Plant some color and easy-care character into your winter decor

Sometime this winter — maybe to ring in the new year, maybe for Valentine’s Day, maybe just to treat yourself–you’re going to get a new houseplant. Plant-pro Cory Cumming suggests a bromeliad. With their rosettes of strap-shaped arching leaves and brightly colored flower spikes, bromeliads are available year-round, but they are especially appealing during the dreary months of winter, says Cumming, plant buyer at Cactus & Tropicals. “They are a great way to brighten a space and, with proper care and watering, they will last and hold their color for three months or more–even in low light,” he says. “They’re also one of the easiest indoor flowering plants to grow at home.” What’s more, they’re inexpensive, widely available and up for grabs in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

Cory Cummings, Cactus & Tropicals


When choosing a bromeliad, look for plants with leaves that are not droopy or damaged. Choose healthy plants that are not deep into their bloom stage by prioritizing recently stocked plants and rejecting those with color spikes that are brown-tipped, faded or loaded with small, late-stage flowers within their foliage. “We try to sell in the medium stage when the bright color exists but has lots of life left,” Cumming says.


In nature, bromeliads are most often found in humid, tropical areas, but they need to dry out between watering. “They need pots and good drainage, and they prefer rich, well draining soil,” Cumming says. Let the soil get almost fully dry, before giving the plant a deep watering. Because most bromeliads are prone to crown rot, be careful not to let water stand between leaves.


Bromeliads hold on to their color much longer than most other indoor bloomers, lasting three months or more. These plants tolerate a wide range of light, including low light, for long periods without ill effects. what light your bromeliad likes best depends on the variety. A simple rule of thumb is: “soft leaf-soft light, heard leaf-hard light.” If the leaves of your plant are soft, flexible and spineless (most often bright green), it will do better in lower to medium defused light, away from bright exposure. Plants with stiffer, usually spiny, leaves (most often gray-green) enjoy brighter, filtered light.


Bromeliads are not finicky and aren’t fussy when it comes to fertilizer, Cumming explains. Any balanced houseplant fertilizer should to the trick.


Most people should consider the bromeliad a “one and done” plant, Cumming says. “once it has finished blooming, toss the faded plant and move on–much like you do with flowering orchids.” Some green-thumbers, however, may keep post-blooming bromeliad mother plants (referring to the plants that the new pups grow from) to get new plantlets that they raise to maturity. The mother plant eventually dies back as the pups mature.

Bright red bracts with white tips differentiate these thriving bromeliad guzmanias.


Bromeliads come in a myriad of sizes, colors and forms. Compact, low-growing varieties make a bold impact and are great for plant walls, yet taller plants with vividly colored spikes are more popular–particularly those with “torch-like rather than flared” foliage on their spikes, Cumming explains. And while patterned and strongly variegated leaves are still beloved, more people prefer solid, dark green leaves. During winter, Cactus & Tropicals stocks all colors bright and upbeat–vivid yellow, pink, red and magenta. “We want colors that remind us that spring is on its way,” Cumming says.

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