Growing bromeliads at home is satisfying for many reasons. Their stunning appearance gives us a taste of the tropics in temperate climates and they're also easy plants to propagate, multiplying in no time. Over a few years, one bromeliad can result in an entire garden of bromeliads. Most people receive bromeliads as gift plants when their colorful bracts rise up from the central plant cup. These bracts, which actually contain the bromeliad's small flowers, last for a long time, sometimes months, before slowly fading away.
Propagating a Bromeliad Pup
After a bract is dead, the mother plant will send out a series of offsets, or bromeliad pups, from the base of the plant. They'll look like tiny versions of the mother plant emerging from between the mother plant's bigger leaves. Use these pups to propagate your bromeliad once they've reached 6 inches in height.
To uproot a pup, use your hands and firmly grip both the mother and the pup and gently pull them apart to separate them or use a sharp shovel, long knife, or small saw. Cut the pup as far down as you can, even below the surface of the soil. Don't be concerned if the pup hasn't developed roots yet—bromeliads are epiphytes, which means their roots are used for holding and securing the plant. They obtain their water and nutrition from their central cups. However, you want to get as much plant material as possible to help the young bromeliad stay firmly positioned in its new home.
After you've removed the pup, either place it into a new pot with drainage holes and new potting media (a one-to-one ratio of potting soil to orchid bark works well) or tie the pup to a branch or corkboard for its new home, which mimics how they grow in their native environments.
The young pups will begin to grow almost immediately, but don't overwater them at first. In the wild, bromeliads collect water in their central cups, located in the middle of the plant. If you grow your bromeliads indoors, water their central cups or keep the potting soil barely moist. A young bromeliad should flower within two to three years, but some species of bromeliads can take up to six years to flower, so you'll need to have some patience and enjoy their foliage in the meantime.
Mother Plant Reproduction
A healthy mother plant will generally produce multiple pups, sometimes as many as three or four, before the plant completely fails.
This kind of propagation is known as asexual reproduction; it's a form of cloning. You can also sexually reproduce bromeliads from seed by crossing two plants, collecting seed and sprouting them. This is a difficult process, however, and takes much longer than asexual reproduction. Bromeliad seeds are sown into small pots or flats, usually on moist sphagnum moss or in a seedling mixture. Keep seedlings moist, warm, and preferably covered with plastic to create a mini-greenhouse effect.