Bromeliads are, for the most part, tropical plants. They grow in areas that rarely drop below 40°F. That means that if you want to grow Bromeliad outdoors (or in a part of your home that gets extremely cold), they might not do well.
Those in places like California, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana can grow most species without any trouble. But the further north you head, the less likely you can find a bromeliad that will thrive in the environment.
With nearly 4,000 species, there are a lot of plants and a lot of variation among them. While we can broadly state that most bromeliads will grow well in Zones 9-11, there are certainly exceptions.
Generally, we say that bromeliads shouldn’t be exposed to freezing temperatures. But there are exceptions. Coupled with the fact that your particular microclimate might vary enough to enable your plants to survive even when the general temperature dips, there is some latitude.
Conditions that Impact Temperature
When the forecast predicts that the next day will have 45°F temperatures, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the plant will experience that exact temperature. There are lots of factors that can influence the microclimate and impact the temperature will have.
Plants that are stressed, damaged, infested with pests, or sick with diseases are less able to tolerate extreme temperatures. Those planted in windy spots will be exposed to colder temperatures since wind dissipates radiant heat.
If you have a potted plant in an elevated area, it’s more exposed, and the temperature it will experience will be lower than the general surrounding temperature. Those against a brick or concrete wall that reflects heat will experience warmer temperatures.
On top of that, a brief drop in temperature is less likely to harm a plant than extended lows.
Finally, a surprise and rapid drop in temperature after a long period of warmth is more likely to shock or kill a plant. Gradual changes in temperature give the plant time to adjust.
In other words, there’s more to consider than what the forecaster predicts.
Frost happens when temperatures drop below freezing and ice crystals form on the plant. Think of it as frozen dew. This frozen water damages the cells inside the plant and causes them to burst, killing the leaf or entire plant.
Sometimes, temperatures can drop to freezing, but there isn’t enough moisture to produce dew. Bromeliads can typically survive this better than they can in the presence of frost. If a frost is predicted in your area, cover your plants with frost cloth or a blanket to protect them.
You might want to erect some sort of frame or support to hold up the cloth so it doesn’t weigh the leaves down and potentially break them.
How to Protect Your Plants
If you fill the tank of the plant before a predicted drop in temperatures, it can help protect the caudex.
The caudex is the part of the plant that generates new plants, so if you protect it, you increase the chances that your bromeliad will be able to set pups.
If you know that your region regularly experiences temperatures that are lower than what your plant can tolerate, grow them in a container and bring them into a warmer area indoors when the temperatures shift.
You can also keep your plants near a west or south-facing brick or concrete wall. This will reflect heat from the sun and can potentially raise the temperature near the plants by up to 10 degrees.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, cold temperatures will kill your plants. Don’t pull them out immediately. They might send out offsets, and you can transplant these to start a new plant. Protect the plant material and give it time to send out offsets.
All A. distichantha and A. recurvata, as well as all V. friburgensis species, are cold tolerant to 16°F, as are almost all in the Puya genus.
Most other bromeliads will survive down to 32°F, though there are a few species that can’t tolerate anything below 40°F.
While it’s not always the case, usually, those with thick leaves are more tolerant of cold.