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 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 .


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.


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 of Tillandsia capitata is between Php 250 to Php 450 per pot .

During the big SALE,  It was offered at 3 pots for just Php 450 or 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.

I again bought 3 pots of Tillandsia capitata at a much expensive price of Php 450 together with Tillandsia fasciculata commonly known as the giant airplant or cardinal airplant, each plant would fetch for Php 1,350 per plant.  Tillandsia fasciculata is more hardy plant. Since this plant is still rare in cultivation, This was offered at a more expensive retail price.

Tillandsia fasciculata specimen sized plants would fetch Php 4,500 per small clump. Depending on the variety. I bought 3 specimen size plants.

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 .



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!


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


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


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


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/