Plant ID
April 11, 2016 1:28 PM   Subscribe

What kind of plant is this, and how often should I water it?
posted by ellieBOA to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
That's a Bromeliad.
posted by cecic at 1:31 PM on April 11, 2016

Cecic has it right. They like high humidity but they don't like "wet feet." If you stick your fingertip in the top couple of inches of soil and it feels dry, give it a good drink.
posted by Ostara at 2:18 PM on April 11, 2016

I water most of my office jungle weekly. I eyeball it, giving enough water that the surface gets soaked, but quickly absorbs - for this plant, maybe about a cup for starters, given the pot size.

Check the plant halfway through the week for the first few weeks, sticking your finger in to see how moist it is - if it's already dry to your first knuckle by a few days later, you didn't water enough. If it's still wet by the next weekly watering, you gave it too much. Adjust your watering accordingly.

The care instructions from cecic's link says it likes a thorough soaking to rinse away salt buildup.... but your pot doesn't really allow for that, the water will just stay in the bottom. I would suggest you do the above weekly soaking usually... but every so often, if you notice white stuff forming on the soil surface -- take the plant over to a sink, take the inner pot out, water thoroughly and let the plant completely drain in the sink, to remove salt buildup.
posted by lizbunny at 2:48 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Make sure the little "cup" formed by the dip where the leaves meet the stem has a little bit of water pooled in it each time you water. Use bottled water, rainwater, or water that has sat overnight for that little reservoir if you can, so the chlorine isn't sitting against the leaves.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:03 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would repot that sucker if the pot it's in now doesn't allow for drainage. It will not like being in waterlogged soil at all. With bromeliads I usually top off their reservoir (the water that collects inside the plant) once or twice a week and water the soil sparingly, only when it feels completely dry to the touch. They collect water, and they don't have very big root systems. They also love a good misting, if it's not too much hassle to hit it with a spray bottle once in a while.

Did you know that pineapples are also bromeliads?
posted by mammoth at 3:36 PM on April 11, 2016

More specifically, it is a Guzmania hybrid.

mammoth's advice to put it in a pot with drainage is good: as they say, the root systems aren't extensive, and they can easily rot if the soil is too wet for too long. With most of my plants, I've found it better to water thoroughly, in a sink or tub, let the water drain out for 10-15 minutes, and then wait until the soil is mostly dry before watering thoroughly again, though that depends on the excess water being able to go somewhere. If the pot has no drainage holes, the top of the soil can dry out while the bottom remains wet, and it's much easier to overwater.

I did not personally find it to make much difference whether the foliage contains water or not, as long as the roots got water at the appropriate times, though it's true that the leaves will collect and absorb water in nature.

Point of interest: the actual flowers only last a day or two, then die, and are probably all gone by now; the yellow part here are bracts (modified leaves), intended to attract pollinators to the true flowers, and bracts can last for months.

Additional point of interest: like many other bromeliads, now that the plant has bloomed, the central rosette of leaves will begin to die, and it will grow replacement rosettes of leaves from around the base of the original plant, so don't be alarmed when this begins to happen. It doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong; that's just the way Guzmanias work. The original rosette of leaves may take a couple years to die completely. Ordinarily they'll produce 2 or 3 daughter plants.

When the offsets are about 1/3 the size of the original plant, you can remove them and pot them up separately if you like. (The parent plant will make more offsets if you remove them as they appear; you can get 6 or 7 before it finally gives up.) Getting blooms from the daughter plants is unlikely indoors unless you have a particularly warm, moist, and bright room, but if they happen, the daughter plants will produce blooms in the same color as the original.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 5:11 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks everyone! It's in a plastic pot with holes in the bottom inside that yellow pot, if I put spacers underneath would that allow for enough drainage? Or shall I put it on a saucer?
posted by ellieBOA at 11:10 PM on April 11, 2016

If you can, the best way to water it would probably be to remove the yellow pot, place it in the tub in its drainable plastic pot, and give it a gentle cool shower for 30 seconds- water on the leaves, into the pot, all over. Let it get quite wet- til there's a bit of water sitting on the soil- and then leave it in the tub to drain for like an hour, then pop it back in the pot where it lives.

Actually almost all houseplants will be THRILLED if you water them this way approx every 2 weeks. I don't water any of my plants in the usual way unless I'm very busy- I just pop them all in the tub together and give them a mass shower every 10-14 days. They are always glossy and happy and they have noticeable growth spurts after this process. I call it "indoor rain time".

If you can't do indoor rain time, then yes, spacers in the bottom will help keep the roots from sitting in a puddle.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:23 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Guzmania take in water and nutrients through the "tank". The roots are used mainly for holding the plant in place. They do best if you water the tank until it runs into the potting medium. That flushes out pathogens that can stick around in the tank and cause rot. The soil should be very porous and well drained- it does not have to stay moist constantly if there is water in the tank.

Allowing the tank to run dry can cause leaf burn as salts in the water are concentrated as it is taken up and evaporated. It's okay to water only the cup if need be, but a regular flush once a week is really helpful. And definitely do as others have said and don't let it sit in standing water for any length of time.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:58 PM on April 12, 2016

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