How to Grow Tillandsia Cacticola

No pots or soil required for these air plants

Tillandsia cacticola air plant growing in wooden holder

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

In This Article

Looking for an air plant to really make a statement? The Tillandsia cacticola might just be the perfect, eye-catching addition. This tillandsia species is rare and only found in the high altitudes of Peru. In their native habitat, 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 giving their leaves a soft texture. The Tillandsia cacticola grows upwards along a tall stem sending its sprawling foliage outward to make a wild, beautiful display. The leaves typically curve and point downwards.

This air plant produces tall purple bracts and tiny white flowers with purple edges, which are sure to stand out among your other plants. The blooms are long-lasting, even 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
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. Because 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 is the perfect location for your air plant.

Though intimidating at first, caring for these soil-less plants is actually very easy. Their most important requirement is regular watering.

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

Mature plants produce pups, or new plants. Once these appear, you can gently remove them to create more plants. Removing them is not necessary, though. You can leave them attached and grow the mother plant and pups as one large clump.

Common pests include mealybugs and scale.

Tillandsia cacticola air plant in small white marble bowl on wooden table

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

Light

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

Soil

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

Because you don't plant them in a pot, 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 a hanging terrarium are 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. To determine when your air plant needs water, look for curling leaves, which is a sign that your Tillandsia cacticola needs a drink.

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

Once your air plant is done soaking, remove it 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.

If you are growing this plant outdoors, placing it in an area where it will receive natural rain might eliminate the need to soak it 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 might need to mist daily. In humid environments, every four to five days will do.

These plants do well in hot climates. However, if you are growing it indoors, avoid placing them near heating or air conditioning 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 can encourage blooming, growth, and pup production.

Be sure to use a Bromeliad or Tillandsia fertilizer because they have been developed to be absorbed through leaves. Common fertilizer is meant to be absorbed from the soil through a 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 plant is not as prolific as others, so you might only see one or two pups when the plant has matured. 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 from the parent plant. Pull the pup from its base leaves so you don't damage the top leaves. You might need to use a sharp knife or scissors if the pup doesn't easily detach.

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

Keep in mind that air plants can take years to bloom and produce pups, so be patient and carefully care for your plant so that it will produce pups.

Article Sources
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  1. Drought-Tolerant Tillandsia: The Best Air Plants For Drier Climates, Air Plant Design Studio

  2. Drought-Tolerant Tillandsia: The Best Air Plants For Drier Climates, Air Plant Design Studio

  3. Drought-Tolerant Tillandsia: The Best Air Plants For Drier Climates, Air Plant Design Studio