Tillandsia capitata ” yellow” variety blooming and creating micro-climate in our garden

Quezon City, Philippines

Tillandsia capitata ” yellow” with monarch ferns

 In our frequent trips to the former Manila Seedling Bank Foundation and garden shows , We would always marvel with  the different colors, sizes and shapes and the care and importance given by local gardeners and plant collectors to bromeliad and tillandsia family .

Origin:

Tillandsia are epiphytes, a member of the Bromeliad family . These lovely plants require no soil or rooting medium as nutrients required for their growth and good health are absorbed through their leaves, which has earned them the designation of ‘air plants’. The roots, which can grow to be quite large, are used to anchor Tillandsias to trees, power lines and other surfaces. Reproduction of Tillandsia is most commonly by offsets called ‘pups’, and also by seeds (very slow growth). They are mostly found over wide areas of the New World. While cultivation in other parts of the world might have started during the Spanish , Portuguese , Dutch and English colonial rulers which spread these species to many parts of the colonies.

While Tillandsia are not normally cultivated for their flowers, many species bloom regularly and are quite unique and attractive. Often the leaves on some species turn blood red when the plant is in bloom.

Tillandsia are epiphytes, a member of the Bromeliad family. These lovely plants require no soil or rooting medium as nutrients required for their growth and good health are absorbed through their leaves, which has earned them the designation of ‘air plants’. The roots, which can grow to be quite large, are used to anchor Tillandsias to trees, power lines and other surfaces. Reproduction of Tillandsia is most commonly by offsets called ‘pups’, and also by seeds (very slow growth). Single plants can ‘pup’ into huge clumps of plants over time.

While Tillandsia are not normally cultivated for their flowers, many species bloom regularly and are quite unique and attractive. Often the leaves on some species turn blood red when the plant is in bloom.

Acquisition:

I normally observed how tillandsias are grown and exhibited during garden shows. I have seen some growers growing them in their backyard or farms.  It was mid-2010 ( around May ) when i went to the MSBF compound and saw a plant sale at the Purificacion Store  . They normally price Tillandsia capitata between Php 250 to Php 450 per pot .

During the big SALE  , It was offered at 3 pots for just Php 450 around $10. The exchange rate was around Php 45.75 to 46.31=$1.00 . It was relatively almost a give away price.  I bought 3 potted plants with some emerging pups ! It was a wise move , gave away the 2 other pots to my friends and neighbors , However all of them rotted away after few months ( maybe due to over-watering ). I learned the plants sad fate , when i visited one of them few months after.

It took some time ( around 5 months )  to acclimatized my Tillandsia capitata, I just hung them in a bright spot with minimal watering and fertilization .

Care and Cultivation:

After 5 months of carefully observing my plant, My Tillandsia capitata started producing pups , I carefully removed the pups with roots and mounted them on our Manila Palm . Since it was almost the start of the dry season ( October 2010) , I also put a little piece of coconut husk at the base of the roots just to retain the moisture .

I would only mist the plant once every 2 to 3 days so to avoid rot. It took about a month when i saw roots gradually attaching  at the trunk of the Manila Palm. I also saw Phymatosorus scolopendria  or ( monarch fern ) a species of fern growing at the base of the Tillandsia . It seems that it prefers the moist condition of the coconut husk.

It will take several months when i saw that pups began encircling the trunk and I had to separate them and mount them at the other portion of the palm. Sometimes, visiting relatives and friends would marvel at the size of the plant. A few would ask me for some pups.

The same clump would bloom again in 2011 . However the plants would not flower in 2012 and 2013 .  I suspect that  it was the sudden change in the climatic conditions in our area.  It was the year, when  there was a construction boom within our street , some trees were cut, more houses were built . It became hotter compared  to pre-2012 .

millepede

Fertilization

Decided not to remove the pups so that it can create a small micro-climate.   The weekly-weakly regimen of fertilization of water soluble fertilizer of 1/4 strength or 1/4 teaspoon per gallon, with 20-N20-P20-K alternately switching to 2 or 3 fertilizer brands. I would also flush the entire plant with running water once a week, This is to remove excess salts and fertilizer residues.

Since it is mounted on a living palm,  withered leaves from plants , palm flowers, dried palm fruits , bird dropping would accumulate at the base of the tillandsia ,  hence adding natural compost . It is also a beehive of activities where black ants, millepedes and tree frogs hiding at the base of the leaves. I would sometimes remove the withered leaves or dead leaves of the Tillandsia capitata, but much to my surprise that there are ant colonies!

Watering

As a rule of the thumb, I avoid watering my Tillandsia capitata varieties during the entire rainy season and try to prune the surrounding trees to increase air circulation in my growing area. I try to fertilize them with 10N-30P-30K switching with 20N-20P-20K water soluble brands before the onset of the rainy season . While during the dry season , watering is only done early in the morning or late in the afternoon in 2 to 3 days  interval . Natural humidity , mineral and organic nutrients in the air could be absorbed by the plant leaves.  Trichomes are structures on plant leaves which help in absorbing nutrients .

Reference: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0367253009000954

Tillandsia capitata “yellow” in bloom

Flowering

In my 5 years of growing Tillandsia capitata “yellow” variety – I missed the 2012 and 2013 flowering cycle ( it did not bloom ) . When i purchased my plants it had flowers and from the pups of 2010, it flowered in 2011. In early May 2014 – I noticed the change of the color of the center leaves , gradually all my specimen plants started to bloom.

What i notice is that my “yellow” variety starts its blooming cycle during the onset of the rainy season . ( between May to July ) .

Tillandsia capitata ” yellow ” grown attached to a Manila Palm

Propagation

I started removing pups or suckers several months after the mother plant had almost died -out , I wait for the aerial roots to grow before detaching them . I apply a little bit of fungicide and air dry them in an enclosed area for several days before mounting them on a piece of wood or living palm.

Since, I am very conservative in my propagation techniques , i only manage to have 3 clumps with 3 to 5 plants per clump. BUT i have remove at least half a dozen pups over the 4 or 5 year period. To think that i started with just 1 mature plant in 2010.

I am planning to separate some more pups and hope to increase them.

Cultivar Varieties

Tillandsia capitata had about 10 to 15 cultivar varieties and 8 to 12 kinds of natural hybrids depending on Tillandsia experts, the number may vary. There are also different forms in each of the localities where they are located .

Tillandsia capitata ” Bacchus” , Tillandsia capitata ” Lorenzo “, Tillandisa capitata ” Love Knot” , Tillandsia capitata” Marron ” , Tillandsia capitata ” Maya” , Tillandsia capitata” Old Gold” , Tillandsia capitata ” Pink Velvet” , Tillandsia capitata ” Red Fountain”, Tillandsia capitata ” Rio Hondo” , Tillandsia capitata “Vicente Bacaya” ,  Tillandsia capitata ” Yellow” Tillandsia capitata variety balbisina, Tillandsia capitata ” Orange”, Tillansia capitata ” Select”

Natural Hybrids:

Tillandsia capitata x fasciculata
Tillandsia capitata ‘Peach’ x fasciculata
Tillandsia capitata x harrisii
Tillandsia capitata x polystachia
Tillandsia capitata x streptophylla
Tillandsia capitata x xerographica
Tillandsia harrisii x capitata
Tillandsia xiphioides X capitata

References:

http://www.bsi.org/brom_info/cultivar/bcr.html Retrieved 11 October 2009

fcbs.org : http://fcbs.org/articles/t_brachycaulos_capitata_Complex.htm

IUCN : http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/44392605/0

National Biodiversity Institute : http://www.inbio.ac.cr/en/default.html

plantsdb.gr:  http://www.plantsdb.gr/en/plants-library/tillandsias/230-tillandsia-capitata

Tillandsia International : http://www.airplant.com/

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