Cardinal plant, Giant Air plant or scientifically called Tillandsia fasiculata is in bloom in our backyard.
This is one of the few air plants which was spared by the squirrels which wretch havoc in our garden about a year or so. It was mounted less than a meter above ground. Which is one of the reasons “why” it was spared. The squirrels were not able to reach the lower fork of the tree. Our cats and dogs can reach the lower fork and thus the variable squirrels were not able to make their nest “pugad”.
Tillandsia fasciculata variety densispica
I bought about a dozen pups during the Flora Filipina 2015 Expo in one of the stall selling some Tillandsia. The seller gave me a small discount since i also bought some Tillandsia species.
Cardinal Plant Cultivation
Mounting: We used cloth or pantyhose in mounting our Tillandsia fasiculata. Simply securing the plant unto the tree.
Water and Fertilization : During rainy season , we seldom water the Tillandsia fasiculata. We would normally fertilize them with 1/4 strength complete water soluble fertilizer after flushing the plant. We would also apply trace elements and micro nutrients such as epsom salt and calcium in small quantity. After every other week.
Air Circulation: Tillandsias should be given enough light and air circulation to dry in 4 hours or less. Do not keep plants constantly wet or moist. Tillandsia are susceptible to rot when over-watered during monsoon season. When rains would continuously drench the air plants.
I would prefer the thick leaves types like Tillandsia capitata, Tillandsia fasiculata, Tillandsia stricta, Tillandsia juncea, Tillandsia bergeri and Tillandsia ionantha varieties since they can be grown under trees, palms, some in kalachuchi ( frangipani/ plumeria) with minor problems of over watering.
We tend to secure them slightly tilted to avoid water setting in the center of the tillandsia which can cause rotting from excess water from rains or water collected.
Tillandsia fasciculata is a big plant, as large or even larger than Tillandsia capitata. We have tried a different fertilization method this year. Used 20-N, 30-P, 30K during the early months of 2019 and kept our watering to just a minimum during the dry summer months from late January to mid- April, then we noticed that small pups sprouting at the main plant. Much to our delight.
It was late May when the bracts of the cardinal plant began forming. It was a welcome sight for a plant collector which which waited for almost 4 years. The mortality in this batch is quite high since we only got 2 plants out of the dozen that was bought during the last expo.
Most of the air plants were destroyed by those pesky invasive squirrels. But having 2 plant survive the crazy onslaught is a big respite.
The one in bloom is quite small compared to Tillandsia capitata and probably bloomed due to heat and water stress during the dry season.
According to Mr. Marco Llagas as tillandsia, plant collector and friend – This is the smaller variety of the Tillandsia species.
Personal interview with local tillandsia growers
Benzing, D. 2012. Air Plants: Epiphytes and Aerial Gardens. Ithaca: Comstock Publishing Associates.
Isley, Paul T. Tillandsia: the World’s Most Unusual Air Plants. Volume 1. Botanical Press. p. 54.
Sim Eng Hiang, exotic Tillandsia , PartridgeSingapore, ISBN 13: 978-1482829495