In warm climates, bromeliads make striking landscape plants.

How to Grow Bromeliads That Need Low Light

by Eulalia Palomo

Sometimes it seems like everyone needs your undivided attention at all times, fortunately Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae) can pretty much take care of themselves. This family of tropical and sub-tropical plants thrive in dark spaces, doesn't eat much, and can go days or weeks without water, making them the ideal houseplant for a busy mom with a lot on her plate. Depending on the species, Bromeliads grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12.

1. Minimalist Needs

When you grow bromeliads in a low-light environment, they don't require any fertilizer. Too much fertilizer causes the plants to grow too quickly, making them spindly. If you've been fertilizing, look out for brown leaf tips and/or white crust at the base of the leaves. You can help correct over fertilizing by leaching the soil. Put the whole pot in the sink, and run water into the pot until it runs out the holes in the bottom. Pests rarely bother bromeliads, especially indoors, and no diseases are of any particular concern.

2. Drainage Matters

Most plants need good drainage but for bromeliads, it's critical. Overwatering quickly leads to rotten roots . Water once a week until the soil is damp all the way through, and let it drain. If you keep the pot on a saucer to catch extra water, empty it when water collects. To give bromeliads the best air circulation around the roots, use an unglazed terra cotta pot with a drainage hole in the bottom and a quick-draining potting soil mix.

3. Over Exposure

Shade-loving bromeliads will start turning yellow if they are getting too much light. Without enough light however, even shade-loving bromeliads will struggle, turning dark green and getting soft. If your bromeliad is showing signs of light deficiency, make the transition to a brighter area slowly -- don't put it straight out in the sun -- until the original color starts to return. Shade-loving bromeliads need two hours of sun per day or less.

4. Low-Light Varieties

While many bromeliads can survive low-light growing conditions in a semi-dormant state, some varieties need deep shade year-round to grow well. Part to full shade bromeliads are ideal for a dark area indoors. Try scarlet star (Guzmania lingulata), hardy in USDA zones 10 through 12. The variety blushing bromeliad (Neoregelia carolinae f. tricolor), hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11, has a red center surrounded by green leaves. Vriesea hieroglyphica, hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11, is a low-light variety that has variegated foliage.

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