13 Types of Bromeliads to Consider Growing

Bromeliads are beautiful plants that come in all sizes and shapes. Which types should you consider growing?

The Bromeliad family of plants is a large group containing about 75 different genera and more than 3,000 different species. This expanse of plants comes in a range of stunningly rich flower colors, leaf shapes, and sizes, giving the grower many options. To help make sense of the group, plants are separated into types categorized by their leaves or inflorescence.

Of the different genera, the following are the thirteen most common types.

13 Most Common Bromeliad Types

1. Aechmea

USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11

This group is one of the most popular indoor types because plants are resilient and some of the longest-lasting bromeliads. These beautiful plants have striking bracts that last upwards of six months before fading, and the large plants grow well in containers. Aechmea have small roots, so they don’t need large containers, and they forgive slight neglect.

Most of the 150 species in this group are epiphytic and have outstanding foliage. When grown indoors, they like a warm, humid environment. They aren’t cold-tolerant, so they don’t do well in areas where the temperature drops below 55°F.

Beautiful and blooming pink Aechmea flower

2. Ananas

USDA Growing Zones: 11 to 12

Plants in the ananas group are some of the largest, growing upwards of 3’ high and 6’ across. The long leaves have sharp spines and creamy margins. As plants mature, they produce a pinkish fruiting spike that develops a small brown pineapple. The fruits are much more bitter than commercially cultivated pineapple (from the same species) and typically aren’t eaten.

Overall, growing ananas bromeliads is relatively easy. They like hot sun, intense light, and warm temperatures. They make great outdoor ornamental plants in the South and Southwest but are better suited for growing indoors elsewhere.

Little pineapple flower on a farm

3. Billbergia

USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11

Billbergia bromeliads are a few who prefer to be outside versus growing indoors. Most plants have an upright leaf habit, with their pointed leaves arranged in a tight rosette pattern. Some have grassy, cascading leaves. Flowers come out of the top of the plant and only last about a week. Blooms come in white, yellow, purple, blue, or green. 

Growers have created thousands of hybrids, with some staying about two feet tall and others growing much later. Billbergia bromeliads tend to have a lot of white blotching on the foliage and need plenty of direct yet filtered sunlight to maintain the coloration.

one red flower billbergia tropical plant

4. Catopsis

USDA Growing Zones: 10

There are 18 cataposis species, and plants are thought to be carnivorous. Green or yellow-green leaves are soft and spineless, covered with a chalky, powdery substance typically silvery, white, or gray. Flower bracts are generally yellow or white. These plants grow on twigs of trees, attracting more insects to their central tank.  

Plants grow in dense shade in the wild and very rarely in low levels of filtered light. Unlike the other groups, there are no registered catopsis hybrids. Female and male flowers are also on different plants.

A catopsis berteroniana plant growing in the branch of a tree

5. Cryptanthus

USDA Growing Zones: 10–11

Cryptanthus bromeliads are primarily terrestrial and work well as potted plants. This group contains hundreds of species and cultivars and is prized for its foliage. It can be solid, banded, or spotted and ranges from dark green to pink or red. The pointed leaves are arranged in low, tight rosettes, so plants are commonly known as earth stars.

Plants have adapted to growing under forest canopies where they get a good amount of shading or indirect dappled light. They handle a wider range of sunlight exposure than some types as long as you keep plants out of harsh, direct sunlight.

pink leaves and flowers of a cryptanthus plant in garden

6. Dyckia

USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11

With 120 terrestrial species, dyckia bromeliads are often grown as houseplants, but many can withstand low temperatures, making them great outdoor landscape plants. They aren’t actual succulents but can withstand long periods without water due to their sharply-pointed, thick fleshy leaves in yellow, green, red, or gray. Blooms are red, orange, or yellow. 

Dyckia bromeliads are some of the most primitive species and may even live directly attached to rocks instead of growing in soil. This group is unusual, too, as some plants continue to grow after flowering and may flower again under suitable conditions.

small and spikey leaves of a dyckia plant

7. Guzmania

USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11

Named after Anastasio Guzman, an 18th-century naturalist, guzmania plants are some of the most beautiful bromeliads, especially when grown in large groupings. The flowers are insignificant, but leaf colors are available in a striking array from red, orange, and yellow to purple and white. One of the commonly commercialized bromeliad flower crops in Europe, these hybrids bloom for several weeks.

Guzmania plants are sturdy and adaptive, growing both as terrestrials and epiphytically. Their adaptability makes them easy to cultivate, leading to their commercial popularity.

White flower of a guzmania plant

8. Hechtia

USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11

The 50 hechtia species are some of the toughest cultivated plants, going dormant to survive extended drought periods. They are native to Mexico and typically grow on rocky slopes alongside succulents and cacti. Long leaves are edged with sharp spines arranged in rosettes that grow low to the ground.

Hechtia can survive in extremely hot and cold temperatures—down to 20°F for short periods—and plants prefer a temperature swing between night and day. The best growing conditions see a temperature drop of around 15°F between day and night.

long, thin and spiky leaves of a hechtia

9. Neoregelia

USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 10

The neoregelia group is popular because of its wide range of plant sizes, leaf textures, colors, and blooms. Brightly colored leaves retain their color throughout the year, and a compound head is set in the center of the leaf rosette. Flower bracts are typically shorter than other types and usually have white or blue petals.

This group is often used for hybridizing because it results in amazing plants. Right now, there are over 500 registered cultivars ranging in characteristics. One of the smallest grows six inches tall and about 1” in diameter. Plants grow in the soil or on lower shaded tree limbs in the wild. 

reddish green leaves of a neoregelia plant

10. Nidularium

USDA Growing Zones: 11 and above

Also known as little nest bromeliads, nidularium are perennial evergreen plants that get their name from a nestlike arrangement of short leaves in the center of the plant. They are usually found growing on decaying logs and on the ground in nature. Their flower rosettes are generally tiny compared to the other genera but still beautiful.

Nidularium plants are very sensitive to watering, so you need to control their moisture carefully. Most plants die from getting too much water or not having enough moisture in the leaves due to underwatering.

A Nidularium tropical plant with gradient leaves

11. Portea

USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11

The portea genera contains six hardy species with large spines on the edges of their narrow, yellow-green leaves. Leaves provide a beautiful background to a rosy red flower stalk and blooms in coral pink, lavender, and blue-gray combinations. Plants grow over three feet tall when blooming and produce bluish-colored berries.

Portea plants grow indoors and outside. The decorative leaves tolerate low temperatures, but the plants are not frost-tolerant.

Some dried leaves of a portrea plant

12. Tillandsia

USDA Growing Zones: 11

Commonly known as “air plants” in the horticultural trade, tillandsia is one of the largest genera with more than 500 species. Most species are epiphytes, and they love lots of light and high humidity. They produce tubular flowers in white, pink, violet, and blue and are one of the only groups that do well in direct sunlight.

Air plants are popular with people who have a strong desire and a “brown” or “black” thumb. These hardy bromeliads need very little care and can be grown on a wide range of surfaces in the home.

Long and thin leaves of a tillandsia air plant

13. Vriesea

USDA Growing Zones: 10–11

The vriesea group is made up of somewhat strange yet oddly beautiful plants. Flowering types are much more common, but some plants are classified as foliage types. Vriesea plants have colorful, flat flower bracts displaying tiny and typically insignificant blooms. Foliage is often variegated and appears feathery.

Vriesea bromeliads are closely related to the tillandsia type. There are approximately 250 species and dozens of registered hybrids.

Shiny leaves and blooming flowers of an astrid bromelia plant
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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