Guzmania is a genus of bromeliads with species grow widely as far north as Florida and as far south as Brazil in warm, tropical areas. You’ve probably seen them cultivated in places like offices, retail stores, and homes, because they’re an exceptionally popular houseplant.
They’re easily identified by their bright bracts that come in red, orange, pink, or yellow hues. Many people confuse these colorful bracts, which are actually modified leaves, for the plant’s flowers. But the flowers on most species are actually white, small, and hard to see because they’re hidden inside the bracts.
- Genus: Guzmania
- Native To: North, Central, South America
- Sun Exposure: Typically bright indirect or diffused light
- Soil Preference: Well-draining loam or bark and moss
- Soil pH: 5.0-6.0
- Blossom Color: Varies depending on the species and cultivar (e.g., red, orange, yellow, pink)
- Growing Zones: USDA hardiness zones 10-12, but some species can tolerate zones 9-13
Caring for Guzmania Bromeliads
Most bromeliads are epiphytes, and those in the Guzmania genus are no exception. That means that these bromeliads grow attached to other plants in nature. They don’t use these other plants as a food source, but rather as an anchor so they can gather their own nutrients and moisture from the rain and debris that falls from the forest canopy.
Knowing how they grow in nature will help you recreate the ideal conditions in your home.
If you picture the growing environment of a plant attached to a tree in a tropical forest, you can bet that the plant probably isn’t receiving much, if any, direct sunlight since the canopy blocks most of the sun.
Recreate this in your home by giving your plant an hour or two of direct morning light or indirect light from a window covered in sheer curtains. Place the plant about two or three feet from the window so that the light isn’t too intense and the heat doesn’t reflect onto the plant.
Once again, consider the soil conditions that these plants would experience in nature. The roots typically grow anchored into moss or debris that collects in the tree. That means they’re adapted to a loose, airy base.
The roots don’t gather nutrients from the soil. They use it as an anchor. Choose a soil that is extremely light, like one formulated for orchids, which are also epiphytes. There are also mixes made specifically for bromeliads.
Use the soil in a small container with drainage holes. The pot should be about a quarter of the size of the plant’s leaves. Anything larger increases the risk of root rot.
You can also anchor the roots in sphagnum moss and mount them on wood.
Guzmania bromeliads are intolerant of wet roots or standing water. The best way to water them is to locate the tank or reservoir that is formed by the tightly-growing rosette of leaves at the center of the plant.
Keep this tank full using rainwater, distilled water, or filtered municipal water. Once a month, drain the tank and flush it out before refilling. If the water ever smells funky, drain it and replace it.
You can also mist the leaves to add more water.
These plants prefer relative humidity of 50-80%, so keep them in a bathroom, near the kitchen sink, or use a humidifier if you don’t have humidity levels in this range in your home. You can also group plants to raise their collective humidity.
Feed the soil or mist the leaves once in the spring and once in the summer using a mild, balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Something with an NPK of 1-1-1 or 2-2-2 is fine. Don’t apply fertilizer into the tank.
Best Species and Cultivars
There are quite a few Guzmania species sold on the market as this is one of the more popular types of bromeliads. Some of the more popular species include G. lingulata, commonly known as scarlet stars. They have large, red star-shaped bracts.
Mosaic vase bromeliad (G. musaica) has bright pink bracts and visible chartreuse flowers. G. sanguinea features red bracts that fade to orange. The long, strappy leaves are gracefully arching.
While the bracts can persist for a long time, once the plant flowers, its lifespan is over. It will start to fade and die. When this happens, the plant will send out offsets, also known as pups. You can gently trim these away from the parent plant once they’ve reached a few inches in length.
Plant them in orchid or bromeliad soil and water them when the soil dries out to an inch deep.
Common Problems, Pests, and Diseases
Guzmania bromeliads are generally tough plants. So long as you provide them with adequate humidity and moisture, they rarely suffer from issues. Watch for spider mites and scale. Root rot happens if you overwater the plant or let the soil stay moist.