The Bromeliad Society of Greater Chicago Title Splash

Frequently Asked Questions.

Q. "My bromeliad died, what happened?"

A. The most common problem with bromeliads is the lack or overabundance of water. In nature, most bromeliads live in moist, fast-draining media like coarse humus made of bark and leaf mold. If we keep their roots sitting in water or allow the water in the tank to go stagnant, rot will set in and kill the plant. The most common way this appears is with the leaves turning brown or yellow from the ground up, eventually killing the whole plant. This is rapid and mostly irreversible. Throw out the plant and ask one of the society members for a new one.
Overdrying is also a problem, since with certain potting mixes, the water runs straight through, and the mix remains dry. Try letting the pot sit in some water for about 30 minutes, then water over the top of the soil, letting water drain through. If your bromeliad has a tank, don't forget to flood the tank to flush out stagnant water.
Other ways bromeliads die are: Exposure to extremes of temperature, exposure to copper salts, murderous squirrels, scale insects, and the most perplexing -- unknown reasons. Even the best horticulturists among us kill plants and don't ever find out why

Q. "What do I do with this new sprout?"

A. The temptation is to separate the sprout and plant it in some similar media. However, the timing of this can be crucial. Plants separated too early (too small) may flounder or die. Plants separated too late can be deformed by crowding. A good rule is to separate plants when the daughter plant (the pup) is at least 1/2 the size of the mother plant. Some genera, like Vriesia and Tillandsia do better when separated as a clump rather than as single pups. When removing a daughter plant, try to divide the two at the exact point where the daughter attaches to the main mother stem, or you could end up with a handful of loose leaves. The mother plant can be used to produce further offspring when repotted.

Q. "My bromeliad has been growing for 4 generations and has never bloomed."

A. Some bromeliads just don't bloom very often. One example is the subfamily Pitcairnioideae, members of which can sometimes take a decade to bloom. Bromeliads that are raised for their attractive blooms and flower spikes can sometimes refuse to bloom due to suboptimal light. Try varying your light schedule (especially if you use artificial light) to reflect the seasonal light/dark changes. If all else fails, you can try forcing adult plants (don't force immature plants) to bloom by keeping it in a loose plastic bag with an apple for a week. The ethylene gas released by ripening fruit is a flowering hormone that can initiate blooming in reluctant plants. Keep in mind that forced blooms often seem less vibrantly colored or stunted, so it's usually best to allow plants to bloom on their own.