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Growing Bromeliads indoors

Bromeliads are excellent indoor plants because of their colorful, long-lasting flowers and colorful foliage. Bromeliads adapt readily to the unfavorable growing conditions from our homes. Although many bromeliads are epiphytic, living on branches and trunks of trees or on rocks in their native habitat, most can be grown in containers.

You can grow them in clay or plastic pots, but if the plants are large and heavier, then clay pots are more stable. Because plastic pots retain moisture longer than clay pots, plants grown in plastic pots require less frequently watering than those in clay pots. Epiphytic bromeliads can also be grown in perforated plastic baskets and clay pots like those used for other epiphytic plants such as orchids.

Because bromeliads rarely have extensive roots, relatively small pots are adequate for most of them. Larger varieties can usually be brought to flowering into 13-18 cm pots. Terrestrial plants don’t need to be moved into larger pots until their roots completely fill the current container. Move young epiphytes into pots one size larger every spring until the maximum convenient pot size has been reached.

In and Out Bromeliads

All bromeliads require an extremely well drained planting medium, so grow them in a mixture of equal quantities by volume of soil-less potting compost and vermiculite. Some epiphytic bromeliads grow poorly if planted in a conventional potting mixture. They grow best in a medium such as tree-fern bark, cork-oak bark or on a tree-fern slab or pieces of wood.

To mount a bromeliad plant on one of these materials, wrap the base of the plant in sphagnum moss and tie the wrapped base to its support by winding plastic-coated wire around the moss and the supporting material. Fasten the ends of the wire firmly but in such a way that it can be easily untied. Hang the mounted specimens in a convenient place. Spray the sphagnum moss and plant with water frequently enough to prevent complete drying of the moss. After supportive roots grow over the sphagnum moss and around the mount, remove the temporary wire. To keep the plant alive and healthy, water the plant, its roots and the supportive materials twice a week all year long. Water can be applied as a spray or the entire mounted plant can be submerged in water for few minutes.

Because of their watering methods, it is advisable to place all bromeliads, particularly those anchored to a material other than compost, on a surface not likely to be damaged if it becomes wet. Vase plants need to be positioned where the vase can be conveniently and accurately topped up with water. They tend to become top-heavy, because the compost serves only as anchorage and not as a source of nutrients. To ensure they are reliably stable, stand their pots in a larger outer container and fill the gap with pebbles. Bromeliads that are watered by misting the leaves daily will benefit from being surrounded by other plants, which will help to increase humidity around them.

For success with growing bromeliads as houseplants you need to mimic the humid conditions they encounter in the wild. The humidity around plants will influence their need for water. The humidity in a home, which is heated over the winter or cooled over the summer with air-conditioning, can be very low and plants may need to be watered more frequently than those grown in a moist environment.

Most bromeliads need good light with occasional exposure to bright sunshine. A room temperature of 15 to 21 Celsius degrees (60 to 70 F) is preferable, although some bromeliads need a warmer environment, of about 24 Celsius degrees (75 F), to stimulate flowering.

Growing Bromeliads outdoors

Bromeliads can be grown outdoors and used in the landscape in frost-free areas or grown in containers that can be moved indoors in areas where freezes occur. Since bromeliads require minimal care, they are a nice and colorful addition into the landscape, at least over the warm periods of the year. In frost-free areas you can enjoy bromeliads for their graceful and decorative foliage, flowers and fruits all year round.

Some bromeliads can tolerate low temperatures. However, extreme cold temperatures will scorch and injure them. Cold damage to a few leaves will destroy the symmetry and beauty of the plant for a long time, so it is better to protect them from frost even if you have species that can tolerate low temperatures.

In areas where frost and freezing temperatures are common you may cover the plants with plastic or cloth to offer them some protection, but you must be very careful because the plants are very sensible and mechanical breakage of leaves often occurs during this procedure. A more practical way to prevent cold damage is to grow bromeliads in containers with a potting mix and sink the containers into the ground. When freezing temperatures are predicted, just pull the containers out of the ground and move them into a garage or any other protected area. While they are indoors, the plants should receive some light during the daytime. When temperatures are above freezing and no more frosty nights are predicted, you can place the plants back into the ground and mulch them to hide the pot edges.

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