Brome mosaic virus (BMV) packages its genomic and subgenomic RNAs into three separate viral particles. BMV purified from barley, wheat, and tobacco have distinct relative abundances of the encapsidated RNAs. We seek to identify the basis for the host-dependent differences in viral RNA encapsidation. Sequencing of the viral RNAs revealed recombination events in the 3′ untranslated region of RNA1 of BMV purified from barley and wheat, but not from tobacco. However, the relative amounts of the BMV RNAs that accumulated in barley and wheat are similar and RNA accumulation is not sufficient to account for the difference in RNA encapsidation. Virions purified from barley and wheat were found to differ in their isoelectric points, resistance to proteolysis, and contacts between the capsid residues and the RNA. Mass spectrometric analyses revealed that virions from the three hosts had different post-translational modifications that should impact the physiochemical properties of the virions. Another major source of variation in RNA encapsidation was due to the purification of BMV particles to homogeneity. Highly enriched BMV present in lysates had a surprising range of sizes, buoyant densities, and distinct relative amounts of encapsidated RNAs. These results show that the encapsidated BMV RNAs reflect a combination of host effects on the physiochemical properties of the viral capsids and the enrichment of a subset of virions. The previously unexpected heterogeneity in BMV should influence the timing of the infection and also the host innate immune responses.