Looking for an easy-care houseplant with a splash of color? Try growing bromeliads in the Guzmania genus. These tropical plants do well in most home settings, and the vibrant hues of their flower stalks can last for months. Here’s what you need to know to grow bromeliads like these at home.
Guzmania bromeliads are native to the New World tropics, including Florida, Mexico, and the West Indies. There are over 100 species in the genus, but two of these (G. lingulata and G. sanguinea) have been cultivated and hybridized to produce the varieties commonly sold at nurseries today. These plants now have the most vivid long-lasting colors, and are easier to care for in a variety of settings.
Bromeliads are air plants (epiphytes), so in the wild they don’t require soil to grow. In fact, many are found in trees or cracks of rocks. When you grow bromeliads at home, you can replicate these conditions, or grow them in regular potting soil. These bromeliads put out a tall flower spike and can be top-heavy, so choose a sturdy pot or weigh it down with stones at the bottom.
Bromeliads like bright indirect light. In their natural environment, they enjoy lots of humidity, so provide the same at home by placing the plant on a shallow dish filled with pebbles and water. Keep them warm, at least 55 degrees F. Water by filling the cup at the base of the plant every few days. If you notice a lot of dead insects or any fungal growth, empty the cup and add fresh water.
Mature bromeliads send up a colorful stalk in the summer, made of bracts (modified leaves). Under the right conditions, small flowers appear at the end of the stalk, but these are small and uninteresting compared to the bracts. The bracts can last for several months. When the bract dies, cut it back low to the cup. The plant itself will soon begin to die, and that’s normal. Watch closely, though, as new small plants (known as pups) should begin to appear at the base. You can trim these and repot them individually when they’re a few inches tall, or leave them to form a clump of new plants. It will be several years before the new plants produce colorful bracts, so be patient.
Like growing tropical epiphytes? Give Phalaenopsis orchids a try!