Low germination and seedling survival probabilities are reported in various species of epiphytic bromeliad (Benzing 1978, Hietz et al. 2011, Toledo-Aceves & Wolf 2008, Winkler et al. 2005; but see Cascante-Marín et al. 2008). If germination and seedling survival are limiting factors in the life cycle, differential germination and seedling survival between species should be reflected in the relative abundance of established plants (Cascante-Marín et al. 2006, 2008) and in their presence or absence in secondary vegetation (Hietz et al. 2011), while differential germination within the tree would be expected to contribute to a heterogeneous distribution of established plants within the canopy (Hietz et al. 2011, Zotz & Vollrath 2002). Many factors influence the performance and distribution of epiphytes, including forest condition, disturbance type, distance from seed source, tree size and species, microclimate, epiphyte population dynamics and physiology (Cascante-Marín et al. 2009, Hietz et al. 2011, Valencia-Diaz et al. 2010, Zotz & Hietz 2001). In this study, we tested whether germination and seedling survival rates differ between the epiphytic bromeliads Tillandsia multicaulis Steud., T. punctulata Schldl. & Cham. and T. butzii Mez, and whether species abundance reflects the ability to germinate and survive as seedlings within the cloud-forest canopy. We also explore how morphological and physiological traits of the studied species can influence their early establishment.