The Tillandsia cyanea, which is more commonly known as the pink quill, is an easy-to-care-for, versatile, and robust tropical houseplant.
Part of the Bromeliad family, unlike most Tillandsia species, it can be grown in a pot as well as an air plant.
It produces a display of large, long-lasting, showy pink bracts that resemble ink quills, and this is where the inspiration for its common name comes from. The bracts add interest for several months—so you'll have plenty opportunity to enjoy their vibrancy. You'll also get to appreciate the pretty little violet flowers that emerge in the summer; although they only last two or three days.
It usually takes a couple of years for a plant to reach maturity, and it won't bloom until then. Consequently, most people buy the plant at the flowering stage.
As the bracts age, they can start to turn from pink to green, and when they diminish, the plant will begin to die off. However, if you want to appreciate the bracts and blooms more frequently, it's easy to propagate from offsets. So you can grow several generations to have blooms appearing at different times.
In their native tropical rainforest environment, the Tillandsia cyanea grows as an epiphytic species on trees. Having the option to grow it in a pot rather than securing the pink quill to other objects (like wood) or attaching with wires, makes it particularly appealing for some houseplant lovers.
|Botanical Name||Tillandsia cyanea|
|Common Name||Pink quill, fan flower, blue flowered torch|
|Plant Type||Perennial, succulent|
|Mature Size||Up to 10 in. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Partial shade|
|Flower Color||Blue, purple|
|Hardiness Zones||11 and above, USA|
|Native Area||South America|
With Tillandsia species, the key care requirements are getting the balance right when it comes to light and watering. If you manage that, your pink quill should produce an impressive display of long-lasting vibrant bracts.
Pink quill plants do best when positioned in a sunny spot. This will prolong the flowering period and keep the plant happy and healthy. However, too much direct and intense afternoon sunlight can burn the foliage, and too little will mean they won't bloom.
Most enthusiasts recommend an east or west-facing window position.
Although Tillandsia cyanea can be grown as air plants, what makes them unique is their ability also to be grown in containers. Their rooting system is small and fragile, so care should be taken when potting them, and the pots don't need to be large.
Whatever potting medium you use, it should be particularly well-draining. Spongy and porous orchard bark, or peat moss and leaf mold mixes are popular choices. There are even mixtures available especially for Bromeliad species.
Although pink quills don't need as much water as the average houseplant, they do tend to need more than most Tillandsia species.
If they're potted up, depending on the time of year and how dry the conditions are, they could need watering anywhere from every two weeks to every couple of months.
Although some enthusiasts recommend deep watering and then removing any excess water that has drained through, most agree that more regular misting is the best option. Soggy rots are one thing that will cause major problems for this plant, and this can be a problem when watering at the base.
In the warmer seasons, gentle misting every week, allowing the runoff to wet the roots, may be needed. Always allow the potting medium to dry out before rewatering and, if in doubt, underwatering rather than overwatering is the more sensible option. During the colder months, watering should be infrequent.
The Tillandsia cyanea is chlorine sensitive, so rainwater or filtered tap water is the preferred choice.
Temperature and Humidity
It shouldn't come as a surprise that this tropical species appreciates warm conditions. Ideal minimum temperatures for encouraging blooms are around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
They aren't fans of dry conditions either. If there isn't enough humidity, the foliage can develop brown tips.
Feeding pink quills aren't always necessary for healthy plants. Many enthusiasts, however, will feed their plant once in the spring and once in the summer. There are foliar fertilizer sprays developed especially for Tillandsia species.
Propagating Tillandsia cyanea
Pink Quills are easy to propagate from through their offsets. Known as 'pups,' they readily grow at the base of a healthy and mature plant. When they reach at least three inches in length, they can be cut from the mother plant and potted into a porous medium. It can take up to six months for them to fully establish their own roots.
The Tillandsia cyanea isn't known for having any major problems with pests or diseases. Occasionally aphids can be an issue, but there are several ways you can tackle their removal, including washing them off and applying insecticidal soaps.