Why Your Bromeliad Plant Is Turning Brown

All the TLC in the world won't keep your beloved bromeliad forever green.

August 10, 2016
Bromeliad Plant

Last Valentine’s Day, my astute boyfriend gave me a beautiful burgundy Guzmania Bromeliad or Guzmania sup. Besides being so happy that he bought me a living plant rather than cut flowers (and they're not even one of these 5 flowers that are way more romantic than roses), I was ecstatic about learning how to care for a new species...and then completely bummed when it started to look less than pretty. Here's what I figured out about caring for my bromeliad.

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Bromeliad Plant proper care
Larell Scardelli
Proper Care

To my surprise, this exotic looking plant is easy-peasy to take care of. It loves medium to bright light, good air circulation, and a shallow pot, says Michelle Polk, gardener, herbalist, and owner of Houseplant Girl. There are more than 3,000 species of bromeliads, and the plant's flower comes in a range of colors including orange, yellow, pink, and red.

Watering bromeliads is similar to watering any other houseplant—test the soil to make sure it’s dry before watering. But instead of getting the soil directly wet, fill the center of the plant where the leaves come together to form what’s called a cup or tank. “Make sure the tank is full of water, and don’t allow it go get empty,” Polk says. To avoid rot and salt buildup from water, change the tank frequently (about once a week).

Related: 7 Flowers That Can Survive Without Your Help

I did all of this right. I kept my bromeliad in the shallow pot it came in, situated it in front of an east-facing window in my bedroom, and kept my ceiling fan on low at night for circulation. Each Sunday, when I watered my other houseplants, I’d empty what was in the tank, and refill with cool water. During the week I would peek in the cup and make sure it was full. But despite my diligent parenting, my bromeliad flower started to shrivel and brown. What in the world was I doing wrong? Did it not like my room’s environment? Was this a sign of my relationship?

Bromeliad Plant
Larell Scardelli
It’s Not Dead

The truth is, most bromeliads only bloom once in their life, but it may last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Polk explains, “Many are sold when their flowers are in bloom.” So when I got mine, it was at its pretty peak, and inevitably started fading after a few months. “We tend to think it’s our fault, but don’t,” Polk adds.

Teresa Watkins of Sustainable Horticultural Environments says the decline process takes about a year, and that cutting off the browning head does nothing to save the plant, but is purely aesthetic. I have yet to cut mine, but the decapitation is right around the corner.

When the colorful flower dies, the plant will give off offspring signaling the end of its life cycle. I brushed back the long green leaves, and to my delight, found three little sprouts coming up from the bottom of the plant that looked like rolled pieces of paper. I decided my relationship would survive, and that I wasn’t a total indoor plant failure, because my plant was having babies!

Related: 10 Houseplants You Hardly Ever Have To Water

Bromeliad Plant pup
Larell Scardelli
Continuing The Legacy

Five months after Valentine’s Day, the pups are about ⅓ the size of the mother plant, which Watkins says is the right size to remove them. It’s not necessary to do so, but it’s recommended if you’d like to share a pup or would like your original plant to throw more offspring.

Related: 5 Houseplants That Can Thrive In Dark Apartments

I haven’t removed the pups yet, because I’m waiting for them to get a little bigger, and honestly I have to find the space for three more pots in my room (indoor gardener problems). The new little gals will take about a year to bloom if I keep the humidity high, but I don’t want to rush them. After all, they were a labor of love.