How To Turn 1 Bromeliad Into 3

Because babies in any form are so cute.

August 24, 2016
growing bromeliads
Larell Scardelli

So you’ve already determined that while your once vibrant bromeliad is browning, it’s also refocusing its energy on giving off new life (you can read more about that here). These little guys are called pups, babies, or offspring and look like tightly rolled pieces of paper shooting out from the stem of your original, parent plant. Your original might throw 1 to 3 pups at one time says Teresa Watkins, of Sustainable Horticultural Environments. Here’s how to safely remove them from the parent and expand your beautiful bromeliad family.

(No room? No problem! See how you can grow tomatoes in the driveway, dill on the deck, and peppers on the porch with Rodale's Edible Spots & Pots—get your copy now!)

tools for cutting bromeliads
Larell Scardelli
What You'll Need

A ready-to-propagate bromeliad
A pair of sharp, sterile scissors
4” pots (for however many pups you have)
Well draining soil
Skewers or chopsticks
Ruler

bromeliads
Larell Scardelli
Are They Ready?

Leaving pups on the parent plant until they are ½ to ⅓ its size will help them reach maturity quickly. “By leaving these offsets attached, they're able to take in nourishment from their mother, expediting their growth,” the experts at Bromeliads.info explain. You also have the option to remove them when they're small, so your parent plant will throw more pups, though caring for them is a bit trickier. This choice is yours. I decided to wait until my pups were a good size. I also had no idea what was going on until they were pretty large, so this step was slightly unintentional. 

Related: This Cool Trick Turns 1 Succulent Into 3

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cutting bromeliad
Larell Scardelli
Cutting The Cord

Don’t fret over this step. I was nervous to start snipping away, but it’s very simple. Find the base of the pup you want to remove. If there is a leaf in the way, gently pull it back. Using a sharp pair of scissors or knife, cut as close to the parent’s stem as possible. Some leaves may fall off, but that's okay! Repeat this step for all pups.

bromeliad pups
Larell Scardelli
Triplets!

Now you have your adorable pups. Sometime have little roots on the bottom, which is a good indication that they can survive on their own, though it's not necessary. And as you can see, mine are all root-less. 

Related: 6 Very Cool Ways To Decorate With Succulents

4 inch pot
Larell Scardelli
Prepare A New Home

Experts say to plant your new babies in pots that are 4” deep. I like to use the 4”-ish rule.

 
 
pots filled with succulent potting material
Larell Scardelli
And A Comfy Bed

Bromeliads are part of the epiphyte genus, so they love well-draining, acidic soil. I’ve always used Bonsai Jack soil for my succulents and bromeliads. “Don't plant the bromeliad too deep. They don't need a root system, but get their nutrients and water from the air,” Watkins advises.

bromeliads
Larell Scardelli
Support Them

Bromeliads sprout roots to hold onto trees in the wild. In pots, their root systems are very shallow and only to stabilize their own weight. Since most pups don’t have a root system yet, they're likely to be unstable in their new pots. Use sticks, chopstick, or skewers to keep them from wobbling. 

Related: 14 Ways To Use Chopsticks In The Garden

bromeliad
Larell Scardelli
Tend To The Parent

Feel free to cut the browning bloom off the parent plant, as it’s a little unsightly. Pull away the inner leaves and snip as close to the bottom of the bud as possible. 

Related: Why Your Bromeliad Plant Is Turning Brown

 
 
bromeliad cuttings and babies
Larell Scardelli
More Babies?

Ah, that’s better. I snipped off a few outer leaves as well to keep it looking fresh. Depending on where in the life cycle your parent plant is, it might throw more babies, or it might just fade away leaving you identical copies of it to love and care for.

bromeliads
Larell Scardelli
Love And Care For Them

Light, warmth, and humidity are three important factors for growing healthy bromeliads, experts say. I keep my plants inside by an east-facing window with a light breeze blowing. Pups love indirect morning light and shade for the rest of the day, as they require less light than mature bromeliads.

When watering, be sure to keep the soil moist but not wet. I’d recommend collecting rainwater (which has lots of nutrients) and using a spray bottle to keep them sated. Remember, bromeliads take in water through their leaves and cup (the area where the leaves come together). Always freshen the water that falls into the cup to avoid rot. Consider using a long eyedropper or kitchen baster to remove old water. 

Depending on the type of bromeliad you have, it will take 2 to 3 years for your pups to mature and bloom. Enjoy!