The variety of Tillandsias is so wide that it is difficult to identify them if you have no experience with them. The following list of Tillandsia lower classifications can help you identify the most common ones and learn the special care that each of them may require.
Tillandsia, also known as air plant, is a group of plants in the Bromeliad family. Almost all of them are epiphyte plants, which means that in nature they live on other plants that provide support. However, Tillandsias are not parasitic plants, they feed on their own and that allows them to be grown on stones, woods, wires or other supports. With them you can form very decorative compositions. They are easy-to-grow plants that adapt to various climatic conditions and have therefore become very popular in gardening.
Growing Tillandsia is easy and clean because it is a plant that does not need substrate to grow. It is not necessary to fill a pot with soil for it, nor to change pots from time to time because the plant has become large. In shops you can find Tillandsia plants in a huge variety, with different sizes and shapes; from small, delicate bulbs to huge plants of thick tentacles.
Unknown and Unlabeled Tillandsias
We often grow air plants without knowing what variety of Tillandsia we have, and it is important to know that different varieties often have different care needs. In stores it is common to find a large sample of Tillandsias of different sizes, colors and shapes, but without labels that identify them; all are sold simply under the label “Tillandsias surtidas“.
Tillandsia is the largest genus in the family Bromeliaceae. They come from the deserts, forests and mountains of the Americas; from the southern United States to South America. Very few grow on land (Tillandsia usneoides), they usually grow on trees, rocks, roofs or even telephone line cables. Some, such as Tillandsia recurvata, become a real pest in places where the weather is humid all year round.
Classification of Tillandsias and General Care
There are more than 650 recognized species of air plants, but there is one characteristic that divides them into two different groups: their foliage. There are green foliage Tillandsias and grey foliage Tillandsias, a differentiation that significantly influences their cultivation.
1. Mesophyte Tillandsias
This is the green foliage tillandsias. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland grassland.
They should be grown with plenty of moisture and in the middle of the shade. Although they are epiphytic plants it is advisable to grow them in pots, perched on porous and organic substrate. With this method they can develop food roots that will allow them to nourish and develop better.
2. Xerophyte Tillandsias
Its foliage is predominantly grey, bluish or even white. Its leaves are coated with trichomes, small scales that contribute to them resisting dry weather conditions and sun rays.
They can be grown in full sun as long as there is enough ambient moisture, otherwise it is best to grow them in semi-shade. To ensure good ventilation it is advisable to hang them, lay them on the trunk of a tree or hold them on a container.
List of Tillandsia Lower Classifications
- Tillandsia brachycaulos comes from the dry deserts and forests of Mexico and Central America. It is a xerophyte Tillandsia that can live months without irrigation in its place of origin. It likes intense light and turns pink when exposed to direct sunlight, which should only be done if it stays well hydrated. It grows to between 9 and 14 cm tall.
- Tillandsia seleriana is native to the pine and oak forests of Central America, from southern Mexico to Honduras. It is a medium-sized Tillandsia whose stems can reach 6 cm in length and exceed 25 cm in diameter. It develops well in moderate conditions of light, water and fertilizer. It can grow in full sun if we keep humidity levels high so that the plant can transpire. If we place it in a place with little lighting, the frequency of irrigation must also be reduced.
- Tillandsia ionantha is distributed throughout Central America, from Mexico to Costa Rica. It is a small Tillandsia that reaches no more than 8 cm in height, with leaves that reach 9 cm long. It is one of the most popular air plants and that makes it possible to obtain numerous different cultivars, with slight differences in the form of growth or color of the type species.
- Tillandsia magnusiana comes from pine forests in mountainous areas of Central America. Its natural habitat is present in heights above 1200 meters, so it is a Tillandsia that likes cool temperatures in summer and even cold in winter. It has a medium size, its leaves can reach 15 cm in length. It is an undesirable air plant to grow in hot and dry regions such as the Mediterranean area.
- Tillandsia melanocrater is another small Tillandsia whose leaves are between 10 and 12 cm long and also come from Central America. It prefers shaded locations although in winter it can live exposed to the sun's rays. It should be watered at least once a week and promote air ventilation.
- Tillandsia juncea is distinguished by its thin and elongated leaves whose length can reach 35 cm in length. Its natural habitat is found in evergreen forests in Central and South America. The leaves of this air plant are slightly bluish and when they receive direct rays from the sun they turn reddish. It should only be exposed to the sun if they are in a fairly humid environment, otherwise it's better to place them in partial shade.
- Tillandsia caput-medusae is called the vernacular of “octopus plant” because its long, twisted leaves recall the tentacles of a cephalopod. Native to Central America and Mexico, it is a widespread air plant, with leaves up to 25 cm long coated with grey hairs. From the caput medusae there are numerous cultivars obtained by man.
- Tillandsia fasciculata is an air plant native to Mexico, Central America, South America and the West Indies. It is a very popular Tillandsia of which experts have obtained several different cultivars, of which some are more showy. It is one of the largest Tillandsias with leaves that can measure more than half a meter in length.
- Tillandsia bulbosa. As the name suggests, it is characterized by the thickened shape of the base of the plant, reminiscent of a bulb. It extends throughout tropical America and the Caribbean islands. It is a medium-sized Tillandsia that can reach 25 cm with leaves 10 to 15 cm in length. Its thick, twisted leaves, which turn reddish when it's going to bloom, make this air plant a very ornamental plant.
- Tillandsia capitata is a medium-sized air plant with silver foliage that changes to pink tones when it blooms. It comes from humid areas of Central and South America, so it likes to live in warm and humid environments. If it is very hot outside in summer, it is advisable to take it indoors during the summer.
- Tillandsia brachycaulos abdita, another variety of brachycaulos (described at the beginning of the article) to which the same care is applied as to the type species.
- Tillandsia brachycaulos multiflora is very similar to the type species (described at the beginning of the article) but differs in that when it blooms it produces several spectacular flowering stems, lilac and yellow.
- Tillandsia baileyi comes from Texas and northern Mexico. It is a very drought tolerant Tillandsia that requires little care. Its leaves are thick and grow curved from the base of the rosette. They are greyish green, but turn pale pink when it will bloom.
- Tillandsia argentea is a small air plant that does not exceed 11 cm in diameter. Among its leaves, thin and fibrous, we can find a wide variety of shades: green, gray, blue and silver (hence its name). It is a variety that grows compact, forming few clusters. It comes mainly from Mexico and Guatemala, although it can also be found in Cuba and Jamaica.
There are many species and varieties of Tillandsia, so it is very difficult that we get to name them all here. These we have selected are some of the most popular and easy to find in shops, at least in those in our area. They can also be purchased online, you will find the link to the sales page in the name of each species.
We hope these images will help someone identify that beautiful air plant at home. If you already know which one is yours, we'll love to know what variety you have. Tell us in the comments.