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Australian Grow Guide: Bromeliads

Bromeliads are easy-care succulents that can add interest and colour to your garden, especially in shaded spots.

Not only do many bromeliads have quite spectacular forms of foliage, but they also have the most amazing long-lasting flowers.

On top of that, many bromeliads will produce their own ‘pups’ so that you will always end up with more plants than you started with. No wonder these plants have become so popular and are loved by gardeners right around the country.

It doesn’t matter where you live because there will be a group of bromeliads that you can easily grow in your garden or in a pot indoors.

How to give your bromeliads the best possible care

Luckily for even inexperienced gardeners, bromeliads don’t demand too much of your attention. Most bromeliads are epiphytes which means that their roots are only there to give the plants some support or to cling to trees and rocks.

Bromeliad in tree | Plant care

Bromeliads get all their water and nutrient requirements through their leaves so they should be grown in a bark-based mix such as that which is designed for orchids

Even when grown outdoors, bromeliads should be planted so that they’re above the natural soil level.

Bromeliads 1 | Plant care

To do this, dig a shallow hole for your bromeliad and backfill this with pine bark or well-composted mulch. 

Make sure that the centre of the plant is well above soil level and your bromeliad will be happy.

So, what do you need to do to keep your bromeliads happy?

Feed them regularly

As bromeliads don’t take up nutrients through their roots, they need to be fed with a liquid fertiliser such as Seasol. This needs to be applied to the leaves of the plants.

However, don’t feed your bromeliads too often and make sure that you water down the strength of the fertiliser. It’s recommended that you mix some Seasol or similar with water at a quarter strength in a spray bottle.

Bromeliad spray | Plant care

Apply this during the warmer months and only twice a year. Avoid feeding your bromeliads in winter as the plants will be dormant.

Water when needed and avoid overwatering

Bromeliads only need to be watered sparingly as overwatering can cause them to rot. In fact, overwatering is one of the very few ways that you can kill these hardy plants.

To work out when to water, you’re going to have to get to know your plant. Bromeliads grown outdoors where there is regular rainfall shouldn’t need any supplementary watering.

Bromeliads | Plant care

However, during periods of hot, dry spells, you might notice your plant looking a little dry or less plump than normal. When you notice this, give the plant a light drink and it should look better very quickly.

Trim your plants to keep them looking their best 

Sometimes, when you look at your bromeliads, you might notice a little leaf damage or notice leaves that have started to brown off.

When this happens, you can simply cut off the less-than-perfect leaves and even trim off any leaf areas that have become damaged. 

Keep the pests at bay with good growing conditions

Bromeliads that are growing in ideal conditions with plenty of air flow and only minimal watering will rarely attract any pests or diseases.

If you do happen to notice an attack of scale on your plants, just wipe these off with a damp cloth. Avoid using any type of pesticide or even natural insect control such as white oil.

This is because bromeliads breathe through the stomata or pores in their leaves. Applying any type of oil-based product will suffocate the plants and they’ll die.

Growing bromeliads in pots

Bromeliads grow equally well in pots and this is a great way to provide them with the perfect growing environment.

Bromeliad in pot | Plant care

However, don’t be tempted to grow them in regular potting mix. You need a mix that is basically bark-based and very free-draining. That’s why many growers use proprietary orchid mix or speciality mixes that are designed for succulents.

You also want to ensure that the pots you select have adequate drainage because bromeliad roots should never be allowed to sit in water.

Bromeliad in pot 1 | Plant care

Give them the same care as the bromeliads that grow outdoors by watering sparingly and spraying them with a little liquid fertiliser once or twice a year.

When growing your bromeliad indoors, put it in a bright spot but make sure that you keep it out of direct sunlight as this can burn the leaves of your plant.

FAQ

Do bromeliads only bloom once?

There are some species of bromeliads that will only bloom once, However, at the same time, these plants will produce pups or young plants usually from the base. Eventually, these pups will take over and produce their own bloom.

What should you do with a bromeliad flower after it dies?

Once a bromeliad flower has finished, you can simply cut it off with a sharp pair of secateurs and throw it in the compost.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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