A central issue in ecology is the understanding of the establishment of biotic interactions. We studied the factors that affect the assembly of the commensalistic interactions between vascular epiphytes and their host plants. We used an analytical approach that considers all individuals and species of epiphytic bromeliads and woody hosts and non-hosts at study plots. We built models of interaction probabilities among species to assess if host traits and abundance and spatial overlap of species predict the quantitative epiphyte–host network. Species abundance, species spatial overlap and host size largely predicted pairwise interactions and several network metrics. Wood density and bark texture of hosts also contributed to explain network structure. Epiphytes were more common on large hosts, on abundant woody species, with denser wood and/or rougher bark. The network had a low level of specialization, although several interactions were more frequent than expected by the models. We did not detect a phylogenetic signal on the network structure. The effect of host size on the establishment of epiphytes indicates that mature forests are necessary to preserve diverse bromeliad communities.