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Bromeliad Care Spotlight: Why Bromeliads Rot

June 12, 2015 3 min read

Most bromeliads do not require nor will they tolerate constantly being wet. In nature, they do not like to remain soggy, in fact they are most often found in areas where they are more dry than wet. Overwatering can cause damage to your bromeliad much faster from being too dry.  There are three major sources of rot problems faced in the cultivation of bromeliads:

Crown Rot-This rot usually starts in the center cup and moves down through the plant.

Stem Rot-This rot usually forms in the stem at or below the soil line and moves up into the crown and down into the roots.

Root rot- This rot starts at the leaves and may move into the stem if not checked.

Many bromeliads are shipped without much of a root system (bare root) and do not need large pots. You may be tempted to pot a full-sized bromeliad in a very large, pot, but this may be detrimental to root growth because it may hold too much moister and cause the plant to rot away. On the other hand, a pot that is too small may not hold the plant upright. Choosing the right size pot is related to

  • The potting medium you choose (how porous is the material and how fast will it drain and dry out)
  • The amount of air movement ( Bromeliads love air moving around them. especially their roots)
  • The watering schedule. Contrary to some opinion, bromeliads do not like to be overwatered. “When in doubt, let dry out”. More Bromeliads are killed by overwatering than by under watering.

Choose the right pot – perhaps a six inch one — so you will not have to stand the plant up all the time. If you over pot, the roots may rot. My rule of thumb is the pot should be small enough to allow the potting medium to dry quickly, but large enough to hold the plant upright and prevent tipping over.

Choose the right potting medium –Bromeliads will grow in almost any type of container as long as it has good drainage. Commercial potting mix or soil mix is fine as long as the drainage is good. A good rule is coarser is better and the more perlite in the mix the better the drainage. A lot of successful growers add more perlite to the commercial mixes to improve the drainage. Adding an inch or two of pea gravel or lava rock will enhance drainage and add to the stability of the potted plant in general.

Plant the Bromeliad at the right depth– When potting, keep the bottom leaves out of the potting medium. This allows the water in the cup to drain quickly. If the Bromeliad is planted too deep, the water in the cup will tend to keep the potting medium too soggy. This will often cause the plant to slowly rot away. Pack the potting medium firmly around the plant seem to give it support but not so deep as to keep the stem from getting good air movement. Make sure the plant is secure and not loose in the potting mixture. A wobbly plant tends not to want to root.

For prevention and treatment of these problems please read the Bromeliad Paradise Care Sheet on Using Hydrogen Peroxide to Treat and Prevent Root Rot.

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