Bromeliads-Cryptanthus and Tillandsia

When the orchid bug first hit, (see post 12-20-07,Orchids), there were often bromeliads sold alongside them at the shops. Nothing was known about these strange looking plants, but a few were picked up and brought home. At first they were mounted on a tree limb held in a large pot with plaster of paris. It looked great, but was very heavy to bring inside and out as the seasons changed, plus the tree branch eventually rotted from the watering. The transfer was made to this redwood trellis. The tillandsia bromeliads were tied onto the structure with fishing line, padded with a little spanish moss, which is also another tillandsia, T. usncoides.

The collection was edited down to the epiphytic, tree dwelling, tillandsias and the terrestrial cryptanthus, shown in the pot above. These two types stay relatively small, a big criteria in my space challenged greenhouse/sunroom. The cryptanthus are spreading, low growing clusters planted in cactus mix. Also called earth stars, an endearing name, they grow in nature on the rainforest floor, also endearing.

The tillandsias are about as low maintenance as a plant can get. They require bright light, air movement and moisture. Outside rain, dew and fog provide enough wetness, although the drought conditions here this past year caused some stress. They have all perked up after the more regular spraying that occurs inside the sunroom.

The leaf shapes are varied and with interesting growth habits. Some are straight, some are twisted and some curly. They have both green and gray leaves. The green ones may be planted in pots of well draining mix, but seem to enjoy living on the trellis.

The cultivar names are not known, they came with no tags, but we call the above cutie Pineapple Princess.

The whitish glob I am attempting to show in the above shot is a seed pod. There are flowers, short lived, that go to seed on the trellis. The spanish moss provides a web that catches the released seeds. So far no babies have emerged, the method of germination in not known, but there is hope. Should there be some kind of spray emulsion that might help this along?

Under the mass of spanish moss is a gift from my better half one Christmas. Mounted on this bark, grown by a local orchid specialist, Elmore Orchids, is the subject of the book ” The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean, and the movie based on it, “Adaptation”. Polyrrhiza lindenii, the ghost orchid is barely visible under the moss, it looks like gray green worms. It was thought dead several times, but seems to be showing new growth now. As for ever seeing that elusive bloom spoken of in the stories, there is not even a glimmer of hope. It makes a good conversation piece though.


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11 Responses to Bromeliads-Cryptanthus and Tillandsia

  1. Jim/ArtofGardening says:

    These are great. I was in Disney’s Animal Kingdom earlier this week and noticed that many of the trees in the front of the park had these, and orchids, on them fro shots of color and texture.

  2. Jim/ArtofGardening says:

    Oh, and I fixed your link on my site! Thanks for pointing it out.

  3. mashley says:

    There’s nothing like bromeliads to “spike” some interest! (bad joke, sorry…) The trellis is a very unique way to display all your hairy plant babies.

  4. Frances says:

    jim…thanks. In Florida orchids and tillandsias hang from trees in people’s yards year round. Even the spanish moss in live oaks is a tillandsia, pretty cool.

  5. Frances says:

    mashley…thanks. The trellis sure is handy for transporting the babies in and out and for watering, just spray them with the hose. As they grow sometimes more fishing wire is added to keep them from hanging too loosely.

  6. Annie in Austin says:

    Hi Frances,

    When I first started reading this post imaginary jungle bird sounds rang in my ears, and I wondered if your cable station had been showing that old TV series Adventures in Paradise. Then I got to the end and decided that John Laroche rather than Gardner McKay had been influencing you ;-]

    I love that book and love that movie! How thrilling to know you have the ghost orchid growing in your private jungle.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  7. Frances says:

    annie…It says something about both of us that we can remember Gardner McKay and Adventures in Paradise! What a hunk, right? Even though the ghost orchid is nothing to look at, the romance of the connection to the book and movie make up for it. Now if it blooms, I’m calling the New York Times!

  8. chickenpoet says:

    I am sure that this is intriguing and beautiful to others, but to me it is a bit on the creepy side. It looks like what pulled brokenbeat into the earth; with only his showered covered leather hat sitting on top of the ground. Unique is a nice word that comes to mind. Much love.

  9. Frances says:

    chickenpoet…Each of us is attracted to different things. I see great beauty and you see creepy.

  10. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I just love this post Frances. I do appreciate bromeliads and cryptanthus. I didn’t know what the cryptanthus actually were but now I do,thanks. I have one. I have seen them in botanical garden hot houses and could never get one to grow properly. A year or so ago I stuck on into a glass terrerium I set up. It is growing like crazy in there and it blooms…such as it is of course. During spring it turns a real unusual color of pink.

    Yours having seedpods really shows that you have the right set-up. I love the trellis idea. I might try that this year. Then I can bring it in during winter.

    I also have another “air plant” I have kept alive a couple of years. I bought it from a person at a craft fair. They had the poor dears hot glued to a piece of cypress knee. One died. One fell off and is in the terrerium with the earth star and the last is still afixed to the cypress knee.

    I would have many more if I thought I could keep them alive. Seeing your trellis set up has given me inspirations. 🙂

  11. Frances says:

    lisa…thanks. Not everyone appreciates the coolness of the bromedliads. The tillandsias are usually sold glued to something or other. Several of these were bought at a big box store glued into a bowl with a ceramic frog. I took them off and tied them to the trellis with fishing twine. They get the twice weekly spraying with water, inside and outside in summer. Couldn’t be easier.

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