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.
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.
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.
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!
Pot 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.
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