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What is a Guzmania Plant and How to Care for It?

Learn more about the guzmania plants including their characteristics, growing conditions, and how they are used. We've included some tips on how to reproduce these evergreen perennials that are a unique addition to your garden or windowsill.

Bright red guzmania flowers in focus all growing in a line

Genus Guzmania

The genus guzmania only contains about 120 different species, but man oh man, are they ever nice plants to look at. Better known as the tufted air plant, these guys are members of the bromeliad botanical family (bromeliaceae).

This is not your regular flowering plant. This tropical looking phenomenon is actually an epiphytic plant. What is that you may ask? You’ll have to keep reading to find out more!

These stemless evergreen perennials add quite a unique look to your garden or windowsill. Brightly colored flower bracts contrasting glossy green leaves will add interest all year long.

Related: Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

What do Guzmania Plants Look Like?

Perfect image of blooming guzmania flower surrounded by blade evergreen leaves

Flowers

This can get a little bit confusing. Guzmania plants (or bromeliad plants in general) don’t produce flowers in the regular way that we know them, with petals and stamens and the like.

What we perceive as being the flowers of the plant are actually flower bracts. These are the brightly colored parts of the plant which are actually technically adapted leaf-like structures. Depending on the plant, these flower bracts will come in superbly bright colors like red, orange, yellow, and rarely, deep purple.

These huge and quite frankly, rather showy, brightly colored flowers will usually arise in the summer. What makes this plant so special, is the fact that the bloom of this plant will last an extremely long time — we’re talking many months, sometimes even over a year.

Leaves

Guzmania foliage is evergreen, meaning that it will persist and remain green for its entire life (as long as it is kept healthy). If guzmania leaves are yellowing, that means they aren’t happy with the amount of light they are being exposed to.

Each leaf is thin and long, king of like a sword shape. They are a dark green color with a glossy texture. The plant actually grows be adding new leaves to the centre of the plant (kind of a unique growing habit).

Lovely different colored guzmani plants growing in a garden

Growth Habit

This is not your regular flowering plant. This tropical looking phenomenon is actually an epiphytic plant. What is that you may ask? Well lemme tell ya!

Epiphytic plants are plants that don’t grow in soil – though, they still can grow in soil – but right off of the surface of another plant. You may be wondering how they can possibly survive this way, but they’ve adapted fascinating ways to survive.

They are actually able to obtain all of the nutrients that they need simply from sunlight, rainwater, and moisture in the air. They are not parasitic and don’t steal nutrients from their host plant, or cause any detriment to them.

So, guzmania plants attach themselves by very thin roots to the surface of another plant. They are stemless and leaf blades grow directly from the source. The plant grows by growing new leaves at the centre of the plant, and from here grows the inflorescence.

Reproduction

Here’s another neat thing about the guzmania plant: they reproduce by pups! When grown outdoors, they will produce seeds that spread, but only when they are pollinated by a bird or an insect.

When grown indoors, they can only reproduce by propagating plant pups. This can only happen after the plant has flowered. Once a guzmania flower is spent, the plant will die — though not entirely, so don’t fret.

Once this happens, the guzmania flower can be removed. This enables the plant to defer its energy towards growing new leaves, and eventually a new inflorescence. This new growth is called a pup (sometimes a rosette), and the process is called vegetative reproduction.

These pups (or plantlets) can be collected and propagated into new clonal plants. Just remember, any ailments that the mother plant had will be passed on to the new plant. These can be potted individually in either potting mix or by attaching it to another plant (but more on that later).

Fading pink striped leaves of the guzmani plant

Where is Guzmania a Native Plant?

If it weren’t obvious by the way it looks, guzmania is a tropical plant. They are native to very warm and humid places like South America, Central America, the East Indies, all the way up to Florida.

They also grow prosperously in the wild in the Andean rainforests up to altitudes of 3,500 metres! They can only exist in USDA growing zones 10 through 12, so don’t get any ideas Canadians! (Coming from a Canadian: these guys do not like cold, so don’t even try).

What are the Growing Conditions of Guzmania Bromeliad?

Air plants are an unusual type of plant, so their maintenance may also feel a little bit unusual. They take a different type of care, and force a gardener to kind of re-think the way they’re used to gardening.

Though not completely high maintenance, guzmania plants do require some attention, and here are some simple tips to help you care for yours!

Prosperous group of guzmani plants in a garden with bright red flowers

Soil Type

Okay, I know I mentioned before that guzmania bromeliad is an air plant (otherwise known as an epiphytic plant) but they actually are able to exist in soil as well as long as it is the exact type that they like!

First rule of guzmania soil: it must must must be well drained. This is the most important aspect. Since they’re used to just living in air, it makes sense that they would hate to live in something very clogged with no room to breathe.

Their preferred potting mix is the same one that one would plant an orchid. If you don’t have access to this type of potting mix you can always add your own by mixing one part peat moss, one part sand (coarse is best) and one part bark (orchid bark).

Otherwise, growing guzmania can be very successful if the plant is tied onto a piece of bark and allowing the roots to grow into some sphagnum moss. This makes repotting wonderfully simple.

Sun Exposure

Guzmania plants, though originally from tropical places, are actually quite sensitive to sun exposure. They prefer to exist in low light conditions and should always be kept out of direct sunlight. Indirect sunlight or partial shade is best.

This means that they should never be placed in a south facing window, if in a window at all. If your plants leaves are yellowing, this means that they are receiving way too much sunlight.

Beautiful pink flowers in full bloom of the guzmani plant growing in a container in a garden

Water Level

More than anything, these tropical plants like high humidity. This is because as air plants, they get the vast majority of their nutrients through rainfall and the humidity in the air.

When growing one inside, make sure that you give your plant a light misting at least once a day. It is also important that it is distilled water, to help mimic the effect of natural rainwater.

Otherwise, keep your plant moist by filling the “cup” that is created naturally by the plant growth. The plant basically has its own water vessel in the centre of the plant. This water (should also be distilled water) should be replaced frequently to prevent root rot.

That being said, they are actually pretty drought tolerant plants at the same time, and will not perish if you forget to water them. Under watering is always safer than over watering.

Temperature

Guzmania plants are not a cold tolerant bunch. They can only exist outdoors in USDA zones 10 through 12. Anything else, and they should be kept indoors as a house plant.

They can completely temperatures 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and will be happiest in temperatures hovering between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pruning

The only pruning that needs to be done on a guzmania plant (other than taking away withering leaves) is deadheading. Once a flower bract dies back, it is important to cut it low (towards the cup of the plant). This is so that the plant can avert its energy towards producing new plantlets as a means of vegetative reproduction.

Fertilizer

Another very important part of guzmania care is fertilizing. They love love love fertilizer. Your guzmania plant should be receiving a well balanced fertilizer every couple of weeks during the entire spring and summer (the most important growth periods) and then a slow release fertilizer towards the end of the summer.

Intolerances

Depsite being such a strange plant, guzmanias are surprisingly tolerant! The main things to remember are that they cannot tolerate poorly drained soil, nor exposure to direct sunlight.

How are Guzmania Plants Used?

A single guzmani plant growing in a small pot with a blooming flower

Ornamental Plant

This showy tropical flowering plant is a highly coveted ornamental specimen. They can easily be grown in containers or in a pot and are known as being a prized houseplant. Keeping a guzmania bromeliad happy is a sign of a true green thumb!

Floral designers also love these seasonal flowers for their striking colors and they make for an exotic gift. These tropical plants though not exactly a cut flower specimen, makes for an exceptional vase plant.

FAQs

Can you plant guzmania outside?

Guzmania plants can be grown outdoors in USDA growing zones 10 through 12 as they will not tolerate anything colder than that. These zones are quite similar to the natural growing regions of these plants, and they will require less care if they are able to grow outside. Otherwise, they should be kept as an indoor plant.

Can you divide guzmania?

Here’s another neat thing about the guzmania plant: they reproduce by pups! When grown outdoors, they will produce seeds that spread, but only when they are pollinated by a bird or an insect.

When grown indoors, they can only reproduce by propagating plant pups. This can only happen after the plant has flowered. Once a guzmania flower is spent, the plant will die — though not entirely, so don’t fret.

Once this happens, the guzmania flower can be removed. This enables the plant to defer its energy towards growing new leaves, and eventually a new inflorescence. This new growth is called a pup, and the process is called vegetative reproduction.

These pups (or plantlets) can be collected and propagated into new clonal plants. Just remember, any ailments that the mother plant had will be passed on to the subsequent plants. These can be potted individually in either potting mix or by attaching it to another plant.

How long do guzmania plants live?

Guzmania plants – if kept happy – can live at least 3 to 4 years. This is most easily done if they are kept indoors as house plants. Remember that this is a slow grower, and gardening with guzmania can require some patience.

How often do guzmania plants flower?

They will only flower once, but each new pup you produce will produce its own flower. This may seem like a bit of a bummer, but guzmania flower blooms last for a remarkably long time! They can stay in bloom anywhere from a fe months to nearly over a year.

How tall do guzmania plants get?

Guzmania plants are known for their stunning leafy bracts, not for their height. They will usually only grow to be about 18 inches in height overall.

Should a guzmania plant be pruned?

The only pruning that needs to be done on a guzmania plant (other than taking away withering leaves) is deadheading. Once a flower bract dies back, it is important to cut it low (towards the cup of the plant).

This is so that the plant can avert its energy towards producing new plantlets as a means of vegetative reproduction.

How often should a guzmania be watered?

More than anything, guzmania plants like humidity. This is because as air plants, they get the vast majority of their nutrients through rainfall and the humidity in the air.

When growing one inside, make sure that you give your plant a light misting at least once a day. It is also important that it is distilled water, to help mimic the effect of natural rainwater.

Otherwise, keep your plant moist by filling the “cup” that is created naturally by the plant growth. The plant basically has its own water vessel in the centre of the plant. This water (should also be distilled water) should be replaced frequently to prevent rotting.

That being said, they are actually pretty drought tolerant plants at the same time, and will not perish if you forget to water them. Under watering is always safer than over watering.

Why are my guzmania leaves turning yellow?

If your guzmania leaves are turning yellow, chances are that it is receiving too much sunlight. Simply take them away from whichever window they are in and they should go back to normal.

What time of year does bromeliad guzmania bloom?

The bromeliad guzmania plant will usually bloom in the summer, though flower blossoms will last for many many months, sometimes up to over a year.

Can guzmania plants live in full sun?

A bromeliad plant, though originally from tropical places, is actually quite sensitive to sun exposure. It prefers to exist in low light conditions and should always be kept out of direct sunlight.

This means that they should never be placed in a south facing window, if in a window at all. If your plants leaves are yellowing, this means that they are receiving way too much sunlight.

What’s the best type of soil for a guzmania?

Okay, I know I mentioned before that guzmania bromeliad is an air plant (otherwise known as an epiphytic plant) but they actually are able to exist in soil as well as long as it is the exact type that they like!

First rule of guzmania soil: it must must must be well drained. This is the most important aspect. Since they’re used to just living in air, it makes sense that they would hate to live in something very clogged with no room to breathe.

Their preferred potting mix is the same one that one would plant an orchid. If you don’t have access to this type of potting mix you can always add your own by mixing one part peat moss, one part sand (coarse is best) and one part bark (orchid bark).

Otherwise, growing guzmania can be very successful if the plant is tied onto a piece of bark and allowing the roots to grow into some sphagnum moss. This makes repotting wonderfully simple.

Is guzmania the same as neoregelia?

Guzmania plants and neoregelia plants look very similar, and that is because they are both members of the bromeliad botanical family (bromeliaceae).

Why is it called a guzmania plant?

The guzmania plant is named after the person who discovered it: Antonino Guzman.

What are epiphytic plants?

Epiphytic plants are plants that don’t grow in soil – though, they still can grow in soil – but right off of the surface of another plant. You may be wondering how they can possibly survive this way, but they’ve adapted fascinating ways to survive.

They are actually able to obtain all of the nutrients that they need simply from sunlight, rainwater, and moisture in the air. They are not parasitic and don’t steal nutrients from their host plant, or cause any detriment to them.