The great love affair…
So far I have written about plants which have done well under my care, but as all growers can attest to, there will always be successes and failures. To date, of all the failures I have experienced, I have found this particular failure the most frustrating of all. Tillandsia achyrostachys (I have not even attempted to figure out how to pronounce this!) is a lovely unassuming little plant. It somewhat resembles a brachycaulos with the lime green colour of its leaves, albeit with fewer, broader leaves and a more upright growth habit, with mature plants about 7-10″ tall. T. achyrostachys is native to Mexico where it grows in tropical dry forests, which means it has to be able to tolerate an annual dry period of a couple of months with little or no water.
The main reason I got this plant was because of its flower which, in my view, is absolutely stunning. As I mentioned earlier, T. achyrostachys is anywhere between 7-10″ tall at maturity, and from what I have seen, the spike is always in excess of the height of the plant. The spike itself varies in colour from pink to crimson with small bright green flowers, which is quite rare in tills. Therefore it immediately made it on to my wish list when I first saw a picture of it.
Well I finally got my hands on one in August of last year (2012) and it was a nice mature plant. It did have some spotting on it though, but I don’t have enough experience to tell if the spotting is due to sunburn or some sort of fungal infection. Regardless, I mounted it and hoped for the best.
As a general rule, any new plants I get is kept in an area where it gets bright shade for the first month or two. That was the plan with this plant too, but the shifting sun meant that my so-called bright shade area actually gets direct sun for a couple of hours in the evening. It did not seem to mind too much and I figured the change was gradual enough that it should be able to adapt, so I left it where it was. And in fact after a couple of months I moved it to an area with full morning sun which it seemed to enjoy because unfortunately I noticed that it had started spiking. I know some growers enjoy trying to get their plants to grow large and would prefer that they do not flower, ever, but I believe in letting nature run its course and flowering is part of that process. However in this case I was disappointed because I wanted to enjoy the growing period a little longer before the flowering. After all I had not even had the plant for three months when I noticed the spike, but oh well, what can you do.
Sorry for the poor picture quality here, but I had to contend with a thunderstorm taking away all the light and hence the need to use the flash.
And so with little else to be done, I sat back, embraced the inevitable and waited as the spike developed. I must confess that by this time my slight disappointment had already given way to anticipation, which grew alongside the slowly developing spike! The pictures below were taken over the course of the four months it took the spike to develop.
So given that everything looks hunky dory, why did I start of this post saying that this plant is a failure? Well after all that build up and excitement over the four plus months it took for the spike to develop, it never bloomed! The spike just… dried up! Talk about anti-climatic. I have read that this does happen when the environment is too dry, but living in Malaysia which has average humidity levels of between 80% and 90% I thought that this was something I would not have to worry about. The only explanation I can think of is that I now have the plant hanging over tiled flooring (it was previously hanging above other potted plants) in combination with the strong afternoon sun, means that I have actually managed to create conditions which are indeed too dry. You can see in the pictures below that the spike is turning brown and drying up.
I belatedly moved the plant to another spot where it is back above other potted plants but I guess there is now no chance of me ever getting to see this particular plant flower. I do wonder if the spotting I noted on the plant earlier exacerbated the issue, because the spotting has spread to other parts of the plant. I have included some pictures of this spotting below. Can someone help me work out the cause of these spots? I really hope that it will still manage to give out at least one pup so I can at the very least start the whole process again *my fingers are resolutely crossed*.
For what it is worth, this plant seems to be very tolerant of direct sun, although I guess you should take my comments with a pinch of salt given my lack of success with it. Anyway where I have it currently, it gets morning sun from 9am up until about 2pm. Watering as always should be dependent on the amount of sun / wind it receives. I found it pretty hardy overall though, weathering the very wet two months we had with little problems. However care should be taken to ensure water does not collect in the center cup, and I had it hung upside down during the wet period for just that reason.
For now I am impatiently checking the plant every few days in the hope that a pup will emerge and I will eventually get to see a flower… in a couple of years(!). Wish me luck people!
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