Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi

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My bromeliad is starting to produce little plants off the side. Do I need to separate them from the original plant?



The growths are called offsets or pups. Bromeliads slowly die over a period of a year or two after flowering. However, several pups usually develop during the flowering cycle and usually emerge from the soil near the edge of the container. The pups should be separated from the mother plant after they have developed a small rosette or circle of leaves similar to the mother plant. To remove a pup, use a serrated knife, pruning shears or small saw. Push the knife blade into the growing medium, between the pup and mother plant, and cut through near the base of the mother plant. The young pup may or may not have developed a root system of its own, but there is no need to worry, the roots will come later. Add more potting medium to the area where the pup has been removed and transplant the newly cut pup into another pot. The mother plant, especially if helped along with a small amount of dilute fertilizer, will continue to produce pups until it dies. Pups should begin growing soon even without a strong root system. It is very important to not overwater as this is the most common mistake when propagating bromeliads. These plants will normally flower in 1 to 3 years. Propagation by vegetative means (pups) is by far the best and most satisfactory method for home gardeners. Bromeliads can be planted in the landscape in frost-free areas of the state or grown in containers which can be moved indoors in areas where freezes occur. Since bromeliads require minimal care, they are an asset in the landscape. Some bromeliads tolerate low temperatures. The graceful, spiny Bromelia pinguin survives north Florida conditions, provided it is grown in a protected area. However, extreme cold temperatures will scorch and injure it. As a general rule, the softer-leafed species need a higher temperature, while those with very hard, stiff leaves are much more tolerant of cold.