Tillandsia

Tillandsia

BROMELIACEAE


The genus Tillandsia includes many widely varying forms of bromeliad. Tillandsias range in size from tiny, lichenlike plants to im­mense rosettes of leaves, and their native habitats range from humid rain forests to arid deserts. Those in com­mon use as house plants have little or no root and absorb most or all of the water and food they need through their leaves. This makes them suitable for epiphyte branches.

RECOMMENDED TILLANDSIAS T. cyanea has many 1- to 1 ½ foot-long and 1/2 to 1 -inch-wide leaves. These narrow, pointed-tipped leaves are arranged in a loose rosette. Their color is gray-green, with reddish brown, lengthwise stripes on the undersides. A 2- to 3-inch-long flower stalk appearing from the center of the mature rosette carries a fan-shaped flower head 4-6 inches long and 2 inches wide. This hard flower head, which lasts for up to 10 weeks, is composed of a number of smooth, overlapping, rose-colored bracts. The actual flowers, which appear singly from the notches formed on the edge of the flower head by the overlapping of the bracts, are tubular flaring out into three broad petals. Flower color is bright violet-blue, and each bloom measures 2 inches across at the mouth. As with most bromeliad rosettes, the rosette flowers only once and then gradually dies. Offsets arc produced from leaf axils, and these may be either used for the purpose of propagation or else left in the pot after the withered old rosette has finally been detached. T. Hndenii is similar to T. cyanea in almost all respects. It differs mainly in that the flower stalk can be as much as 12 inches long, and flower color is deep royal blue with a white throat. T. usneoides(Spanish moss or gray-beard) consists of threadlike stems covered with silvery gray scales that are, in reality, minute, scaly leaves. In the wild this virtually rootless plant hangs from trees and rocks in long, tangled festoons. T. usneoides, there­fore, is not used as a potted plant. Instead, many indoor gardeners attach a few sections of the tangled mass to a 2-inch-square piece of cork or bark, tying the fine stems on loosely with plastic-coated or copper wire and hanging the cork on a hook. The stems trail as they lengthen. The tiny, pale green flowers that appear in the leaf axils of wild Spanish moss rarely bloom indoors.

PROPER CARE

Light Tillandsias used as house plants do best in bright filtered light.

Temperature These plants will grow actively throughout the year if the temperature is kept above 6o°F; they cannot tolerate temperatures below 55°. For increased humidity, stand the potted species of tillandsia on trays of moist pebbles, and mist-spray them two or three times a week. Mist-spray T. usneoides daily.

Watering The negligible roots of T. cyanea and T. lindenii need little water, if the foliage is mist-sprayed regularly as advised above, enough water will seep down into the potting mixture. In addition, sub­merge T. usneoides, along with its base, in water for 10 minutes a week.

Feeding Give a half-strength dose of standard liquid fertilizer to most pot­ted tillandsias once a month. T. us-neoides needs nothing.

Potting and repotting For T. cyanea and T. lindenii use one of the potting mixtures recommended for brome-liads. These plants will flower and form offsets in 4-inch pots and do not need to be moved to bigger ones. For T. usneoides see "Re­commended tillandsias," above.

Propagation Remove offsets of T. cyanea and T. lindenii from the parent plant at any time after their leaves have attained a length of 3 inches. Plant each offset in a 2- or 3-inch pot containing an equal-parts mixture of peat moss and coarse sand or perlite, and enclose the whole in a plastic bag or propagating case. When roots have developed, treat the young plant as a mature specimen. Transfer it into a 4-inch pot of stan­dard bromeliad mixture about six months after the start of propagation. To propagate T. usneoides, detach a few stems, and wire them to a piece of cork or bark, as suggested in "Re­commended tillandsias," above.

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