tillandsiaaffair

The great love affair…

Tillandsia ionantha x Tillandsia paucifolia

This was one of the first few hybrids I bought because I liked its nice clean lines and the fact that it was a small / medium sized plant, as opposed to some of the giant-sized hybrids I have seen.  Generally I find that Tillandsia ionantha hybrids tend to take on a lot of the ionantha parent’s traits, namely its succulent straight leaves, which taper to a narrow point along with the typical ionantha rosette shape and even the spread of trichomes, which is focused at the base of the plant and becomes sparser towards the tips of the leaves.  Further more, and I am not too sure how to describe it, other than ionantha hybrids just have a sort of ionantha look about it, so you tend to be able to spot an ionantha hybrid pretty easily in this manner.

In this case it was an easy decision to buy this particular hybrid as I like both parent plants and I think this plant looks like an elongated ionantha (it grows to about 6-7 inches tall) with fewer leaves, and as I said previously, I liked the long clean lines of this tall, slim, slender plant.  I have put pictures of the parent plants (of course not the actual parents of this particular hybrid plant but you get what I mean) from which you can see that this hybrid has inherited the ionantha rosette shape while taking on the paucifolia height and paucifolia trait of having much sparser leaves.

T. ionantha

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T. paucifolia

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I bought this plant in mid-May 2012 and the plant I got was already mature and probably in the very early stages of flowering, as there was already a very slight pinkish tint in its center, although this not very obvious in the pictures below.

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Thankfully the growth of the flower took far longer than the ionantha blink-and-you-miss-it type of  flowers, taking probably around six weeks to arrive at what you see below.  By this time the inflorescence could clearly be seen and the top of the plant had also turned a very nice shade of pastel pink.

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By the following week the first of the deep purple flowers had emerged and again the flowers are slightly longer lasting, managing to look pretty decent for two whole days.

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I initially thought there may only be one flower, but a further two flowers did bloom after that, although I did not manage to take any pictures, until well after they were past their best.  As always I tried my luck with pollinating the plant, but I understand that hybrids are not self fertile (can anyone tell me if this applies to all till hybrids?) and I had no other till flowering at that time, so it has been 7 months since the plant bloomed and well, unsurprisingly no seed pods have emerged.

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It has however given me two pups, although it is not a particularly fast pupper, with the first pup only making an appearance a good month after blooming.  For those having difficulties spotting the pup, look at the bottom left hand side of the plant, right at the base and slightly obscured by the wire (yes I am an excellent photographer!).

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It has grown steadily though, and after two and a half months both pups can clearly be seen.  The pups develop right at the base of the plant, so I think I will have a go at letting it clump, as it grows very neatly without really crowding each other out.  Of course there are only three plants at the moment so it is early days yet, but hey, one has to plan ahead right!

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And six months after blooming, the pups are already about half the size of the parent.

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As always specific growth conditions for this plant was nowhere to be found on the internet, so my guide was the preference of the parent plants.  Now ionanthas are really easy to grow plants, provided they are not kept damp for too long, they generally thrive under our local conditions, loving the sun and easily tolerating a full day of sun.  Although do remember to slowly acclimatise it if you do wish to have it out in the sun the whole time.  The paucifolia that I have seems to enjoy our local climate as much as ions.  The key point with this plant is that it has a bulbous base, so if you keep it upright you have to keep an eye out for water collecting at the base.  My gut feel is that paucifolia is probably more prone to rot because of this, so keeping it upside down or angled so that water flows away from the base would be preferable if you have this outdoors.

Conclusion being neither parent is too difficult to care for and both love the sun, so this plant is with the rest of my sun-loving tills under semi-shelter.  What this means is it gets the full morning sun up until 1pm – 2pm or so, whilst being slightly shaded from the rain, and therefore it will only get wet during the heavier storms.  Watering is of course dependent on the amount of sun you give the plant, and with my plant daily waterings are well received.  The more eagle-eyed readers may have spotted the healthy root growth in the above-right picture.  I have found that this plant is a quick rooter too, so this is one of the ways I use to assess if the plant is doing well, i.e. by checking that roots continue to develop.

To end with, this is an easy to grow and rewarding plant, which I would recommend to everyone.

Seven months post bloom:

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UPDATE AS AT APRIL 2013:

Just a quick update of this plant.  One of the pups just flowered!  It was quite unexpected given the parent plant itself only flowered less than a year ago.  Unfortunately it was just the one pup that bloomed, rather than both pups.  And even then, the pup that bloomed only achieved the same size as the parent, in fact I think it is actually marginally smaller.  Well hopefully the second pup which at the moment is the smaller of the two will continue to grow for awhile yet before it decides to flower!

Here are the photos for your viewing pleasure.

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