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Bromeliads need light to make food which gives them the energy to produce the bright-colored bracts characteristic of these plants.
However, their light needs are not the same as they come down to the specific genus you have in your home.
The term bromeliad is quite general and touches on thousands of species. And among these, some enjoy direct sun exposure, others burn in such exposure, while most prefer bright and indirect light.
In this guide, I get into how much light your plant needs and how you can ensure it receives this level of exposure.
But that’s not all. I also get into the sure signs your bromeliad is getting too little or too much light and what you can do about it.
Without much ado, let’s get to it:
What Type of Light Does My Bromeliad Need?
Bromeliads rely on light to convert water and carbon dioxide into energy and oxygen – that’s the process we refer to as photosynthesis.
And if a plant makes enough food, it grows fast and can ward off pesky pest infestations.
But what kind of light should you give the bromeliad to ensure this happens? To understand its lighting needs better, please consider the following standard terms:
Bright and direct light
This exposure allows your plant’s leaves to receive direct sun rays. Some bromeliads can withstand this exposure. But most cannot and thus burn in such conditions.
You can get such light by placing your plant near a south-facing window or against an east or west-facing window.
In the case of the south-facing window, the plant would receive direct sun rays throughout most of the day.
But against an east or west-facing window, the plant would receive direct sun rays in the morning or afternoon, respectively.
Bright and Indirect Light
Most houseplants do well in this light. Unlike direct light, this exposure features an obstruction, e.g., sheers, to prevent the sun rays from directly hitting the plant leaves.
Sometimes, people refer to this light as filtered or dappled. It means the same thing. Place the bromeliad near (not against) an east or west-facing window to achieve this light.
The light will be bright but not direct in such a spot and will thus not burn the foliage.
Medium and Indirect Light
This exposure is like bright and indirect light. However, it features less light intensity. For example, with bright light, the shadow cast by placing the bromeliad in the room is visible but not as much as that of direct bright light.
And to achieve medium bright light, you move the plant further away from the east or west-facing window.
Low and Indirect Light
Such exposure casts a barely noticeable shadow when the light hits the plant. You can get such light by placing the bromeliad in a hallway.
Alternatively, you can set it about four meters away from a north-facing window for the same effect.
So, which of these options works best for your bromeliad? Most bromeliads do well in a wide range of light conditions.
Even so, you should check what your specific species needs. We will get into how you can tell that the plant is unhappy by looking for warning signs.
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How Much Light Does a Bromeliad Need?
Anytime you introduce a houseplant to your home, you must consider its native habitat as this dictates the kinds of conditions best for the said plant.
Bromeliads are native to the tropics and subtropics and are thus accustomed to tropical conditions. A Bromeliad receive at least 6 hours of sun light a day on average.
But there is more to this. Bromeliads are pretty different – some grow on trees, others grow in the ground, while others grow in mountainous regions.
You thus cannot use the same approach for all the plants. After all, some will thrive in the sun while others will die under such exposure.
The best thing is to ensure that you research your plant and give it what it needs while keeping an eye out for signs of distress.
Is there a rule of thumb for bromeliad light needs? Sure!
Bromeliad plants with rigid leaves tend to be hardier than those with soft leaves. You can leave them in bright and direct light, and they would be okay.
But those with softer features are best sheltered from the sun by placing them in indirect light.
Seeing as I cannot give you a concrete answer to what your plant needs (regarding light intensity), I will show you how to tell if your plant needs more or less light:
What Happens If Your Bromeliad Gets Too Much Light?
Some bromeliads enjoy direct sun exposure as they get this in their natural habitats. But those that grow under foliage may not do so well with this exposure. And you can tell that your plant gets too much light if:
- Its leaf edges have started browning: This sign is usually a warning that the worst is yet to come. And if you don’t do anything about it, the entire plant could suffer similar damage.
- It develops brown spots on its leaves: These are a sign of sunburn,
- Its leaves start yellowing,
- The plant appears to be drooping and seems to be wilting even if you are watering it often, and
- Its leaves start curling.
Sometimes, these changes owe to underwatering. But if your watering regimen is fine, you might want to consider that the plant may be getting too much light.
The best way to deal with this is to take down the lighting a notch. For example, if the plant was getting bright and direct light, you can change this to bright and indirect light.
You do not want to make drastic changes so soon as your plant may then start suffering from low light exposure, as detailed below:
What Happens If Your Bromeliad Gets Too Little Light?
Too much light is an issue as it damages the plant foliage. And unfortunately, there is not much you can do about it other than repositioning the plant.
You cannot undo the sun’s damage, and the best way to deal with the browning and yellowing leaves is to cut them off. But too little light is not a good alternative either.
You must remember that bromeliads rely on light to make food. And without it, they do not have enough energy to grow and even fight off pest attacks.
So, what happens when you leave your bromeliad in low light conditions for too long?
- The leaves start yellowing, which signals that the plant does not have adequate energy to sustain its food production. Moreover, yellow leaves cannot make food, and that only compounds the already existing problem,
- The plant develops leggy growth as it tries to reach more light,
- The plant’s growth takes a hit, and the resultant leaves appear weak and elongated,
- Variegated bromeliad plants lose their variegation and instead take on a dark green or solid hue.
But aesthetic changes are not all you need to worry about when it comes to low lighting. The plant can die if left in such conditions for too long because it cannot sustain its existence without food.
If you’re enjoying this article, check out our article on why are my bromeliad leaves turning yellow
Where To Place Your Bromeliad to Get the Best Light
As we have seen, leaving the bromeliad in low light conditions or too much exposure is not always the best move. However, I should add that the warning signs only come about when the bromeliad is unhappy.
For example, a sun-loving bromeliad will only react when left in low to medium light conditions. But when left in the sun, it will do well.
So, where should you place the bromeliad in your home?
Given that bromeliads love high humidity, it’s good to leave them in the bathroom where they can bathe in the water vapor.
However, we all know that lighting is not always ideal in the bathroom. So, how can you navigate this issue?
If your bathroom receives low light, consider placing low-light bromeliads like the Vriesea and Aechmea species in it. But if it gets enough light, you can place other bromeliad species in it.
Most kitchens receive enough light to sustain the growth of bromeliads. Moreover, they also boast high humidity, which is a plus for these humidity-loving plants.
When placing the bromeliads, ensure that they are not against the windows, as these spots have too much light. Instead, place them near the windows.
These rooms can work the magic for bromeliads that are not very particular about humidity. However, this placement only works for plants that can withstand bright and direct light for long hours.
East-Facing and West-Facing Rooms
Most bromeliads can fit into this category. East-facing and west-facing rooms receive direct sun for a few hours a day.
Thus, you should ensure that the plants are near but not against the windows to protect them from the sun. If your bromeliad prefers a mixed light combo, you can place it against the window.
That allows it to get direct sun for some hours before enjoying indirect and bright light the rest of the day.
These positions work for bromeliads grown in potting mixes and those mounted and hung as decorations.
But what happens if your home does not have sufficient light for your bromeliad. You have the option of introducing artificial light.
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Can Bromeliads Grow in Artificial Light?
Sunlight features the wavelengths necessary for your bromeliad to grow well and bloom. But if your home does not have adequate lighting, you cannot sit back and watch your bromeliad stunt and wilt.
Instead, you can grow it in artificial light. Does it work? Why, yes! It comes down to wavelengths. Your bromeliad requires red and blue wavelengths to produce leaves, fruits, and flowers.
And you can get these types of light from commercial lights, enabling you to supplement what you do not get from the sun.
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How To Grow A Bromeliad Using An Artificial Light
Growing a bromeliad using artificial light is quite manageable. All you need is to choose the right light for your plant. The viable options include:
The upside to these bulbs is how cool they are, owing to their low heat emission.
It is thus safe to place them near your plant without burning its foliage. Opt for cool white lights as these have full wavelength spectrums,
These lights emit a lot of heat and should not be near your plant. It’s often advisable (but not necessary) to complement them with fluorescent lights,
Like fluorescent lights, these options are also full spectrum. However, they emit a lot of heat and should not be near your bromeliad, as the heat emission can be damaging, and
These energy-efficient lights emit low heat and are economical for long-term usage.
The next steps are pretty straightforward once you find a suitable light for your plant.
1) Mount the selected light on a lamp, ensuring it towers at least a foot away from the plant. For lights that emit a lot of heat, you will need to place the lights about two to three feet away from the tip of the plant.
2) Leave the light on for 16 hours each day. Please note that the time required will be less if your plant already gets some natural light. For example, if your plant gets 5 hours of light a day, you will leave the artificial lighting on for (16-5) 11 hours a day.
You need to keep adjusting the light as the plant grows. Moreover, you should also change the timer settings as the seasons change.
Most bromeliads will do well in bright and indirect light. However, it’s best to check what your specific bromeliad plant needs and accord it the same.
And to be on the safe side, always check how your plant reacts to its environment. Yellowing, browning, and wilting are signs that your plant gets too much light.
On the other hand, leggy growth, loss of variegation, and stunted growth signal that your plant needs more light. Use the tips above to balance the two, and your bromeliad will thrive.