dweller by the river

sojourner of earth attempting to understand the journey home

Category: Tillandsias


My dear plants… I am so sorry. I finally took a good look at you guys last night, and I am so, so sorry to have neglected you so horribly.

The worst thing is that I actually felt slightly relieved at the number of you that are dead or beyond recovery. Because I just can’t find it in myself to dredge up more energy and effort and scrounge out more time to ensure that each of you is fine.

Because I just can’t handle both you and a child at the same time.

I’m sorry.

T. cyanea

I feel compelled to confess the somewhat embarassing fact that for the longest time, I misspelled T. cyanea as T. cynea. And me a writer and editor! Oh, dear.

Anyway. This somewhat grassy-looking tillandsia isn’t one of my personal favourites, though it’s certainly grown on me over the many months its been a part of our little high-rise garden. We bought it because E, freshly introduced to the world of Hawaiian slack key guitar, was going a little crazy picking up little facts and trivia about Hawaii, its culture, flora and fauna. See, T. cynea is also known by two other names – Pink Quill (for its flowering bract) and Kamehameha’s Paddle (after Hawaii’s King Kamehameha, probably because its shape and colouring brings to mind the Law of the Splintered Paddle).

T. cyanea is not a showy plant until it flowers. It is also one of the very few tillandsias that can be grown potted in well-draining media instead of almost bare-rooted, can take less light, and is able to survive a pretty wide range of watering schedules. Appearance-wise, one might mistake it for a bunch of grass, though, which is why I don’t find it particularly attractive. Tillies only flower once in their life cycles, so it doesn’t make sense to me to keep them for the sake of their flowers. Pick a plant whose foliage you love and whose needs more or less match your growing environment. Personally, I’d have picked a variegated T. cyanea if one had been available, but alas, only the ordinary dark green variety was on sale.

Our plant hasn’t flowered yet. It’s only gotten bigger and bushier and appears to have one or two grass/adventitious pups pushing up close to its base. Odd, that.

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T. butzii

It’s a sad fact that when you keep plants, you will experience both successes and failures. Sometimes a plant fails to thrive because you didn’t understand its needs, sometimes it dies because it was inherently weak or already diseased when you obtained it, and sometimes your growing area just doesn’t agree with it even if you’ve tried to make the necessary adjustments based on research and advice from experienced growers. Sometimes you can’t help it when pests attack and a plant just doesn’t survive, either.

I’m not entirely certain which was the case with my unfortunate T. butzii, though I’m inclined to think it was a combination of all of the above (poor thing!). I bought it at a clearance sale where none of the plants available looked all that healthy to begin with (but the prices were so low! and I just wanted to try), it seemed to rally and deteriorate at intervals while I tried various care plans and hanging positions, and in the end, it succumbed to a spider mite infestation.

T. butzii is an elegant species of tillandsia, smallish and with a distinctive squid-like appearance. With its smooth, hard exterior and long, slender leaves boasting beautiful markings, it really is an attractive plant. However its general care guidelines are a little tricky: bright but indirect sunlight, frequent light watering (better to hang it sideways or upside-down as it’s prone to rot) because of the lack of trichomes, sufficient moving air to keep things fresh without drying it out too quickly… I guess my growing area is just too hot and dry for this species. Oh well.

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T. intermedia

Talk about slow-growing. I’ve had my T. intermedia for more than a year (got it in mid December 2013) and it hardly shows any change from when I first brought it home. It grew roots twice, which is a good sign, but I’ve always trimmed the roots off my free-hanging tillandsias because it’s neater that way.

This is an interesting species that can grow pretty big (a friend has specimens that measure 15–20cm tall from base to growing tip), though most seem to stay between 10cm to 12cm in height. They’re funny in that they tend to grow facing downwards instead of up (or mostly up, at least – tillies generally like to slant a bit and that’s healthier as water can drain out better), look like squids, and pup from the base as well as along their very long inflorescences (a viviparous species). Rainforest Flora’s website has some pretty good images of these – I don’t have my own photos because, you know, slow-growing.

Yes, it really looks almost the same right now (1 February 2015) so I didn’t bother to take new photos. The leaves are just a little longer and there are two new ones just starting to sprout. That’s it.

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T. funckiana

Back to our usual tillandsia posts! Man, it’s been a rough month.

T. funckiana is a funky-looking species all right. It’s not really the sort of plant I’d automatically be attracted to, but it’s hard to imagine any collection being complete without it because it’s so distinctive, and really is not a difficult one to take care of. The bright green of this cultivar (I’m not certain which it is, but I know there are at least three different and visually distinct types of T. funckiana) is particularly attractive – almost an apple green – and the long needle-like leaves make it pretty resistant to heat and water loss. I’ve noticed the colour brightening when it gets more sunlight, though it hasn’t turned any other colour: I’ve seen other T. funckiana cultivars that turn orangey or even maroonish red.

My plant has been with me for more than a year and it hasn’t flowered yet, but I’m not big on tilly flowers so I’m not much bothered. It’ll be nice to see it happen eventually, though – T. funckiana produces really pretty bright red blooms that don’t really look like the usual tubular tilly florets. Meanwhile, it’s been slowly pushing out pups along its considerable length, so I guess it’s reasonably happy where it is. E likes to say it looks like a mythological Chinese dragon. Haha.

Anyway, if anyone wonders why the photos aren’t that recent, well… as you can tell from the four I’ve selected, it really hasn’t seemed to change much over a year. It still looks the same, just slightly longer on all fronts, and marginally bushier.

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