Growing Bromeliads Outdoors

It is always mesmerizing to see a bromeliad growing outdoor. How can you do it successfully?

Are you a fan of bromeliads and wonder if you can successfully grow them outdoors? If so, the chances are high you can enjoy these gorgeous plants in your garden! You can grow them as landscape plants in some climates year-round, but you may need to overwinter them indoors for safety in cooler areas.

So let’s talk about if you can grow them outside and the ins and outs of caring for outdoor plants.

Can I Grow Bromeliads Outside?

Many of the bromeliad species are native to tropical regions, coming from the understories of rainforests. These native habitats determine how well plants grow in various environments and if they can handle outdoor conditions. This makes it critical you look at the plant’s recommended growing zones and the conditions it needs when determining if you can grow a plant outdoors. 

When deciding if your climate is suitable for growing plants outside, consider the following.

  • Does your garden have suitable sunlight? Bromeliads need plenty of bright, indirect light, but the leaves will burn if the plant has full sunlight exposure. 
  • What is the humidity in your area? Most bromeliads need high humidity levels, and it’s challenging to adjust the moisture outside compared to growing plants indoors. 
  • Is your climate okay for bromeliads? Are summer and winter temperatures in line with their needs? If you are in a cold area, you might be able to grow a bromeliad outside, but you will need to bring it inside for the winter.
Flowering bromeliad plants in garden

How To Care For Outdoor Bromeliads

Bromeliads are often grown as landscape plants in warmer climates, adding a bold pop of color to yards and gardens with their beautiful foliage and stunning flowers. Caring for them outside is straightforward, as plants are relatively low-maintenance, as long as they have the appropriate environmental conditions (temperature, sunshine, humidity, etc.). 

Choosing The Right Bromeliad Type For Your Hardiness Zone

The most important aspect of growing outdoor bromeliads is picking a species suited for your hardiness zone. Plants have evolved to tolerate a range of summer and winter temperatures, but many species prefer it when air temperatures are between 60 and 80°F. This preference is why they are most popular in growing zones 10 and 11. Some types can tolerate cooler temperatures. 

If your winters are too harsh for plants, that doesn’t automatically rule out growing one in your yard. You’ll just need to get a little creative—grow it in a container and bring it indoors for the winter, where the temperatures are milder.

landscaping garden using white pebbles

Pick An Appropriate Spot In Regards To Sunshine

Your bromeliad needs a spot where it can receive at least 6 to 8 hours of partial sun. With many species native to the understories of rainforests, plants are accustomed to filtered or dappled sunlight. They aren’t capable of withstanding a full day of bright, direct sun, especially in the summertime when the sun’s rays are intense. 

Plants can tolerate a couple of hours of direct sun, preferably in the morning versus the afternoon. You’ll know if your bromeliad is getting too much sunlight as the leaves will bleach out, taking on a yellowish or white appearance.

Make Sure Your Plant Doesn’t Have Soggy Roots

Many bromeliads are epiphytes or plants that don’t grow in soil but instead attach themselves to the bark of trees. Because of their growing nature, they are very picky about the soil they grow in and how much water they get. They like well-draining soil and only want a drink when the soil’s top two inches are dry. 

If your garden soil has a lot of clay, you can add a chunky bromeliad growing mix or another type of organic material like compost to improve the drainage. You can also create a mound of this amended soil to grow the plant in, raising the roots out of the heavy ground.

tropical plant pineapple species

Protect Your Bromeliad From Cold Weather

If you’re growing a dyckia species or one of the many cold-tolerant species of vriesea, your plants are usually okay down to about 20°F. They might see minor leaf damage but typically recover when it warms up. For other plants, as soon as frost threatens, bring the container indoors for protection, whether in your garage or your home. 

Does A Bromeliad Need Fertilizer?

Plants need minimal resources to survive because of their origin, so they don’t need fertilization. However, they will grow better if you give them a small dose of liquid fertilizer once a month during the summer months. Apply a bromeliad-specific formula at one-quarter strength to the soil surrounding the plant, keeping it off the leaves. 

Caring For Your Bromeliad After Flowering

After your bromeliad flowers, it will start slowly declining until it eventually dies. Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest drawbacks to growing these plants. You might see the plant do well for upwards of a year, but once the leaves start to wither, use sterilized pruners to cut the flower stem off at the base. 

Removing the flower stalk directs the plant’s remaining energy into producing babies, or pups, that you can propagate into new plants to grow.

How To Plant Bromeliad Pups

While most gardeners are sad to see their beloved bromeliad start to fade, they can find solace in the new plants the parent produces as it declines. When the offsets get to be about one-third or one-half the size of the mother plant, carefully separate them from the base and plant them in their own container or garden spot. 

Common Plant Diseases In Bromeliads

Unfortunately, bromeliads have problems with Pythium, rust disease, root and crown rot, and Helminthosporium leaf spot. These problems typically result from unfavorable growing conditions, or improper care, with overwatering being the primary cause. Insect problems, sunburn, and mechanical injury increase a plant’s susceptibility to diseases.

The best line of defense against diseases is prevention. Be very mindful when watering, making sure the soil isn’t soggy, keep plants from getting sunburnt, and quickly treat any insect infestations. If prevention doesn’t keep diseases at bay, immediately follow the recommended treatment for that specific infection.

Watching For and Treating Insect Problems

Bromeliads have fewer pest problems than most plants, but you may see issues with aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites when grown outdoors. All of the major issues you see in your other outdoor plants. Regularly scout for pests and treat your plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap as soon as issues are seen.

One drawback to growing bromeliads outdoors is any species with a central tank can become a green ground for mosquitos. While a nuisance to anyone nearby, they don’t damage the plants specifically. Regularly refreshing the tank water will help minimize problems.

A bromeliad flowering plant, red leaves
Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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