Sunday, 22 August 2010

Time to divide and conquer

I will soon have many more bromeliads and the garden will look refreshed and tidy again. Each year in Spring I divide my broms. It's not quite Spring yet, but it's close enough. Each year it is taking me longer and longer. I can remember when it was a mornings work. Now it takes a few weekends. I probably should do them more often but I don't. A lot of my broms have serrated leaves. I wear gloves but still end up scratched and bleeding.
Most of my bromeliads are in pots. The pot either sits in the garden or I double pot  by placing their pot inside a slightly larger one buried in the ground. When we first started growing them I was told this was the best way to keep broms. It has a number of advantages.
You can move them about to find just the right amount of sun vs shade. Most prefer dappled sunlight or part-shade.                                       Too much shade makes them green and leggy (like these poor neglected fellows) but the midday or even the  afternoon sun can be fierce in summer and can burn them.

You can protect them from hail (if you’re home when the hail strikes).

Drainage remains good. Our soil has a fair bit of clay so they must either remain in pots or be planted in a raised bed with a bark mix.

You can clean fallen leaves and debri out of their well more easily - just tip it upside down and shake. Rotting vegetation in the well will kill most broms.

You can divide them more easily when they set pups.

The double potting protects the inside pot, keeps them contained and stops the roots escaping into the ground.

Also, of course, you can move them to a better spot for showing off when they are in flower or looking especially handsome.

This year I have quite a few that are really overdue to be divided. I like to wait until the pups are between 1/3 and ½ the size of their mother before removing (I seem to lose quite a few if I try too soon).

Sometimes by the time I divide them, the mother plant has died and the pot has three or four pups fighting for space.

Other people may have different methods, but this is how I divide them. 
I cut the pups off as close as possible to the mother plant. Some you can twist and they break off easily. You may need to take the plant out of the pot and remove some of the mix to do this. In that case, I sit the pot in a styrofoam box to avoid spilling the potting mix everywhere.
Potting is simple. Just don’t bury them too deep but make sure they are firm enough to remain upright. Some will already have roots but if they don't there's no need to worry. Most form roots within a few weeks in warm weather.
The mix I use is approximately 2 parts cymbidium potting mix, 1 part standard potting mix and 1 part coconut fibre, with some blood and bone mixed through. I only use pots with multiple holes in the base. Because we can get quite a bit of rain in summer and drainage is important.

I like to do do this job as a production line - get all the pups removed and put into buckets - then mix up my potting mixture and pot them all up.
If I don’t have time to pot them all they will remain happy in the bucket for a few days.

The smaller pups will go under a tree in the shade where I will remember to check on them & water them until they form a good root system. The others go back into various part of the garden. That is the fun bit - rearranging the garden.
Some I'll plant directly into the ground when they are big enough to survive but most will remain in pots. Some will be given away to friends.

Most of the old original plants will go on to produce more pups but not all of them. Even when the older plants start looking ratty and bedraggled I don’t like throwing them in the compost bin until they are actually dead. I put them in the old plants home - a hidden corner of the garden with a pile of old potting mix and bark. It’s amazing how many have produced further offspring.

From the plants I divided yesterday I have over 30 new plants. Not a bad mornings work.


  1. This is a very informative post that I will have to share on facebook. I was actually just dividing some of my broms today, but I prefer to use my hands so it breaks at the natural point in the stolon.

  2. Fascinating... in my world, bromeliads are plants I admire in office settings. Wonderful to see them in your garden.

  3. Wow, double potting sounds like a great way of growing plants that need to be divided or moved around often. Bromeliads are not hardy in my area, but I think your method will work with many plants.


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