Vriesea carinata 1

Bromeliads are great low maintenance plants but there comes a time when they do need a bit of love and attention.  This is particularly evident when it comes to repotting and dividing them up. 

Most bromeliads produce offsets (called pups) from the ‘mother’ plant after it flowers.   Each plant will only flower once and then put its energy into producing these pups.  Eventually the mother plant runs out of steam and dies but you are left with the pups to carry on.  How quickly this process occurs and how many pups are produced depends very much on the variety of bromeliad and the growing conditions its kept in.

Ultimately you end up with a crowded pot as new pups fill it up.  Also as the mother plant slowly goes into decline the foliage will deteriorate to the point where you’re better off removing it altogether.

Division and repotting is done to keep the plants looking their best and to maximise their flowering/pup production.  Over time the potting media will breakdown and compress reducing its drainage ability.  Good drainage is essential for bromeliads so repotting is necessary at some stage, even if its a slow growing variety.  How quickly the potting media breakdowns will depend on what its made up of and how much water its received. Achmea gracilis 2

No matter which way you look at it your broms will thank you for repotting them at least every couple of years.  The good news is its pretty straightforward and you can be ruthless!  Choose a time of year when your broms are actively growing.  This means doing it during the warmer time of the year, unless you live in a more tropical area when you can do it year ’round.

Before you start getting your hands dirty make sure you pull on your gardening gloves and a long sleeved top. Many bromeliads have sharp spines on their leaves and trust me, your skin will come out second best!

Pull the plants out of the pot and assess the plant for which parts you want to keep and which parts are past their best.  It usually pretty easy to tell which are the mother plants and these are the ones you should consider ditching.  They often have some reminant of the flower left and will have pups grow from the base.  If the pups are at least 1/3 the size of the mother plant then they can be safely removed.  If they’re smaller its best to leave them attached to the mother plant and to wait until they grow some more before separating.  Small pups sometimes don’t survive the division process.  Larger pups almost always survive.

Vriesea carinata 2

You can use a hand saw, a sharp knife and/or secateurs to divide up the clumps.  Just make sure that you leave a bit of a stem on the new pup when cutting it away from the mother plant.  If you look closely you can usually see where the new roots are starting to form on the pup.  Make sure you cut below this point.

Vriesea carinata 3

Clean away any dead or damaged leaves as well.  Then decide which pieces you want to keep.  If the mother plant is still looking vigorous you can keep her too and hopefully you’ll get more pups.  Some people dust the freshly cut roots with a fungicide and/or let the cuts seal by waiting 24 hours before repotting.  I have never done this and haven’t had any problems but you might want to be cautious particularly if you’re dealing with a precious variety.

Now you’re ready to plant your pieces.  How many you plant in each pot will depend on how vigorous that variety is and how often you plan to repot it.  I usually put quite a few in as I like them to look good almost straightaway. The potting media you use needs to be well drained, as mentioned earlier.  Most growers have their own prefered mix but if you’re starting out you can’t go wrong with a coarse orchid  bark mix. There will be plenty of time in the future to start experimenting with different mixes!

Vrieseas carinata 4Pot up the pieces and water them in with a seaweed solution.  If you have large pieces that aren’t very stable inserting some small stakes can be helpful until the plants stabilise themselves.  Keep the plants in a sheltered spot for a couple of weeks until they have recovered and you should start seeing growth in no time.Achmea gracilis 3

PS Don’t forget to check out The Plant Addict Shop while you’re here. 

You’ll find great gift ideas for garden lovers and fellow plant addicts!

26 Responses to “Dividing & Repotting Bromeliads”

  1. Judiith Fleming says:

    What mixture of soil should they be planted in after the 2 weeks ofor when you see new gowth? I do not have seawood solution. Is there any thing else that may be used?
    Thank you, J. Fleming

  2. Steve says:

    Hi Judith,

    The new bromeliads are actually kept in the bark mix that they have been struck in.

    Most bromeliads are epiphytic, meaning in nature they are found growing on the branches of trees and other plants. Others are lithophytic meaning they grow on rocks or in very stoney ground. Either way they are used to growing without soil around their roots. The root’s main function is physical support rather than nutrient and water collection. Bromeliads instead rely on humidity, rain and leaflitter buildup in their central ‘vases’ for moisture and nutrients.

    This all means that the potting mixture must be very well draining to prevent the roots rotting away from excess moisture. Orchid bark potting mixes are very good for this reason.

    So keep your pups in the same mixture and let them grow into a beautiful display. Bromeliads, with their very small root system, thrive in small pots relative to the volume of foliage above.

    If you want to put your broms into a garden bed simply leave them in the pot and sink the whole lot into the ground. This will ensure the brom continues to have very good drainage around it’s roots.

    Seaweed solutions are good for helping to reduce transplant shock and to get the plant forming roots faster, along with a host of other benefits. Most brands are also fairly natural (my favourite is eco-cweed) and I’d really recommend you consider adding it to your gardening arsenal.

    An alternative product which can help cuttings and seedlings settle in better is Multicrop Plant Starter. This one contains several weak acids which are known to stimulate plant growth.

    If however you don’t want to buy either option then just use water! Provided the pups are big enough (minimum 1/3 the size of the mother plant) and they have excellent drainage you should have a good success rate.

    I hope this helps.
    PS There are some bromeliads that are terrestrial (ie they grow in the ground) but aren’t as commonly seen. Earth Stars (Cryptanthus spp) are an example of terrestrial bromeliads. Go to my entry Another Terrarium! to see what they look like.

  3. Dianne says:

    Hi Steve, So pleased to find your site and information on Broms. I had a bit of a panic attack earlier today as I cautiously dug up and separated a huge clump of neglected Broms to try and find some smaller specimens to use for underplanting. I have NO experience with broms and hoped by using sheer instinct I was doing the right thing… yes I know I should have googled prior to digging! As it turns out I did the right thing and am stunned to find how many pups I now have. My “clump” started with two single rather small plants which I planted out and promptly forgot about. Now I estimate I have around 12 small pups and at LEAST 20 large plants. Not sure what to do with them all to be honest! Have new plans for the garden bed they were in and the plans didn’t include their replanting but now I can’t bring myself to toss them, will have to find another spot for them to go mad in. Thanks again for the great info and reassurance! Regards, Di :)

  4. Steve says:

    Hi Diane,

    I always love to hear a great success story with broms! Why don’t you try and sell the left over pups on ebay? Depending on what sort of broms these are you might be able to sell them easily. Plus they are easy plants to post.

    If you live in a major city look out for the brom shows that the various bromeliad societies put on once or twice a year. It’s a great way to find unusual types and they’re often much cheaper.


  5. John says:

    hey, nice blog…really like it and added to bookmarks. keep up with good work

  6. Julie says:

    Hi Steve….I was given a large Bromeliad for a present last year. It is fairly large, with a pink/purple flower and greyish variegated leaves (some prickles?). I have noticed 2 pup plants growing from the base. I have read your advice on re-potting etc. and feel confident to ‘have a go’…but my question is…do I just discard the mother plant? The flower is looking a bit bedraggled but is still alive (I think).

  7. Steve says:

    Hi Julie,

    From your description it sounds like you were given an Aechmea fasciata. Type this botanical name into google and see if the images it brings back match your plant. It’s a pretty tough bromeliad and usually performs well.

    If your pups are at least a third the size of the mother plant then you can safely divide them now. For the mother plant I would cut off the flower (it sounds like it’s finished now anyway) and repot it.

    This is a fairly vigorous bromeliad and with any luck you will get another pup – it just depends on how healthy your mother plant is. And really what have you got to lose? If there’s no sign of new pups by mid Autumn and the mother plant is looking tatty then throw it out.

    Good luck and have fun!

  8. Barbara says:

    My son gave me a big bromeliad two yrs ago and i have a pup plant now which is about a year old. Mom plant looks good. Only one yucky leaf i clipped away. Should I separate and disguard Mom or look for a second pup. Thanks

    • The Plant Addict says:

      Hi Barbara,
      Provided your pup is at least 1/3 as big as the mother then you can safely remove it. As your mother plant is still looking good I’d definitely repot and give it a chance to produce at least another pup. Most of my broms will easily produce several pups before they are past it.

      Good luck!

  9. monika wilk (wolf( says:

    I,m so relieved… today is my name day and I have just received such a plant as a gift from my mother-in-law, I do not know how to look after her… what is more, polish websites do not tell much about it… I,m really gratefull for information. Thank you a lot!!!!

  10. Jerry Hutchins says:

    Great website thanks a lot! I was given a bromeliad and orchid for Christmas in 2010. They did well. Now I’m repoting them. They were originally in potting soil instead of bark. It’s a wonder they survived the wet soil. Orchid bark and bark mulch look pretty much the same. Other than being 20 to 30 times more expensive, what’s the difference? Thanks!

  11. Tim says:

    Great site Steve!!
    Jerry, depending on what brand of orchid mix you buy, some add in peat moss, others contain just bark. I just made up a mix of 1 part river (paving) sand, 1 part peat moss and 1 part bark (the small variety). I tend to go for abit of peat of its ability to hold nutrients a little longer.
    Making your own is inexpensive and great when you see your Broms thrive in it.

  12. Tim says:

    One question Steve, i just repotted some Vriesea ‘Gultz’, V. Kiwi Sunset and V. Fosteriana. All have pups about 1/3 of the mother, however i’ve never cut these away from parent plant before. Wondering if you have any tips or pictures how to do this correctly. I would hate it if i killed them.

    • The Plant Addict says:

      Hi Tim,

      Sorry for my late reply. I don’t have any close up photos but you really don’t have to be too worried. The pups are large enough to handle the separation. Just make sure you include some of the hard woody tissue at the base of the new pup when cutting it away. This is where the new roots will form. Then don’t plant the pup too deep as it can occasionally rot. Plant the base just below the bark and use the stakes instead to keep it in place rather than a lot of the bark mix.

      I hope this helps.

  13. Jennifer says:

    Hi Steve,

    I have just re-potted my bromeliad because it had 2 new pups. How often should I water them and how long does the plant take to get adjusted after re-potting?

    • The Plant Addict says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      Pups are actually quite tough as long as they are large enough when you first divide them (approx 1/3 the size of the mother plant). For a couple of weeks water them just a bit more often than what you do for the original plant. The speed at which new roots develop will depend on the variety of bromeliad (some are faster than others) and temperate (faster during warmer weather). Expect it to take a month or so.

      Enjoy your new bromeliads!

  14. Great re potting bromeliads

  15. Val says:

    Hi Steve,

    Ek het redelik baie Vriesea in die tuin en bome. Ons vorie tuinier het dit aangeteel in ons green house in potte. van hulle het al “pups” en ek wil dit graag oorplant in potte om op die stoep te sit. Is bark mix die enige ander alternatief om dit oor te plant in potte. het gehoor dat klippies onder in pot gesit kan word met loserig grond bo op? is dit wys?

    • The Plant Addict says:

      Hi Val,

      Thanks for your message but I’m sorry I don’t know your language. Can you resend in English please?


  16. Catherine says:

    Thank you for your very useful blog.

  17. Bobbi says:

    I have about 6 concentrica pland each with sizable pups to divide. They are planted directly in the ground (in Fl.). We have had a rainy season and I spray the cups to prevent mosquitos. Can I plant pups directly in ground? I also have a potted fasciata
    with many large pups and all look terrific. Should I divide and repot or can I put it in the ground with the others? Thanks so much and I LOVE your web site!!!

    • The Plant Addict says:

      Hi Bobbi,

      Pups can go directly into the ground as long as they’ll have good drainage. If you already have plants growing in the ground in that area then it indicates pups will be happy their too.

      I’m assuming you have Aechmea fasciata when you say fasciata? It’s a pretty tough bromeliad and can handle all sorts of treatment. It’ll be happy in the ground or a pot (provided you have good drainage as mentioned above).

      Glad you enjoy the website :)


  18. Mrs Robinson says:

    I have a bro that’s throwing 2 pups right in the middle. Do I wait until it’s a third the size go mom and just pull it out? And does mom die or will she re bloom?
    Thx for the help.

    • The Plant Addict says:

      Hi Mrs Robinson,

      There are a few types of bromeliads that do exactly what you’ve described. Instead of producing pups from the base they grow pups from the middle or centre of the plant after flowering. Let them get to a decent size (at least a third the size of the parent) and then pull them out. Some will come out very easily. Others will require you to be more brutual. Do ensure that you get as much of the woody base of the pup as possible.

      The mother plant will not flower again. If you are lucky and she is a vigorous plant she may just produce more pups but usually she goes into decline and slowly dies.

      Hope that helps.

Leave a Reply