Tillandsia, or air plants, are members of the bromeliad family. Over 500 different species of tillandsia have their own unique appearance, so the idea of decorating a small space with a flowering plant offers lots of options.
Tillandsias are native to Latin America and the southern United States, and many of them have a tropical appearance. So-called Spanish moss is actually tillandsia, and can give a wonderfully Caribbean or Spanish Main look to your patio.
Tillandsia flowers are also good for color accents. Tillandsia aeranthos flowers are composed of blue petals and red petals. Tillandsia intermedia blooms in a deep pinkish purple shade. Various varieties of Tillandsia ionanthas bloom red,orange, white, or peach. The leaves of the red-blooming varieties “blush” or turn red before the flowers bloom, similar to other kinds of bromeliads. The Mexican variety of ionanthus has central blue flowers surrounded by blushing leaves. Tillandsia incarnata has red spikes with pink petals. Tillandsia fasciculata has long orange flowers fading into yellow and chartreuse.
Some tillandsias are grown for their fragrance as well as their visual beauty. One of the easiest to grow is Tillandsia Mallemontii, a native of the Brazilian rain forest. It usually produces fragrant blue to purple blooms, although one rare variety has white flowers. Tillandsia ixioides is another easy to grow species. It produces bright yellow, highly fragrant blossoms.Tillandsia crocata and Tillandsia caliginosa are also known for their fragrant yellow blooms. The king of fragrant tillandsias is probably Tillandsia duratii, with purple flowers whose fragrance will fill a lare room. Their scent has been compared to grape-flavored soft drinks or lollipops.
Nor are the blooms the only attractive thing about tillandsia. Their foliage, although usually a light green, can sometimes have unusual white stripes, as in some varieties of Tillandsia ionantha. Leaves are typically pointy, but show variations in their growth patterns. Some species have straight spikes growing out from the plants’ centers, while others can take on a mysterious flowing appearance, almost like something you would expect to see under the ocean. Still others grow in conical or spiral shapes. Sizes vary as well, giving the creative gardener an opportunity to plant tiny tillandsias alongside plants several inches tall for variation and texture.
Tillandsia plants and seeds can be obtained from specialty florists, nurseries, and bromeliad societies. Californians can buy tillandsias at Bird Rock International in Carlsbad, Marilynn’s Gardens in Santa Ana, Rare Exotics in Los Angeles, Rainforest Flora in Torrance, and Dutch Vandervort Exotic Plants in Ventura. Florida has a wealth of exotic nurseries to choose from: Color Zone Tropicals, Inc. in Winter Garden, Michael’s Bromeliads in Venice, Tropiflora and Level 21 in Sarasota, Russel’s Bromeliads and Blossom World Bromeliads in Sanford, Bullis Bromeliads in Princeton, Country Garden Nursery and Lee Moore in Miami, Twin Creeks Tropical Gardens in Malabar, Bromeliad Express in Lutz, Bromeliad Specialties Inc. in Homestead, Sunshine Ranches in Fort Lauderdale, McCrory’s Sunny Hill Nursery in Eustis, Air Plant City in Cape Canaveral, and Deroose Plants, Inc., in Apopka. Hawaiians can buy their tillandsias at Bromeliads Hawaii, LLC in Hilo, Hanalei Nursery in Makawao, or Dina’ Garden in Wahiawa. Arthur Boe Distributor is available in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Cactus Plantation in Edwards and D & M Enterprises in Bogue Chitto sell tillandsias in Mississippi. To find tillandsias in Oregon see Treeborne Gardens in Brookings or Oscar E. Allen in Salem. In Texas see Teas Nursery Company Inc. in Bellaire or Magic Mushroom in Dallas. If you live in Washington State, the place to go is for tillandsias is Quail Creek Pottery and Plants in Olympia.
Australians have a wide variety of options when it comes to buying tillandsias. Cradle Nurseries in New South Wales sells their plants by post.The Bromeliad Man, Bromeliad Garden Nursery, Pine Grove Bromeliads, and Bromeliad Garden Nursery in New South Wales sell the plants in person. Other Australian sources include: Brisbane Bromeliad Center, Bromania, Bromagic Bromeliad Nursery, Bromeliad Garden, Dragonwood Gardens Symdoc Pty Ltd, and Wildfire Garden Bromeliad Nursery, in Queensland, and Raemaur Plant Farm in Victoria.
Bromeliads Online Ltd. is available in New Zealand. Or buy tillandsias in person at Anwyl Bromeliads in Wellington.
Epiphytophile is the place for tillandsias as well as other exotic plants in Singapore.
In Thailand see Karina Airplants or SSairplants Garden in Khon Kaen.
In the United Kingdom, Croston Cactus in Lancashire sells bromeliads as well.
The Netherlands has two nurseries for tillandsia lovers, Corn Bak. B.V. in Assendelft and Bunnik Veresea’s in Kudelstaart.
South Africa’s Glenn Brealey, Valhalla Bromeliads is available in Capetown.
Bromeliad societies, including tillandsia enthusiasts, abound throughout the world and are good places to learn about and enjoy these fascinating plants. The Bromeliad Society International has member organizations in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Michigan, and Hawaii.
The Hawaiian Bromeliad Society meets once a month on the last Saturday either at the Lyon Arboretum or on a field trip. Speakers or topics of discussion are usually scheduled.
If you are lucky to live in the Houston area, you might want to attend the June picnic of the Houston Bromeliad Society, which will feature a garden tour and ABC’s of growing the family.
The Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies’ Quarterly Meeting will be held on the 12th, of July this year, hosted by the Florida East Coast Bromeliad Society. On the 26th and 27th of July this year the Sacramento Bromeliad and Carnivorous Plant Society in California will hold its 44th Annual Show and Sale.The event will be held at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
In August from the 16th to the 17th, the Seminole Bromeliad and Tropical Plant Society Sale will take place at the Garden Club of Sanford, Florida. On 11 October of this year the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies will be having another quarterly meeting, hosted by the Florida West Coast Bromeliad Society. The Southeast Michigan Bromeliad Society holds monthly meetings for enthusiasts to exchange information, plants, and seeds. Meetings are held in homes, nurseries, and the Mattaei Botanical Gardens.
For information on how to grow tillandsia, please see the article entitled Airplants. Good luck and happy growing.