With the right care, Bromeliads can grow to impressive sizes. So why does yours seem so shrimpy? There are a few possible reasons why your Bromeliad isn’t growing, depending on its age, care conditions, and placement in your home. We’ll run through the most likely explanations to help you get your plant back on track.
Lack of sunlight or improper watering are the most common causes of slow growth in Bromeliads. Inadequate humidity or a pest infestation can slow your plant down too. It’s also possible your Bromeliad isn’t growing because it needs more fertilizer, though you should only increase its dosage slowly and cautiously.
In general, it’s best to proceed with care when trying to boost your Bromeliad’s growth. These plants aren’t especially fast-growing even if all their needs are met, and you can damage them if you change too much too quickly. Try changing one element of your plant’s care at a time and wait to see if it works. Here are the most likely reasons why your Bromeliad’s growth is stalled — and some suggestions on what to do about each one.
#1: Your Bromeliad Is Done Growing
Some houseplants will keep growing and producing leaves as long as they’re receiving adequate care. Bromeliads are different. Nearly all of them are monocarpic, meaning they flower once and then slowly wither away. The period of senility and decline could last for as little as a few months or as long as three years, but once it sets in, it’s irreversible.
So don’t be surprised that your Bromeliad isn’t growing after it’s already flowered. The plant won’t get any taller from this point forward.
However, you should still see some smaller clusters of leaves appearing around the sides. These are clones of the plants, referred to as “pups” by seasoned Bromeliad growers. These miniature offsets generally won’t get as big as their parent until well after it’s died off. But you can cut them off and repot them as soon as they reach ⅓ of the original Bromeliad’s size.
On the other hand, if the growth of the pups has stalled, that may be cause for concern. You might also have a problem if your Bromeliad hasn’t bloomed yet but it still won’t grow. See below for some possible explanations.
#2: Your Bromeliad Needs More Light
Very few plants grown indoors get as big as they could in nature. One of the main reasons is that there’s simply more sunlight outside. All of the energy that drives a plant’s growth comes from the sun, and even a relatively shady spot in the forest tends to see more light than a room in the average house.
If your Bromeliad isn’t growing like it should, the most likely culprit is a lack of sunlight. This may come as a surprise if you’ve heard that these are “low-light plants”. It’s true that they don’t like lots of heat and direct sun and can survive in more shade than some plants. Still, a Bromeliad won’t grow properly without a healthy amount of light.
Consider moving your plant to a sunnier location to see if you can boost its growth. Don’t go overboard — you don’t want a Bromeliad right next to an unshaded south-facing window. A few hours of direct sunlight in the morning or evening can work wonders, though. Even a very sunny window can be made more hospitable by hanging some wispy curtains.
The key is to make the change bit by bit. Put your Bromeliad in the new spot for an hour or so, then move it back. The next day, give it an hour and a half in the sun.
Continue like this until the plant can last all day in the location you’ve chosen. If it starts to show signs of sunburn (dry, brown spots on the leaves), then either you’re moving too fast, or the new spot is simply too bright.
#3: You’re Overwatering
Oversaturated soil is a major health risk for indoor Bromeliads. They tend to have shallow roots that don’t absorb much water. You should be waiting for the top 2 inches of the potting mix to dry out before watering your Bromeliad. If you don’t, you could create a low-oxygen environment that smothers the roots and promotes the growth of harmful fungi.
Pay attention to the soil — does it remain wet for more than a few days after being watered? If so, this may be why your Bromeliad isn’t growing. More dire warning signs include rapidly yellowing foliage, soft spots in the leaves, and dramatic wilting. These indicators might mean you need to treat your plant for root rot.
You might also want to consider repotting your plant in a growing medium with better aeration and drainage. A mix of rocky or woody ingredients like pumice or perlite along with something light and fluffy like coconut coir should work well. And remember that you don’t need to water as often when it’s cold and dark outside.
#4: You’re Not Watering Enough
It’s important to shoot for a happy medium when it comes to keeping your Bromeliad hydrated. Both too much and too little water can stop it from getting bigger. If the leaves are curling inward or getting crispy at the edges, your plant may be too thirsty to grow.
The solution is straightforward: water your Bromeliad more. To make sure you don’t overdo it, you should still be checking to make sure the upper soil is dry first. However, you can start making these checkups more regularly, testing at least once a week.
A Bromeliad with a “well” or “urn” at the center of its foliage offers you an alternate strategy. These plants can absorb water through their leaves, so as long as you keep the well at least ⅓ full, your Bromeliad should stay hydrated. That way, you can mostly ignore the soil, only giving it an occasional watering to encourage the roots to grow.
Just be sure to rinse your plant’s well out and refresh the water every one to two weeks. This keeps it oxygenated and prevents fungal buildup that could cause crown rot.
#5: Your Bromeliad Needs Humidity
The climates where Bromeliads grow wild tend to have more moisture than a typical American or European home. (There are a few exceptions, like the desert-dwelling Puyas, but they’re much less common as houseplants.) Dry air can make your plant a bit less enthusiastic about growing.
Unless you live in a desert climate, low humidity usually isn’t enough to be the entire reason your Bromeliad isn’t growing. It could be keeping it from reaching its full potential, though. A cheap hygrometer can tell you the moisture level near your plant. A Bromeliad tends to be happiest and healthiest when the relative humidity is around 60-75%.
For a low-tech humidity hack, place a few tall jars or vases of pure water around your plant and let them slowly evaporate. This will only move the needle a modest amount, but it may provide a small growth boost. A humidifier that can automatically sense and adjust the level of saturation in the air will work even better.
Before you try increasing your Bromeliad’s humidity, don’t forget to research the specific variety you’re growing. If its natural habitat is a desert or a windswept mountainside, it probably doesn’t need extra moisture in the air.
#6: Pests Are Keeping Your Bromeliad From Growing
Although Bromeliads aren’t the most pest-prone family, they can be afflicted by common houseplant pests like:
- Mealybugs. These crawling insects can hide in small gaps between your plant’s leaves, producing blobs of cottony-looking white wax. Their feeding can leave foliage yellow and withered, and they may also produce a sticky sludge called honeydew.
- Scale. Sort of like the more stubborn cousins of mealybugs, scale insects hunker down beneath an armored shell and stick to the plant’s leaves. They look more like a disease than a bug, forming clusters of reddish or brownish bumps on the foliage.
- Spider mites. Too small to see with the naked eye, spider mites leave scars on the leaves that resemble pale yellow dust. You may also see their wispy webbing.
- Thrips. Thrips are also tiny and hard to spot, but if you shake the plant you may be able to see them hopping around the leaves. They cause similar damage to spider mites.
Submerging your Bromeliad underwater for a few minutes or rinsing off in the shower may wash off and/or drown many of these pests. It’s usually best to follow up this treatment with some kind of gentle insecticidal spray, such as neem oil or horticultural soap.
Make sure to coat every possible surface on the plant, since these chemicals only kill bugs on contact. Don’t leave your Bromeliad in direct sunlight after this type of treatment — it will be more vulnerable to sunburn for a few days.
Be prepared to repeat the treatment a few times to fully squash an infestation. Scale bugs might also require tougher measures, such as swabbing the leaves with rubbing alcohol.
#7: Your Bromeliad Isn’t Getting Enough Nutrition
This one goes at the end of the list because you should always check other possible causes before messing with your plant’s nutrition. If your Bromeliad isn’t growing because it’s light-starved, overwatered, or beset by pets, adding fertilizer will only make matters worse.
Still, your plant does need some supplemental nutrition to grow indoors. If you’re not currently supplying any, now may be the time to start. Every two to four weeks during the growing season, apply a ¼ dose of liquid houseplant fertilizer. This may supply the missing ingredients that your plant needs to grow properly.
Growers who are already supplying fertilizer can try increasing the dosage. Do so in small increments, watching carefully for signs of an overdose. Providing too much fertilizer may lead to yellowing leaves and blackened tips. An excess of nitrogen can also cause colorful Bromeliads to lose their red pigmentation and turn green.
After trying each of the solutions above, pause for a while and give your plant a few weeks to adjust. If your Bromeliad still isn’t growing, you can attempt another fix. There are no prizes for speed in houseplant care, and these plants can be quite sensitive to change. Making small, steady improvements to your Bromeliad’s care is usually sufficient to promote healthy growth.