How to Grow Tillandsia Cacticola

No pots required for these plants

Tillandsia cacticola plant in bloom

Dick Culbert/  Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 

 

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Looking for an air plant to really make a statement? The Tillandsia cacticola may just be the perfect, eye-catching addition. This tillandsia species is rare and only found in the high altitudes of Peru. They can be seen clinging to rocks or cacti, and are distinguished by their light, sage green foliage.

These air plants are covered in tiny hairs, making their leaves soft in texture. The Tillandsia cacticola grows upwards along a tall stem, sending its sprawling foliage outward to make a wild, beautiful display.

When these air plants bloom, they create tall white or lavender blooms sure to stand out among your plants. These blooms are long-lasting and may stick around for months on end.

Botanical Name Tillandsia cacticola
Common Name Air plant
Plant Type Houseplant or annual
Mature Size 6 inches tall and 6 to 18 inches wide
Sun Exposure Bright, indirect light to full sun
Soil Type Not applicable
Soil pH Not applicable
Bloom Time Once, when fully matured
Flower Color White or lavender
Hardiness Zones 9 to 11
Native Area Peru

Tillandsia Cacticola Care

The Tillandsia cacticola makes an easy and unique addition to almost any area of your home, inside or out. Since the Tillandsia cacticola is an air plant, it needs no soil and can be placed in a variety of locations. An area with bright, indirect lighting and good airflow would make the perfect place for your air plant.

Though intimidating at first, caring for these soil-less plants is actually very easy. The biggest thing they require is regular watering.

With patience and care, your Tillandsia cacticola can even bloom. This process may take years to achieve, but their one-time display is worth the wait.

Once these plants are mature, they will produce pups or new air plants. Once these appear, you can gently remove them to create more air plants. Removing them is not necessary, though. You can also leave them attached and slowly grow one large clump of air plants.

Common pests include mealybugs and scale.

Light

Tillandsia cacticola love bright, indirect lighting. This variety can tolerate and enjoy even more direct sunshine than most air plants. This is due to its many tiny hairs, or trichomes, on its foliage.

Soil

Air plants need no soil at all. In fact, they require good airflow. Placing their base in soil or moss will restrict airflow and keep them too moist.

Since no pot is needed, you can set your Tillandsia cacticola wherever you’d like to add a little greenery. Placing them in seashells, a decorative piece of wood, or in hanging terrariums all make wonderful options.

Water

The Tillandsia cacticola is more drought-resistant than other air plants. Even so, these plants still need a good soak every week. A good indicator to look for is curling leaves. This is a sign that your Tillandsia cacticola needs a drink.

When this occurs, submerge your plant in a bowl of water and leave it for 10 to 30 minutes. If your plant is in bloom, keep the delicate flower above the water to prevent damage.

Once your air plant is done soaking remove from the water and shake out any excess water pooling in the leaves. Be sure that your air plant dries completely in a couple of hours to prevent rot. Also, ensure that your water is clean when soaking your Tillandsia cacticola. Springwater, filtered water, or rainwater are best. If you have to use tap water, let it sit for at least 24 hours to reduce chlorine levels.

If you are growing this plant outside, placing it in an area where it will receive natural rain may eliminate the need to soak as often.

Temperature and Humidity

Tillandsia cacticola, although being more drought resistant, still loves a healthy dose of humidity. A regular schedule of misting will give it the additional moisture that it needs. If your Tillandsia cacticola is in a very dry, hot climate you may need to mist daily. In humid environments, every four to five days will do.

These plants do well in hot climates. However, if kept inside, avoid placing them near heating or AC units. The intense heat or cold from these units can damage the plants. Your Tillandsia cacticola will appreciate being in an area with good airflow and ventilation.

Fertilizer

Regular fertilizing is not necessary for your Tillandsia cacticola to survive. In fact, too much fertilizer can burn and kill air plants. However, the proper fertilizer given in the right amounts can contribute to a healthy, happy plant and may encourage blooming, growth, and pup production.

Be sure to use a Bromeliad or Tillandsia fertilizer since these are designed to be absorbed through the leaves. Common fertilizer is meant to be absorbed from the soil through the plant’s roots, which is not how air plants receive their nutrients. Fertilize once a month for the best results, especially if you see your Tillandsia cacticola beginning to bloom.

Propagating Tillandsia Cacticola

Propagating Tillandsia cacticola is simple. However, this variety of air plants is not as prolific as others, so you may only see one or two pups once it is mature. Once you see these pups, you can easily remove them to create more air plants. Here is how:

1. When the pup is at least a third the size of the parent plant, it is mature enough to separate.

2. Identify the pup's base, where it is attached to the parent plant.

3. Gently separate the pup off the parent plant. Aim to pull the pup from its base leaves so you don't damage the top leaves. You may need to use a sharp knife or scissors if the pup doesn't easily detach.

4. Once the pup is separated, place in a well ventilated, bright spot of its own.

Keep in mind that air plants can take years to bloom and produce pups, so you may need to cultivate Tillandisa cacticola for some time before propagation.