Those new to air plants quickly become familiar with the purple, tubular flowers of genus Tillandsia. They are seen on T. ionantha, T. brachycaulos, T. bulbosa, T. juncea, and many many others. At first, it may seem as if these are the only flowers that Tillandsia have to offer. This is far from the truth. Purple, tubular flowers are beautiful in their own right, but they are common within the species. Many flower colors, behaviors, and shapes exist- reflecting a huge variety of pollinators upon which Tillandsia rely. Below are twelve of our favorite Tillandsia that display non-purple, tubular flowers. These plants are also relatively easy to find and generally easy to grow.
Photo credit: Dr. Dale Dixon (Twitter: @dale_dixon)
Nothing is usual about the small species T. funckiana. It's shape is serpent-like and it ages into twisted and multi-headed clumps. The spiny leaves are not spiny at all- they are soft and fragile, obediently bending at identical angles away from the stem. The flowers are a rare (in Tillandsia) scarlet color, with stigma and stamen that extend far beyond the flared, slightly curled petals. This species is easy to grow, but compared to other Tillandsia, it is sensitive to both cold and heat. The multitude of thin leaves tells us that the species likes more airflow relative to other Tillandsia. Bright light will reward the grower with blushing foliage, but too much sun is dangerous for funckiana.
Photo credit: Paul T. Isley III
This small species, native to dry forests in Mexico, shows a flower much different from any other Tillandsia. While not large, the flowers are a brilliant green, growing from an orange/pink spike. Besides the awesome flowers, T. mauryana also has interesting leaves that curl downward with age and have a velvety look and feel. This species can take a bit more light and a bit less water relative to other Tillandsia. This species is listed under CITES II which means it is "not necessarily threatened with extinction, but may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation."
Photo credit: Elena
Druid is very similar to other ionantha, except for its incredible flower and yellowish blush. The best way to experience Druid is to get a plant that has not yet flowered. ionantha can bloom quite suddenly, and nothing beats seeing the ghostly white flower of Druid appear one morning. Devoid of even a single pigment of color except for the yellow pollen, Druid's flower is unique among ionantha and always eye-catching.
Photo credit: Leslie Chen
This species has a beautiful cherry-red flower that lasts several days (rare for Tillandsia), with one of two types. The common type is trumpet-shaped, with three connected petals. The rare type has a similar shape, color, and size, but has three petals disconnected from each other in a windmill shape. This species is a saxicole (rock-dweller) in nature and prefers shady locations such as under a porch
The two shapes of T. albertiana flowers. Photo credit: Paul T. Isley III
We're still trying to figure out how to say this one, but it is a fascinating species for many reasons. The plant produces multiple small white flowers, growing from bright red floral bracts. The species comes in a large variety of cultivars and forms and is easy to grow and readily creates clumps. The leaves are thick, succulent, and typically grow in a secund form.
Photo credit: Paul T Isley III
This species is known for its spectacular flowers on very tall inflorescences. The spikes are an intense lavender color, with small white flowers with purple tips. T. cacticola is easy to grow and prefers bright light. Provide it enough moisture to that it looks "lush." This species rarely forms large clumps and will readily attach via roots to a permament location if left to do so.
This is a small species that easily forms clumps. The small, frilly flowers are yellow and strongly fragrant. T. crocata is drought-tolerant and prefers bright light, but it's small size means it can quickly dry out if not monitored in the hotter months. Rare form Copper Penny shows copper/orange flowers instead of the standard yellow.
T. crocata 'Copper Penny'. Photo credit: Elena
This is a xeric species that varies greatly in size. Small and large plants alike grow brightly-colored spikes with pink/mauve flowers whose petals are a cream color with violet tips. The many flowers are produced, and they are strongly and sweetly scented. Old leaves curl downward. This species cannot stand high heat or constant moisture but grows rapidly in well-lit outdoor areas with sufficient moisture.
Houston is a hybrid of T. stricta x T. recurvifolia, and Cotton Candy is one of its many forms. This plant grows a stunning inflated bright-pink inflorescence sprouting contrasting light-pink flowers. This plant grows easily and is adaptable, like its parent T. stricta. This hybrid was created by Dr. Mark Dimmett and named after the Houston Bromeliad Society.
A hybrid of T. tectorum x T.paleacea, this xeric plant grows large flower spikes. The light-pink petals emerge from red-wine floral bracts. This hybrid enjoys higher light and lower water than the average Tillandsia, owing to its xeric parentage. If hung upside-down, Sweet Isabel will grow curling up toward the light.
This is a highly-variable species that generally grows caulescently (showing an obvious stem), with striking flowers in contrasting red and white/purple, depending on the form. This species easily forms clumps, and enjoys bright light but minimal direct sun. Water, as always but especially with T. tenuifolia, should commensurate with the temperature, humidity, and light levels it receives.
Photo credit: www.AirPlantHub.com
A medium-sized xeric species, this plant grows straw-colored flower spikes. The flower petals are a bright yellow (unusual for Tillandsia). This species grows relatively quickly into large clumps, and the leaves are stiff, brittle, and easily damaged. It is adaptable to many different care conditions, but will grow quicker in brighter light.
Nearly indistinguishable from T. bergeri, this caulescent species comes in many different forms but typically shows a contrasting inflorescence with pink and purple colors. This species faithfully flowers once per year, a process which lasts nearly one month. Clumping into three to six plants after flowering, this species can become a large clump after several generations. T. aeranthos also can be used as a monitor plant for a collection. When this plant is dehydrated, the leaves severely curl longwise, and quickly restore to normal after watering. Practice and observation can use this species for a rough estimate of the water needs of other Tillandsia.