The great love affair…
It seems strange that I always mention a preference for species, yet I find my collection of hybrids increasing ever oh so slowly. Well here is another hybrid that I thought looked cute so it was a must-have for me. Tillandsia seleriana x Tillandsia ionantha is a good combination of both parents. It is about 4″ to 5″ at maturity, with recurved leaves, a bulbous base and a nice covering of trichomes at the base giving it a very nice furry look.
As for the parents, the first tillandsia that most people are exposed to and end up buying is T. ionantha. And for good reason too, as it has a very nice form, with a thick rosette of leaves which have a smattering of trichomes at the base, giving it a nice silvery look. It is generally small, averaging 3″ or so and because it is such an easy growing species, it is also cheap. Therefore it is a staple used by sellers at arts and crafts stalls who have it mounted in very creative ways, thereby catching the eye of potential Tillandsia addicts and then drawing them in with its unique soil-less growing habit! All in all a perfect introduction into the world of tillandsias for any beginner. Now T. seleriana on the other hand is known to be tougher to grow in our humid, tropical climate, primarily because of its bulbose base which has a tendency to retain water and ultimately result in rot. However the best tip to counter this is to hang it upside down or sideways to prevent water from being caught at the base. And once you do this I think selerianas are pretty tolerant of our conditions. I have read that they enjoy the sun, although mine somehow do not seem to be fans and have suffered some sunburn! So I now have it in mottled sunshine for most of the first half of the day and bright shade for the rest, which seems to keep them happy. Keep in mind though that the thick covering of trichomes is a sign that the plant has a preference for drier conditions so take care not to over-water it.
I bought my seleriana x ionantha in May 2012, and it was not just a mature plant but it was already spiking. Although spiking is probably not the best word, because the bud does not really extend above the leaves. So you will have to take my word for it that the plant below is already in bud.
It took about a month to go from budding to flowering. I would have to admit that the flowering was slightly underwhelming for me, in that I had expected the plant to blush a lot more than it actually did. You can see from the ionantha picture above that ionanthas colour up very nicely when they bloom, so I thought that this may have been passed on to the hybrid. But other than the actual flower spike itself which was a dark pink, the leaves of the plant remained resolutely green. Perhaps it needed more sunlight, given that I had only just bought the plant I don’t think I put it in direct sun immediately. But that is just a guess as I cannot really recall now exactly where I had the plant. Well the colouring aside, the flowers were a deep purple and were fairly typical for tillandsias, in that it is relatively short-lived, lasting about a day or so.
After the bloom it took awhile for the pups to make an appearance, but after a couple of months two pups could be clearly seen at the base. The following shots were taken over a six-month period post flowering, and you can see the gradual growth of the pups. I think the pace of growth clearly takes after the seleriana parent, in that it is most definitely not the fastest grower out there. But I love the shape of the plant and the dense trichomes give it a nice fuzzy appearance.
The pictures below were taken about six months after flowering, and the pups were already a good size. I believe they could have been safely removed at that point if you want to encourage more pups. But I have pretty much just left it be. The pic directly below shows how I actually hang it, and you can see that it is merely suspended from fishing line. The parent is obviously upside down but now the pups have both grown upwards, and I am not sure if this is because it is growing towards the sun or if it is a coincidence that the leaves have recurved upwards in that manner. Either way, I am not complaining! I have this plant in direct sun from 9am to 2pm and it is also subject to the vagaries of our lovely tropical weather, thunderstorms and all. It seems to be hardy enough to tolerate the high heat yet is also equally able to weather the occasional drenching it receives when the storms come. Therefore I have found it to be a very low maintenance plant, and I rarely pay any attention to it. It seems happy enough with regular tillandsia care without the need for any special attention, although as always, do keep in mind that watering is dependent on the amount of sun and wind the plant receives.
These last two pics were taken last week which would make it about nine months since it flowered and I am seriously considering removing the pups now. What do you guys think, should I leave it to clump or de-pup in the hope that the parent will give out more pups? Do let me know your thoughts. For the KL-based readers here, the weather has turned rather wet again recently so do keep a close eye on any tills you have out in the open and it is probably also a good time to do some housekeeping on your plants if you have not done so recently, as clearing away any dead leaves will help reduce the chance of rot in your tills.
Thanks for reading and happy gardening everyone!
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