Potting bromeliads at the right depth helps prevent rot.
There are two basic types of bromeliads, terrestrial (plants living in soil) and epiphytic (plants that live on trees or rocks). Some bromeliads will grow either way. It is important for you to determine where your plant fits. This can be done by doing research on the individual species or hybrid or contacting you seller for more information. This information sheet will focus on terrestrial bromeliads, or those that prefer to be “potted up”.
Correctly potting or repotting a bromeliad is very important, just like it is important for most plants. The fact is, a healthy root system for bromeliads is a key to your plants health. Many web sites may tell you that this is not the case, but many bromeliads are lost to this bad advice.
Potting is one of the key success factors in caring for your bromeliad. The key success factors are:
Most bromeliads are shipped without soil and not 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 over watered. “When in doubt, let dry out”. More bromeliads are killed by overwatering than by under watering.
Choosing the right pot
This depends on plant size (see below) — large enough to support the plant but small enough to allow the roots to get air. 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.
General rule for selecting pot size:
- Small Growth Habit Bromeliad – 3″ – 4″ Pot
- Medium Growth Habit Bromeliad – 5″ – 6″ Pot
- Large Growth Habit Bromeliad – 8″ Pot
- Very Large Growth Habit Bromeliad – 10″ Pot
Choosing 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 usually adequate, but can be enhanced to make sure that the soil will dry out. A good rule of thumb is that coarser is better. A lot of successful growers add perlite to the commercial mixes to improve the drainage. Perlite is soft and porous, kind of like styrofoam, and allows the water to flow through the soil quickly. This is a great way to moisten the soil to provide enough water for the roots to take in, but prevent the water from pooling. Adding an inch or two of pea gravel or lava rock to the bottom of the pot will also enhance drainage and add to the stability of the potted plant in general.
Planting 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, often causing the plant to slowly rot away.
If a plant is able to move around or leans over from watering or from wind, it will have a much harder time rooting. 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, you want to se just a little bit of the white under the leaves above the soil level. If the bottom leaves are preventing you from being able to get the stem deep enough, don’t be afraid to remove some of them. You can also try adding pea gravel of lava rock to the base of the plant.