Tillandsia variabilis -- Honduran Form

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Grand Chupacabra
Dec 26, 2012
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Central North Carolina
I have a soft spot for Tillandsias, and while I'm not as knowledgeable about them as I am with slippers, I have sought a few specific species over the years. I purchased three Tillandsia variabilis about 8 or 9 years ago from Tropiflora, along with an assortment of other plants. T. variabilis is actually a USA native, though its natural range is very limited in the US, it's a species that is common throughout South and Central America. Tropiflora says they discovered this particular clone in Honduras.

I lost one of the 3 pups to disease + treatment. It picked up a case of fly speck scale from some other bromeliads that were gifted to me. I treated and treated, but they plant was severely weakened. Then it got hit with some over spray from me treating other plants with cinnamon spray. I learned the hard way that apparently these guys do not tolerate cinnamon spray, and it will burn the leaves chemically.

Other than that, these guys have done well over the years in my care. I water them twice a week year round, and typically mist them once or twice a day. That sounds like a lot of water, but honestly I probably let them get a little too dry from time to time. The T. variabilis grow in potting soil with a tiny bit of orchid potting media thrown in and some extra perlite. When I feed them, which is infrequent, I feed lightly, and use a sprayer to soak the leaves with the fertilizer solution. The roots of most Tillandsia serve primarily to anchor the plant to it's growing substrate, and it's the leaves that have adapted to extracting water and nutrients from the environment. For most of their lives, I've grown my plants in fairly bright light on the plant shelves under T-8s. They grew well, but never really seemed to get much bigger. They'd push a lot of new growth out each year, but the old leaves would die off at a similar rate.

I started doing more research, and while cultural reports vary, a lot of the in situ photos I found seemed to suggest that this species is fairly common in certain areas that are quite shady, and that they produce long, floppy leaves and bloomed in those conditions. Based on that, I decided to move one of them off the shelves, and instead grew it hanging beside the stands where it would get less light. This one developed the sloppy look, but it also grew much larger and now it's blooming. Pretty exciting after all that time.

It started spiking indoors back in July I believe, and I decided to risk placing it outside to let the spike develop in natural sunlight, hoping that would help it develop the intense coloration.

I'm tempted to cross this with my T. cyanea that's also in bloom right now. In my head, I'm envisioning a smaller sized Tillandsia Creation, with the same lovely branched paddle-shaped spike, but in reddish tones!