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Bromeliad Stump Garden

Let your imagination escape to a distant land by creating a magical mini landscape.

During the summer, I often find myself daydreaming about traveling to far-off places like Machu Picchu in Peru, home to countless stunningly beautiful bromeliads. Short on time and funds, instead I created a miniature garden reminiscent of that distant land. This bromeliad stump garden provides you with an escape to a faraway place without actually leaving home. The mounted plants add delightful color and texture to any space. This project takes advantage of the epiphytic nature of bromeliads by mounting them as they would be seen clinging to trees in places like Peru or Brazil.

You will want to use wood that is rot-resistant such as cypress, cedar, oak, or manzanita. Avoid using pine due to its sap. It is better to use a wood that has cured for a year or more. Do not use wood with any type of contaminant or driftwood from the sea (too much salt).


It is best to mount bromeliads during the warmer months when the plants and roots are actively growing. Use plants that are not in bloom yet, as once a bromeliad blooms it dies. It is best to mount pups because their root systems have not developed. If they’re mounted as pups the plants will form a small number of hard, strong roots that just serve as holders and do not provide nutrients to the plant. When grown in soil they form large, soft root systems that provide additional nutrients to the plant. If you choose to mount a plant that has already formed the soft root system, the mount should be able to accommodate the plant’s root ball. The root ball should be covered with sphagnum moss and will need to be watered regularly to continue the nutrient flow to the plant.

For some species, a layer of moss is not necessary, but neoregelias benefit from moss. During the warmer months your plants will tend to dry out a lot quicker than potted plants so be sure to give them enough moisture until they become established.



  • 2 rot-resistant logs (ideally, with naturally formed crevices) (A)
  • Five 4-inch bromeliads suitable for mounting (Make sure they all have the same light needs and are able to be mounted. Most tillandsias and aechmeas do well mounted, often billbergias and neoregelias can be mounted.
  • Guzmania should not be mounted.) (B)
  • Sphagnum moss, either living or dried (C)
  • 8 outdoor wood screws (D)
  • 4 strips of nylon stockings (E)
  • Decorative moss (I used loose green moss) (F)
  • Cork for the bottom of the logs (optional; to prevent scratches) (G)



  • Hammer (H)
  • Chisel (I)
  • Drill (J)
  • Driving bit to match the size of the screws you’re using (K)
  • Countersink bit to match the size of the screws you’re using (if you’re using hardwood) (L)

If the logs do not have a natural cavity or only have a very small cavity, use a hammer and chisel to create an opening that is just large enough to give the bromeliads a place to rest their roots.


Loosen the bromeliads from their containers and remove the extra soil from their roots. If the plants have well-developed roots, wrap sphagnum moss around the roots. Find the place where the bromeliads sit most naturally in the cavity and insert the plants. You can use 2 to 3 bromeliads per log.


Drill a screw on either side of the cavity, leaving some of the screw exposed enough to tie a strip of nylon to. If you are working with a very hard wood you may need to predrill the holes in order to get the screws to go in the log.


Tie a piece of nylon to one screw, stretch it across the bromeliads, and tie it to the screw on the other side. You may need two screws on each side, with two pieces of nylon supporting the bromeliads, with one that’s higher up on the plant. The main goal is to tie the plants firmly so they don’t wiggle around. This will allow new root growth to attach to the wood.


Hide the nylon strip by tucking decorative moss around it.



Mounted bromeliads require a higher level of humidity and a lot more water than potted ones do. In dry air, the mounted plants may fail to develop sufficient roots to attach themselves to the substrate (the wood) and their foliage may suffer from extreme dehydration. To help them live happily in your home mist them daily to provide additional humidity. You can also place a tray filled with gravel and water nearby; this will add humidity to the environment. Ideally the humidity should be 50 to 70 percent. The higher the temperature and the more vigorous the air movement, the higher the humidity levels should be.


Many bromeliad species have a central cup—you should fill the cup with water. This reservoir of water should be flushed once a week to keep it clean and free of bacteria and dried nutrients. You should also water the plant’s roots. You want to maintain moist but not wet roots.


Adequate light is crucial for growing healthy, colorful bromeliads. The bromeliads I selected need a sunny spot indoors. Different bromeliads have very different light needs, and geographical location can intensify or diffuse the sun. Where you live also changes the level of humidity, which is related to the amount of light and water a plant needs. In a place that has a very hot, dry sun, adding more humidity is necessary. Air circulation also plays a role in a bromeliad’s health. Plants that do well in the sun outdoors may burn next to an unshaded window, because of a lack of air circulation.


In their native habitat, the rosettes collect debris and rain, which contain nutrients. In a home, most of these sources of nutrition are absent so bromeliads should be fertilized, especially during the growing season. The fertilizer should be acidic. It is also very important that most of the nitrogen is in the form of ammonium or nitrate and not urea. Also, copper and boron are toxic to bromeliads. Use a complete, water-soluble fertilizer, using 1/8 to no more than 1/2 the concentration in the manufacturer’s directions, as a full-strength dose will damage the plant. You can use it as a foliar spray or place it in the center cup of the bromeliad. Wet the bromeliads thoroughly before fertilizing them. Excessive fertilizing can cause a loss of color, leggy development of rosettes, or algae growth on the leaves.



Most species of bromeliad slowly die after blooming, but they produce one to several offsets, or pups, as they decline. Pups should be at least 1/3 the size of the parent plant before you remove them. They should not be removed until winter is over—they will develop better root systems if removed during the summer or growing season. Some pups will be easy to pull away from the parent plant, others may require a bit of force. Don’t pull or twist; instead hold the pup tightly, pulling it away from the parent plant, and cut through the pup with a sharp knife. Pot the pup in 1/2 to 1 inch of potting mix. Brace it upright with a mini stake or a few rocks. Keep the new plant in a shady, more humid spot for a few weeks until the cut heals and the new roots begin to grow. Keep the potting mixture fairly dry until the pup has grown new roots and the cut has healed.