Growing Bromeliads can feel like transplanting a piece of the jungle into your home. Yet chances are that your living space is nowhere near as damp as the actual jungle. Should this make you nervous about your plant’s health? Do Bromeliads need humidity to thrive, and if so, what’s the best way to supply it?
Some Bromeliads need humidity levels between 50% and 75% to grow to the fullest. Others are much more tolerant of dry air and may be at risk of rot if the conditions are too moist. Almost all species should be fine with a relative humidity of roughly 50%, which you can maintain using a humidifier if necessary.
Other techniques, such as misting or partially enclosed terrariums, may also serve useful purposes in Bromeliad care. It’s important to know what you’re trying to achieve with these methods, though. Otherwise, they may backfire (or simply waste your time). This guide to Bromeliad humidity needs will help you keep your plants from getting dehydrated or waterlogged.
How Much Humidity Do Your Bromeliads Need?
Answering questions about what Bromeliads like can be difficult, simply because these plants come in so many different varieties [linkkkkk to How Many Types of Bromeliads]. There are over 3,500 species spread across a dizzying array of different biomes and climates. Some grow on rocky mountain slopes; others nestle against the damp bark of giant rainforest trees.
So, instead of asking if Bromeliads need humidity, you should be asking what variety you have.
Bromeliads That Don’t Need Much Humidity
You can often spot the Bromeliads that do well in low-humidity environments by looking at their foliage. Are the leaves thick, stiff, and covered in wicked-looking barbs? If so, this plant is likely adapted to life in drier conditions. Here are a few examples:
- Hechtias. Many members of this genus could be mistaken for cacti thanks to their succulent limbs and prominent spikes. They live in the deserts of Central America and will be fine with minimal humidity.
- Puyas. These plants are hardy mountain dwellers, resistant to cold, drought, and low humidity. Many of them have turquoise leaf surfaces, a tell-tale sign of the waxy layer that helps them retain moisture.
- Dyckias. The sword-shaped, serrated leaves of these plants are very similar to those of Hechtias, as are their nearly nonexistent humidity requirements. Dyckias can also bloom multiple times, unlike many other Bromeliads.
Bromeliads That Like Moderate Humidity
These Bromeliads are fairly easygoing when it comes to moisture in the air. They appreciate medium humidity levels, around 50%. However, they shouldn’t shrivel up if the air is a bit drier or rot if it’s a bit more damp.
- Aechmeas. Members of this genus are often considered the ideal beginner Bromeliads. They’re not especially picky about many of their growing conditions, and that very much includes humidity.
- Tillandsias. The ever-popular Air Plants can grow without soil, taking in water through their leaves. You might assume they need lots of moisture in the air, but as long as you’re watering them regularly and the humidity doesn’t fall below 50%, they should be fine.
Bromeliads That Need High Humidity
Some very popular Bromeliad varieties come from high-humidity environments. They may be able to survive in a home with less moisture, but if you want them to grow as lush and beautiful as possible, you should strive to keep the humidity above 60%.
- Vrieseas. Vriseas are probably the least picky of the Bromeliads in this category, but they’re still at their best when the humidity is around 65%.
- Billbergias. Though Billbergias are okay with mild droughts, they prefer high humidity levels. When they get too dry, they can lose some of their vivid coloration.
- Guzmanias. These are probably the most widely available Bromeliad houseplants. Guzmanias are definitely jungle plants, complete with a prodigious appetite for humidity.
- Cryptanthus. Also known as “Earth Stars”, most Cryptanthus plants live in soil rather than growing as epiphytes. These Bromeliads need humidity to keep their beautifully patterned leaves healthy.
Other Humidity Considerations for Bromeliads
The guidelines above should give you a decent idea of how well your Bromeliad will tolerate dry air. But don’t forget that even within a single genus, these plants can have very different needs.
A good rule of thumb is that Bromeliads with more gray-blue coloring tend to be better in dry conditions. That silvery sheen on the leaves is caused by trichomes — hairlike scales that help with moisture retention and capture. You can also usually trust that bromeliads with stiffer, pointier, or spikier leaves are adapted to dry environments.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Bromeliads need humidity more urgently in high temperatures and bright light. These factors increase the rate at which moisture escapes from their leaves. If your Bromeliad is receiving any direct sunlight, you may need to take extra care to keep the air slightly damp.
Air circulation can also be almost as important as humidity. Damp, still air can lead to fungal infections and rot, which are the most common killers of indoor Bromeliads. Don’t place your Bromeliads so close that their leaves are touching. Setting up a small fan close by may also help.
When in Doubt, Medium Humidity Is Best for Bromeliads
If all this information seems overwhelming, don’t panic. Humidity is rarely the most important factor affecting a Bromeliad’s health. And, almost any of these plants will do just fine if you can maintain a relative humidity of around 50%.
There’s no substitute for looking up the specific recommendations for the plant you’re buying, though. Almost every quick and easy rule in houseplant care has exceptions.
How to Provide Extra Humidity for Bromeliads
If you’re thinking your plants might need more humidity than they’re getting, what should you do? First of all, it’s probably best to verify that the air really is too dry. You can purchase a hygrometer online for under $10. This simple tool will let you quickly confirm whether your Bromeliads need humidity.
Once you’ve verified that you need more moisture, you have a few options:
#1: Buy a Humidifier
If you have the budget for it, an automatic humidifier is the best way to handle this issue. It will monitor local moisture levels and adjust its output to maintain a steady humidity level. None of the “plant humidity hacks” you’ll find online can match the efficiency, power, and convenience of even an inexpensive humidifier.
A small humidifier is a good choice if you just want to liven up a small plant nook. For larger spaces, you may want a more advanced model that can also switch between cool and warm mist — this can be nice during winter weather. Check out this article for some detailed suggestions about using humidifiers effectively.
#2: Switch to Semi-Hydro
Growing a Bromeliad in a semi-hydroponic setup will provide a nice small-scale increase in humidity. With this method, you use no soil, just a vase or jar filled with a moisture-wicking material. Keep the bottom ⅓ of the container filled with water and let the plant’s roots grow down through the pebbles. Thanks to the constant flow of water vapor rising from the reservoir, your Bromeliad’s immediate environment will be a little more humid.
Make sure to use a sterile, inorganic substrate to support your Bromeliad. Soak it thoroughly before transferring your plant so that it will already be nice and damp. Any of the following ingredients can work as the base for this operation:
#3: Group Your Humidity-Loving Bromeliads
When lots of plants with healthy appetites for humidity are growing near each other, they can create a moist micro-climate. They’ll all be releasing vapor from their leaves at once. This gives a small but tangible bump to the humidity levels in the immediate area.
Try setting all of your Bromeliads (and any other houseplants that adore humidity) in the same corner. Just make sure to space them out enough that they have room to breathe. Leave small gaps between plants to allow for healthy airflow.
#5: Enclosing Your Plants
It’s much easier to keep the humidity high in a small space. That’s why Bromeliads that love moisture often do well in terrariums. Even a partial enclosure can help your plant stay hydrated.
We’ve written a detailed guide to terrarium setup. The basic process is pretty much the same for Bromeliads as for other plants, though many species can be attached to rocks or pieces of driftwood for extra visual flair. Just make sure to keep your terrarium out of direct light, mist the plant lightly if it gets too dry, and mop up some moisture with a rag or paper towel if you see a lot of condensation.
Air circulation is especially important for Bromeliads in tanks. If you’re building a large, elaborate terrarium, consider including a small fan. A partially open terrarium can also give you some added humidity while allowing air to move around.
#4: Set Up Pebble Trays
This suggestion has become a bit controversial on the Internet. Many houseplant gurus are dead-set against humidity trays, arguing that they only provide a small increase to humidity levels. Sometimes, a small boost is all you need, though. Pebble trays also work best when the baseline humidity is low — exactly when you need them the most.
To create a humidity tray, fill a bowl or dish with small rocks, marbles, or other chunks of inorganic material. Then add water, filling the tray to just below the level of the pebbles, setting your Bromeliad’s pot on top. If you keep the water level relatively steady, it functions like a lower-effort version of moving your Bromeliad to a semi-hydronic medium.
Don’t expect miraculous results. Tests of pebble trays suggest that they can increase the relative humidity by 5-8% at most. Still, if your humidity is just below the 50% mark, this could make a difference to your Bromeliads. An even more effective strategy might be to set a few tall “pebble vases” next to your plants, bringing the surface of the water even closer to the leaves.
Should Bromeliads Be Misted?
Whenever the topic of humidity comes up, questions about misting plants with a spray bottle are sure to follow. Misting can be a good idea — but not because your Bromeliads need humidity.
In reality, misting does very little to help with dry air. It produces a very brief increase in moisture levels while the droplets evaporate, but this rapidly fades. You’d have to be misting your plants every few minutes to see any real effect. Since that’s what a humidifier does anyway, why not save yourself the trouble?
The real reason it can be good to mist your Bromeliads is that it can help them stay hydrated. Many of these plants can take in water through their leaves, especially those with lots of silvery coloration (like Air Plants). Misting them every few days can reduce their need for watering without risking root rot.
If the weather is scorching and dry, you can step up the misting a bit, spritzing your plants daily or every other day. You should still consider humidity-boosting tools like pebble trays and humidifiers, though.
Signs That Your Bromeliad Needs More Humidity
How can you tell if low humidity is hurting your Bromeliad? If the air is only slightly too dry, there may not be any obvious symptoms. Your plant might simply not be growing as fast or as large as it would in its natural environment. This isn’t a very good indicator on its own, though, because other factors such as low light, poor nutrition, or overwatering can also hamper growth.
A more severe humidity deficit can dehydrate your Bromeliad’s foliage. This results in brittle, crispy leaves that may turn yellow or brown. The effects are usually strongest at the tips and edges of the leaves. The plant may also wilt and droop as the leaves lose their spongy firmness. Fading coloration in the foliage and blooms might also point to humidity issues.
If you notice these symptoms, the tips we listed above should help. You might also want to check whether your plant is near a source of dry air, such as a central heating vent or a fireplace. If so, move it someplace more comfortable.
Another possible sign of low humidity: spider mites. These voracious pests love dry conditions and dehydrated plants. Unfortunately, increasing the humidity won’t get rid of them by itself, but it should help with the other treatments described in the linked article.
Could The Air Be Too Damp for Your Bromeliad?
For many Bromeliads, particularly succulent varieties like most Dyckias and Hechtias, high humidity can be as problematic as excess dryness. When conditions are overly damp, it may be easier for fungi to take root amid the leaves.
Possible symptoms include:
- Discolored blotches on your Bromeliad
- Mushy or wet spots
- Unpleasant smells
- Yellowing foliage, especially near the base of the plant
- Leaves turning soft and slouching over
When you see these signs, you may want to reduce the amount of water you’re providing, while stopping any efforts to enhance humidity. Prune off any leaves that look badly infected with a sharp set of pruning shears. You should also take your plant out of its pot and clip off any slimy, squishy, or unusually dark roots. Disinfect your trimmers before every cut so that you don’t spread the fungus around by mistake.
Treating your plant with an antifungal remedy may also help, but be careful: copper-based fungicides can be lethal to Bromeliads. Cinnamon has some natural fungus-killing powers, so you could try sprinkling that on. Swishing the plant in a hydrogen peroxide solution might also help — start with 3% peroxide, then dilute it with water to a 1:4 ratio. If that doesn’t do the trick, a commercial fungicide containing propiconazole should work.
Many Bromeliads need humidity to live their best lives, but you don’t need to go overboard. For most of these plants, 50% relative humidity should be plenty. Tricks like pebble trays can help a bit, but there’s nothing like a humidifier when push comes to shove. You may be startled to see how much more vibrant your Bromeliad can be with a little extra moisture in the air.