Blooming Cardinal Plant in Our Backyard

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

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 , Partridge Singapore, ISBN 13: 978-1482829495

Tillandsia capitata ” Yellow” variety Flowering Again in Our Garden

Quezon City -Philippines

Tillandsia capitata ” yellow” variety mounted on Manila Palm ( Adonidia merrillii)

Rainy season had begun early May this year , Unlike in the previous years. Watering these air plants will not be a problem for us . We did some pruning of small shrubs and trees around the garden to increase air circulation in the surrounding area.

 Tillandsia capitata “yellow” variety were pups or offsets that were removed from the  clump during the last blooming season of 2014. Our Tillandsia capitata also bloomed last year but there were few pups or offsets that were produced . Most are given away as gifts to close friends .

flowers are violet ( lasting only for 1 day )

The early rainy season and occasional application of water soluble fertilizer had led to the dramatic change in the color of its inflorescence or bracts turning yellow at the center also called “blushing” . In a matter of few weeks, almost all of the pups mounted at the Manila palm started blooming ! This will also mark the end of the plant life cycle.  I think that the Tillandsia are also mature enough to bear flowers – It had been almost 3 years .

gecko or butiki hiding at the leaves of Tillandsia capitata

This particular plant also host a variety of insects , ( ants in particular ) millipede and even a gecko ( butiki)  lives , creating a small micro-climate within the host palm.

Most species absorb moisture and nutrients through the leaves from rain, dew, dust, decaying leaves and insect matter, aided by structures called trichomes.

There is a growing interest during the past several decade among backyard hobbyists , lazy gardeners and plant enthusiasts in the Philippines as these air plants are less demanding , requires limited space , minimal watering and fertilization.

bracts or inflorescence

There are some cheap tillandsia plants for sale during plant bazaars, sunday markets and plant swap-meets from barely Php 100 to few thousand of pesos for rare kinds and hard to find imported hybrids.

There are backyard growers which specializes in growing them – A short list includes, Atty. Bom Gomez of Plant Chaser, Prof. Andrew Patrick Gozon of Pinoy Trees ,  Mr. Botchie Canicula of NVC Garden FB, Architect Bimbo Vergara , Mr. Ramon Calado of Antipolo , Ms. Ging Caperal , Mr. Joseph Salacup of Laguna , Ms. Aireen Bernal, Mr.Baunch Tumale , Ms. Emma Bautista , Ms. Baby Alarcon,  Mr. Frandel Recto, Mr. Jun Golamco , Mr. Bing and Joan Onari of Davao among others .

There are other commercial growers and sellers like EnR Farm, Puentespina , Purificacion Orchid, Insular Garden of Quezon province , Ms. Vicky Jimenez of Davao , Ms. Doreen and Mr. Rene Dofitas , Ms. Vangie Go , Mr. Boyet Ganigan , Dr. Jay Silvestre , Dr. Olivia Sanchez, Ms. Linda Lim of Laguna.

Since there is no formal tillandsia society established in the country, One can join the Cactus and Succulent Society of the Philippines, Philippine Horticultural Society , Philippine Orchid Society , Fern and Nature Society of the Philippines which provides some information thru their public lectures and monthly meeting among their general membership. There is also a chance to meet fellow local collectors in different FB pages . They are the ones who normally share their cultural requirements and growing techniques .

The closest affiliate society which hold exhibit on tillandsias was the defunct Bromeliad Connoisseur Society of the Philippines .

There will be some plant traders selling tillandsias in the upcoming 70th Mid-Year Orchid and Garden Show at the Hardin ng mga Bulaklak ( HB/ Flower Garden ) from August 25 to September 5, 2016 within the Quezon Memorial Circle.

Note : I may have forgotten to mention some hobbyists and farms which specialized in growing tillandsia plant. The purpose of this blog is just to give some leverage on the growing niche market for air plants in the country.

Tillandsia ionantha: An airplant blooming in our garden

Quezon City , Philippines

Hello to all my avid readers and followers,

Tillandsia ionantha ( October 18, 2015)

I have been growing Tillandsia species for over 15 years.  Just like any hobbies , There are some misfortune that happened to my Tillandsia collection over the past several years of actively growing them. I am sharing some of the growing techniques and some tips on how to grow them properly under Philippines and perhaps tropical conditions.  I have killed several species due to over-watering .

After the devastating Typhoon Koppu ( Bagyong Lando ) which struck several days ago .  While walking around our small garden , i saw one of my Tillandsia oinantha clump started to turn reddish.

I bought a single Tillandisa ionantha in 2012 during the Flora Filipina expo , This was just to add to the different varieties that i started collecting way back in 2003. The price had been quite stable for the past several years since there are a lot of active garden growers , enthusiasts and even commercial farms which propagate them in massive quantities.

I got up to more than half a dozen varieties of Tillandsia ionantha which i have bought at the garden shows and plant stalls when the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation was still in operation .

Try to separate large clump whenever it is possible , It allows better air circulation and it prevents rots. If you lived in a place with high air circulation , watering should be copious.

They are also commonly called air plant, sky plant, wreath plant , blushing bride among others.

Tillandsia ionantha ( October 22, 2015 ) inflorescence turning red

Ethno-Botanical Importance:  They are normally used as a decoration mainly for holiday season and on festive occasions in much of their range , they are fashion into wreath and good luck charm

Origin: Southern United States , Central , Carribean and South America

Cultivar Varieties : There are between 50 to 60 cultivar varieties depending on plant authorities

Height: 6-12 in (15-30 cm) depending on the variety

Here are some of my Growing Tips :

Light: Bright, indirect light. Tillandsia ionantha also thrive under fluorescent lights, making them good office plants, indoor plants. Good for balcony, patio growing .

Under outdoor growing area , I usually moved them indoor ( temporary )   if there is a continuous rain ( monsoon rains  ) which last for over 1 hour or so .

Water: Spray plants twice a week, until they are thoroughly wet. Or you can take them to the sink and run water over them. DO NOT soak them. Turn plants upside down to allow excess water to run off. Standing water at the base of the leaves will cause them to rot.

Humidity: Moderate to high humidity. Brown leaf tips are caused by dry air.

Fertilization: I water first the entire plant before feeding them with very diluted water soluble fertilizer twice a month 1/4 of the recommended dosage , Alternating 20N-20-P-20K with 30N-10P-10K every other week .

Propagation: Growing sky plant from offshoots or “pups” is the best way to create new plants. Pups grow at the base of the mother plant.

Note: Try to fasten them with plastic coated wires on driftwood or small logs , sometimes they can be hung with ordinary plastic wires.  Some disliked being fasten using ordinary aluminum wires.

* Photos are taken by the author

Website links: Kew Garden

%d bloggers like this: