Tillandsia - an exotic with a difficult character
Tillandsia is often called exotics among the exotics. Gorgeous and catchy, these beauties in the interior always seem particularly original and daring. Despite the difficult care, tillandsia remain one of the most popular plants from the bromeliad family. In addition to spectacular flowering and beautiful foliage, they boast a considerable variety. The genus Tillandsia combines both more familiar plants and epiphytes completely unlike them. And even if it takes a lot of effort to succeed in growing tillandsia, these beauties are worth it.
Two dissimilar exotics under the same name
Two groups of plants are combined in the genus Tillandsia, which are not similar in both their appearance and nature:
- potted, or green tillandsia, which grow in ordinary soil, produce a beautiful rosette of leaves, which serve as an excellent backdrop for spectacular "prickly" inflorescences;
- epiphytic tillandsia, rare, overly capricious, the most attractive feature of which is not flowering, but luxurious foliage.
Moreover, if potted tillandsia are very popular, then epiphytic ones are found only in private collections of experienced gardeners, therefore they are practically not known to most fans of indoor exotics. It is different not only externally, but also in the use and the required conditions for growing the plant. Florists often distinguish them by the simplest sign - the color of the foliage.
Epiphytic silver tillandsia are known among amateurs as "gray", and spectacular potted - as "green" tillandsia. But it is not difficult to get confused with such nicknames, because grassy tillandsia have varietal hybrids with a gray color of greenery. In this regard, it is better to always specify exactly the form of growth - epiphytic or potted.
But then, without exception, Tillandsia is rightly reckoned as exotics, and exotics are very catchy. In nature, these plants combine in one genus hundreds of different species found in the territories of South and North America. Tillandsia is one of the most representative genera of evergreen herbaceous and epiphytic plants belonging to the Bromeliaceae family. It combines more than 400 plant species that differ significantly in appearance.
Potted, green, or grassy tillandsia resemble the more familiar bromeliad cultures. These evergreens form a not very powerful root system and release a dense, massive rosette from narrow, linear or wedge-shaped, long leaves with pointed tips. Every year, after flowering, a large maternal rosette is replaced by growth - affiliated rosettes - and gradually dies. Thus, the plant self-rejuvenates.
The rosette of leaves is so spectacular and dense that it stands out against the background of even similar type of green indoor competitors. From the very center of the outlet, the plant produces a peduncle with a large inflorescence, the shape of which resembles an exotic spike. Bright, colorful, with graphic and “sharp” lines, the inflorescence-ear seems to continue the lines of leaves. Bracts give the beauty of inflorescence, hiding almost inconspicuous modest flowers.
The color palette includes the most striking "acrylic" tones - pink, purple, white, yellow, cyan, blue, red, orange and cold lilac. Bracts are always painted in shining, pure tones that make tillandsia look dazzling.
The best types of green tillandsia:
- Tillandsia blue (Tillandsia cyanea) - the most popular of the herbaceous species, forming a bizarre rosette of cereal leaves, the color of which varies from a reddish base to brown-striped plates. It is limited to a height of 20-30 cm. In summer, a flattened spike with dense, ornamental bracts that seem artificial is growing from the center of the outlet. The flowers bloom gradually, a wave from the top to the bottom, as it were, rolls along the ear. Bracts are colored in lilac or pink, and short-lived flowers with rhombic, bent petals are blue or blue.
- Tillandsia Linden (Tillandsia lindenii) - similar to tillandsia blue, but more elegant beauty. The ear is more rounded, not so flattened, and the bracts are painted only in pale pink or red. The flowers of the plant are also blue, the leaves are grassy, but thinner, collected in relatively loose rosettes.
- Tillandsia Duer (Tillandsia dyeriana) - a species whose inflorescence resembles a yellow autumn leaf of acacia. An elegant and very beautiful plant develops in the form of a rosette of densely arranged linguistic flat and long leaves, as if wrapped around the base of the peduncle. A thin peduncle carries a symmetrical inflorescence with a loose, double-row, leaf-shaped oval bracts of orange or red tones.
Epiphytic tillandsia, also called atmospheric or airy tillandsia, have become famous thanks to their foliage. It is not only the most beautiful part of plants, but also performs all the functions usually inherent in the roots: through the leaves of tillandsia, epiphytes feed and absorb moisture. The roots only serve to be fixed on the bark, stone or tree, they are practically not visible.
Among the epiphytic tillandsia there are both plants with a developed stem and stemless species. Outwardly, the leaves of atmospheric tillandsia seem very exotic: filiform, very thin, almost transparent leaves densely covered with scales and, together with the same thin shoots, form a unique beauty of green lace with a silver-gray tint.
The best types of atmospheric tillandsia include:
- Tillandsia is unshaped (Tillandsia usneoides) - the most common epiphyte tillandsia, popularly known as "Spanish moss" or "old man's beard." It has thin stems reaching several meters in length and threadlike leaves up to 5 cm long with a width of 0.1 cm, which are arranged in two rows. Thanks to the reflective scales densely covering the leaves and shoots, the greenery seems gray or silver. This tillandsia has no roots at all. And it grows, hanging from the bark, branches, stones like a lace cascade. An amazing feature of the osseevidnogo Tillandsia - there is no need to fix it on a support, just simply hang it so that it can grow down. This rare lace beauty also blooms, releasing yellowish-green flowers in the summer.
- Tillandsia sticking out (Tillandsia stricta) flaunts bright greens with a saturated color and resembles a blade of grass. This epiphyte forms a dense rosette of narrowly triangular leaves covered with gray scales with a length of up to 20 cm and a width of no more than 1 cm. Short, curved peduncles are crowned with a dense spike of inflorescence with spirally arranged oval watercolor-pink bracts and bluish or lilac petals of nondescript flowers.
- Tillandsia tricolor (Tillandsia tricolor) - a compact epiphyte with similar, but more linear green-gray leaves, forming a very faulty rosette. Straight and long peduncles either in the form of a simple spike or from several ears are distinguished by long bracts, red at the bottom of the inflorescences, yellow in the middle and light green at the top, hiding purple flowers.
- Other than filamentous or hairy amazing tillandsia silver (Tillandsia argentea) you will not name. This epiphyte with narrow, long leaf blades expanding to the base, curving in a spiral or bizarrely curved, kind of bunch growing from the base of the stems. To solve a living plant in this miracle, rather than a dried cereal, is rather difficult.
- A similar effect has tillandsia sitnikova (Tillandsia juncea) - an epiphyte with reed, thin leaves resembling cereals and collected in peculiar panicles, which together create an airy, but very bushy rosette.
- Tillandsia violet (Tillandsia ionantha) - an epiphyte resembling exotic coral. It forms miniature rosettes of curved, thin-claw-like leaves with a green-silver color, above which spike-blue-violet inflorescences appear. During blooming, the top leaves in rosettes turn red and themselves appear to be part of a fancy flower.
- Tillandsia "Jellyfish Head" (Tillandsia caput-medusae) - an epiphyte that looks most similar to octopuses, jellyfish or squid. The leaves are tightly closed and form a kind of onion base, bending to the side only at the top, forming bizarre contours with protruding juicy light gray leaves sticking out in different directions. Moisture builds up in the onion, flowing nicely from the leaf blades. This epiphyte is capable of flowering, it produces an unusual panicle of three to five "spikelets" with red grain-shaped bracts and purple-blue narrow-tube flowers, contrasting beautifully with them.
Tillandsia home care
Potted tillandsia - magnificent accents that are used in the design of modern interiors as bright touches and color accents. They are easier to grow in greenhouses, terrariums, indoor greenhouses and florariums, but with scrupulous care they grow well in ordinary rooms. These are extremely photophilous plants that need constant care, but not too difficult to recreate conditions.
Epiphytic species in all depend on air humidity and the quality of foliar top dressing. Since they feed precisely through the leaves, the care of plants is very unusual and differs from standard procedures - from secluded lighting to high humidity. Despite this specificity, they can be grown not only in flower showcases, but also introduced into interiors, in particular, in the design of bathrooms, in which conditions with increased importance are met.
Beautiful aquariums, florariums, glass vases, flower showcases help to use this plant anywhere. The bark, pieces of wood or stones, on which such tillandsia are attached, look good on their own, and with an unusual plant make up a surprisingly catchy decoration, a bizarre pride of the collection.
Lighting for Tillandsia
Individual groups of tillandsia vary significantly not only externally, but also according to their preferences for lighting. If potted tillandsia are very light-loving cultures that cannot tolerate even light partial shade, then epiphytic ones are, on the contrary, shade-tolerant.
Potted species are provided with the most bright lighting, but they protect them from direct sunlight at any time of the year. The same level of illumination should be maintained year-round, compensating for the seasonal reduction either by rearrangement or by artificial illumination. Potted tillandsia are more fond of natural rather than artificial light and feel good on the southern, eastern and western windowsills.
Epiphytic tillandsia are not only shade-tolerant, but also shade-loving. Any penumbra and shadow are suitable for them, they can be safely placed even in the interior of the interior away from windows. They respond better to artificial illumination than potted species and can grow in fully artificial light.
All of Tillandsia love a stable growing environment, they do not react very well to sharp changes in air temperature and substrate. These plants are rightly considered to be heat-loving exotics: the most active growth of tillandsia is demonstrated at a stable room temperature above 18 degrees. Potted beauties prefer a temperature of at least 18 degrees, lowering to 16 degrees of heat can greatly harm plants. But epiphytes are more hardy, they put up with a short-term lowering of indicators to 12 degrees.
Despite the status of the greenhouse plant, tillandsia are great lovers of airing and fresh air. Permanent, better daily airing is one of the most important "secrets" in their cultivation. These exotics should not only regularly gain access to fresh air, but also enjoy its freely circulating flows (do not expose plants in the "corners", near walls or glasses, in cramped conditions with other plants). But the fact that the Tillands are not afraid of drafts does not mean that they will put up with any winds.
They cannot stand cold, and even more so ice drafts, just like the rest of indoor plants. It is advisable that during airing a stable room temperature is not disturbed. Both potted and epiphytic tillandsia can be safely moved to fresh air in the summer (the only condition is to keep the level of illumination unchanged). Despite the love of moisture, you need to place them in the open with full protection against rain: cold rains can be harmful to plants.
Watering and humidity
Classic watering is carried out exclusively for potted tillandsia. In epiphytes, spraying replaces them, and the significance of this procedure is difficult to overestimate. However, grassy tillandsia require a standard approach to the procedures: the soil for these plants should always remain slightly moist, but strong moisture and complete drying of the earthen coma should be avoided during the active season from spring to summer. Watering should be moderate and careful, constantly monitored by the degree of drying of the substrate.
In winter, watering is rare, allowing the substrate to completely dry before each subsequent procedure. It is very easy to control whether the irrigation regimen is comfortable for the plant: with signs of lack of moisture, tillandsia gradually twists the leaves, which indicates the need for abundant watering.
Watering itself is not quite usual: pouring water on a substrate, as for ordinary plants, is not worth it. Tillandsia is watered inside the outlet and slightly moistened all the leaves. If the plant does not have enough moisture and the leaves curl, then instead of the usual procedure, it is better to wash the earthen coma by immersing the pots with the plant in water overnight, and then letting the moisture drain freely.
Humidity is a vital indicator for these plants. But if potted tillandsia can come to terms with a decrease in indicators to 60%, then for epiphytic tillandsia, humidity of 80% is considered the minimum acceptable. It is not for nothing that they earned their title as atmospheric plants: in dry conditions they simply die. High air humidity is best supported by a combination of humidifiers (or their artisanal counterparts) with frequent spraying.
For epiphytic plants, greens are moistened intensively in order to completely replace watering with spraying (the procedures are carried out daily, preferably in the morning). If the temperature drops below 15-16 degrees, spraying should not be carried out, as well as during the flowering period. In addition to spraying, an immersed tillandsia is also used to immerse the entire plant in water to absorb moisture (not more than once every 2 weeks).
Water for tillandsia of any kind is selected very carefully: it must be soft and necessarily warm (at least 5 degrees warmer than air temperature for potted plants and the same as air temperature for epiphytic).
This is a unique plant that does not like ordinary root top dressing: fertilizers for all tillandsia are best applied by the foliar method, spraying on the leaves.Potted tillandsia can be fed in the usual way, but this approach involves too high a risk of infection due to watering inside the outlet. And the fact that it is the leaves of plants that better absorb fertilizers indicates the need to use foliar spraying.
For tillandsia, either special fertilizers for orchids or complex fertilizers for flowering plants are used. The dosage must be adjusted: the manufacturer's indicated amount of fertilizer for potted tillandsia is reduced by half, and for epiphytic - by four times. To stimulate flowering in potted plants, a growth stimulator can also be used by spraying them with a plant for 1-2 months.
Both epiphytic and potted tillandsia are fed every two weeks only in spring and summer (for epiphytes, top dressing in winter can be fatal, for potted ones it will cause a lack of flowering next year).
Tillandsia transplant, containers and substrate
For tillandsia, only containers whose width exceeds the height are suitable. Plants develop specifically, growth and daughter rosettes replace maternal ones and growth occurs mainly in width. The root system in Tillandsia is powerful, but not voluminous, and in deep containers the plant may suffer from overmoistening and disturbance of comfortable conditions.
The substrate for these plants is selected from among loose, drained soil mixtures with a coarse-fiber texture. For tillandsia, special earth mixtures for bromeliads or orchids are ideal, but you can also make the soil yourself on the basis of equal parts of deciduous soil, humus and peat with additions of sphagnum, fern roots and pine bark.
Transplantation for epiphytic species is not carried out at all (they are sold fixed on a stone, bark or tree and grown on the same basis without change), and for potted plants it is carried out only after the volume of bushes completely fill the free space (the plant grows in breadth to the walls of the pot , and the roots will begin to peek out of the holes for water drainage). In one container, potted tillandsia can remain for 2-3 years, during which it is only necessary to replace the topsoil only annually in early spring.
If a transplant is needed, the plant is taken out very carefully, carefully replacing the soil, trying not to injure even the smallest roots. Rhizome does not hold tillandsia well in a loose substrate, therefore, it is necessary to compact, crush the soil, paying attention to making the rosette of leaves stable.
Tillandsia diseases and pests
For tillandsia almost no typical indoor pests are scary. But they suffer very often from bromeliad scale insects, and serious lesions are possible on tillandsia of any type. You can deal with this specific pest only by washing the plants with soap and water and removing scabies from the leaves, which is not always possible in fragile epiphytic species.
Diseases threaten tillandsia with any violation of the conditions of detention. Rot and various viral infections are especially dangerous, which are not enough to fight with fungicides: plants will have to cut out damaged parts.
Common growing problems:
- curl of leaves during dehydration;
- decay of the base of the outlet when fertilizing with water for irrigation.
Epiphytic plants reproduce only vegetatively. From adult maternal bushes, you can cut off shoots with leaves and tie them to the usual base - bark, branch or stones. With an air humidity of 80%, the shoots will quickly enough fix on a new basis and start growing. You can cut branches of any size.
Potted plants can be propagated both by seed method and vegetatively.
Due to the fact that tillandsia forms several young plants every year to replace a faded rosette, you can constantly obtain new, capable of flowering rosettes, just separating them during transplantation. True, you should not rush into separation: you can only separate those “babies” whose size is at least half the mother’s outlet. Too weak sockets will not take root on their own. The best time for vegetative propagation is spring or summer.
Plant seeds germinate well, under normal conditions in a nutrient substrate and under glass, they germinate quickly in bright light. But germination of seedlings requires patience: young tillandsia grow extremely slowly, and they will acquire the ability to bloom only 10 years after sowing.