07 March 2012

This plant doesn't need soil


The Tillandsia is a strange grass-like air-plant. Its genus name was dedicated to Swedish botanist Elias Tillands (1640-1693).  There are more than 500 species of Tillandsia, and they are native from the north to the mid-Atlantic region of the United States and as well as South America.  The Tillandsias is a relative of the bromeliad and pineapple plants which belong to the Bromeliaceae plant family.
Its leaves are silvery green in color and it tends to bloom with yellow, orange, red and even bluish flowers.  Some of these plants are tiny, measuring just an inch tall. while others can reach as high as 14 feet.  The Tillandsia thrives in humid environments, where it grows such soft leaves. Those that inhabit drier environments have stiff leaves. Exposure to too much rain can result in rotting, yet some of the plants are hardy and require little attention.

This is a perennial flowering herb. Some of the plants are epiphytes, which use other plants like trees for support. This is why they are often called air plants.  The plant can absorb surface minerals and water from specialized disc-shaped leaf structures called “trichomes.” These trichomes form special holding tanks by joining at the leaf axil (where a leaf attaches to a stem). These artificial tanks hold water, small plant debris and drowned insects, which the plant uses to create energy.
The Tillandsia requires a lot of light so indoor plants must be grown near a window or under a full-spectrum of fluorescent lights. Exposing the plant to roughly 12 hours of sunlight a day is ideal. Thick, stiff, gray or white leaves usually require more light.  If a fluorescent light is to be used, connect it to a timer to provide the plant with the proper amount of light.
Thorough watering must be done two to three times a week, or more during summer.  The plant has to be dry between watering, thus it is imperative to drench it until water runs off.
Administering a dilute foliar fertilizer solution; about 17-8-22 Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) content, one teaspoon per gallon water about twice a month should keep this plant healthy.  It’s best to fertilize and water the plant in a sink and let it drip until it is moderately dry.
This plant needs fresh air.  In the absence of windows, an electric fan will do the job. For plants placed outdoors, it’s recommended to place them in a moderately shaded area; under a tree or the eves of roofs. Direct exposure to the sun may cause its leaves to burn.  Group the Tillandsia with other plants and it will benefit from the extra humidity of these plants.
The Tillandsia’s roots serve as an anchor which is why it doesn’t require soil.  It’s not a parasite and it doesn’t do any harm to its host tree. It can grow on slate, trees, driftwood, shells, coral and rocks, among many others. It can grow upside down, right side up or sideways. It can be glued, stapled or wired (non-copper) directly to the surface.  Never plant the Tillandsia in containers that hold water and in anything made of copper.
This is the perfect plant for people who don’t have space in their homes. It can be placed on a wooden slab hanging on a wall or on small driftwoods on table tops or book shelves.
Well cultured plants will certainly reward its growers with beautiful flowers.
By NORBY BAUTISTA
mb.com.ph

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