, it’s best to let tap water sit so that lime and chlorine evaporate.
  • Bromeliads also prefer water that is room temperature and not too cold.
  • Never use a metal watering can, as bromeliads are very sensitive to metal. Take the same care with the water used to mist your plant.
  • While standing water can be detrimental, bromeliads do appreciate light mistings, which you can give them daily during warmer months.

Is it toxic to cats and dogs?

Pet parents can rest easy. Unlike the fan-favorite fiddle leaf fig, bromeliads are thankfully considered to be non-toxic to both cats and dogs. So you can fulfill your dreams of living in a tropical paradise without bringing anything hazardous into your home.

Credit: Sirinn3249/Shutterstock

Fertilizing bromeliads

Bromeliads do not need much fertilization. You could use a half or quarter dilution of all-purpose plant food, some slow-release pellets mixed in with their potting mix, or a single pellet dropped into the bromeliad’s water cup. Only fertilize during the growing season of spring and summer, and take care not to over-fertilize.

How to make a bromeliad bloom

Bromeliads typically bloom only once in their lifetime, making the burst of color (actually formed mostly of leaf bracts) that much more precious. If you wish to force a bloom, do the following, as outlined in Gardening Know How: First, add some dissolved Epsom salts to the watering cup once per month for a few months to encourage chlorophyll production. Next, empty the water cup and encase the bromeliad in a large, clear plastic bag for 10 days along with a piece of apple. The ethylene gas encourages flowering, which should occur within the next six to 10 weeks.