Log in Subscribe
Garden Guru


Jim Boxberger
Posted 2/9/24

So Punxsutawney Phil says we are going to have an early spring and they weather we have right now doesn’t feel like a typical February. I worry that if I start planning for an early spring …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Garden Guru



So Punxsutawney Phil says we are going to have an early spring and they weather we have right now doesn’t feel like a typical February. I worry that if I start planning for an early spring though, that we will end up getting dumped on with snow in March or April. So I’m keeping my focus on indoor plants like bromeliads that can brighten your day and don’t require a ton of attention. There are many different types of bromeliads and some are not suitable for indoor growth so you need to do some research before purchasing. The typical “air plant”, tillandsia, is the easiest bromeliad to grow indoor. These plants have almost no root system and absorb water and nutrients directly through the leaves (fronds) of the plant. They can grow on bark, in a pot of ceramic beads of even just hanging from the ceiling on a string. Although they do flower, unfortunately indoors, up north this will probably not happen. But there are hundreds of other bromeliads as well that can be grown indoors. Here are some of the basics you need to know. 

Bromeliads don’t have a large root system, so plant them in small, well-draining pots that won’t collect a lot of water. Planting them in large pots without a lot of drainage can lead to rot. Bromeliads are relatively slow-growing plants that take up to three years to mature into flowering plants. Most bromeliads need bright, indirect sunlight or dappled shade when outside, but indoors they can be placed in direct sun. Bromeliads are non-toxic plants, so they are safe for pets or young children in the home. Bromeliads prefer temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, so a living room at around 70 degrees is perfect. Bromeliads are not heavy feeders. During the growing season, use a liquid fertilizer, like orchid food or Foxfarm Grow Big, diluted at half strength. Avoid feeding mature plants in winter or when the plant begins to flower. 

Propagating bromeliads from shoots is preferred over the less common and difficult way of growing the plant from seeds. Bromeliads multiply by sending up offsets, or pups, similar to hens and chicks. In a natural growth cycle, a mature plant will send up a flower spike that includes small, sometimes insignificant flowers surrounded by showy bracts. It’s really the bracts that are most appealing in these plants. The bracts are often long-lasting, sometimes for months. After the flower dies, the plant also begins to die over the next few months. However, the parent plant will send out one or several smaller pups at its base. When these pups reach about one-third the size of the parent plant, they can be carefully cut off with a sterile, sharp knife and potted individually in their own containers. The pups typically have a few roots, but if not, they will form roots once potted in their new containers. Okay, so now I’m going to tell you some Bill Nye the Science Guy stuff on how to get your bromeliads to bloom and it is pretty cool. 

While it can be difficult to accurately replicate the conditions any particular bromeliad needs to bloom, some research has shown the plants can be forced to bloom by exposure to ethylene gas. Here is how you do it. So if you want to force your plant to spike, place it in a tightly sealed, clear plastic bag for up to 10 days with a ripe apple. The apple will give off ethylene gas as it decomposes. After that period, throw the apple away and your bromeliad may start a flower spike within a week or so. Don’t worry if it doesn’t happen, like I said earlier, it is difficult to get them to bloom indoors, up north. But they are fun to grow and great at brightening a room. Next week I think we can start talking about seed starting as the time is getting closer.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here