Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tilly of the Month: Tillandsia xerographica

The King of Tillies! Woohaha! I have been looking for a good specimen of this species for more than a year, and I finally found one this week at our locally owned nursery, and at a good price, too.



Tillandsia xerographica, with inflorescence.
 Tillandsia xerographica is a showy beast, true. The name means "dry writing"--how on earth do they come up with these names? I can only imagine the poor, thirst-mad botanist who discovered this was not in his right mind when he named it. Or he had abominably curlicued handwriting and saw a resemblance.

Among gardeners, it's known as the "King of Tillandsias", and this seems appropriate. They grow slowly, but majestically, to about a third to a half-meter in diameter, and occasionally, up to a meter. The inflorescence, as you can see, is quite remarkable. Tilly xerographica is native to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The leaves are silvery-white with pinkish highlights. And of course, the leaves are delightfully curly!

One reason it's hard to find good specimens in nurseries is that T. xerographica needs some special watering. In nature, they are often found at a diagonal. In nurseries, they are upright. Why is this a problem? Because if water stays trapped at the top of the plant (meristem) and does not drain out, the plant drowns and rots rather quickly. So if you are a proud owner of a T. xerographica, all you need to do is tip the plant upside down to drain the water after you soak it.  A once-a-week soak of about 15 minutes to an hour, and occasional mistings, should do fine. The water should be about 5.5-6pH, and have some bromeliad fertilizer in it about twice a month during the growing season, at about half strength.

T. xerographica needs a fair bit of light, also. These tillies grow on only the highest branches in their native environment. It should be near a sunny window, but not in direct sunlight.  It blooms once, then pups, like all Tillandsias. But the inflorescence and flowers can last for months!

Speaking of showy inflorescence, my T. concolor, now an outdoor Tilly, is looking pretty bloomy.


I can't wait to see the flowers on this one!


7 comments:

  1. One thing they do well is have interesting flowers. I will keep an eye on the next posts to see. Congrats.

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  2. Yes, Tillandsias generally have unusual flowers that can last quite a while. (The down side is that each one only flowers once.)And many species change colors during flowering, too!

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  3. What is the growing season of this plant?

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    1. In my experience, it grows at a slow, steady rate in a constant climate. For example, mine is indoors with a constant temperature around 70F with 40-50% humidity. Mine has flowered, but I have not been able to locate any pups at this point. I'll certainly post about it if I can find them! Like all Tillies, T. xerographica will go dormant, into a "CAM idle", if it's not watered enough. I give mine a good soaking once or twice a week, and mistings 4-5 times a week.

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  4. Nice…
    [URL=http://s281.photobucket.com/user/Morelia_Viridis/media/CEE33C97-1B95-4CD1-AA48-44B398AE69F9-11599-0000103D1FD7C9F0.jpg.html][IMG]http://i281.photobucket.com/albums/kk203/Morelia_Viridis/CEE33C97-1B95-4CD1-AA48-44B398AE69F9-11599-0000103D1FD7C9F0.jpg[/IMG][/URL]

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  5. If you soak your xerographica for more than 10 minutes at a time you're risking killing it. At the very least it will spot up like crazy and ruin the look. DO NOT SOAK xerographica!!! Huge mistake!

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    1. Hello! I'm glad you chimed in. I've given my xerographica regular soakings of 10-15 min, then drained it upside down for an hour in an area with a good breeze. I haven't had any problems, but I think the upside-down draining is critical, because yes, xerographicas can rot quite easily if water is left in the rosette. As for the spotting, do you have hard water? Do any of your other plants spot? I filter the Tillandsia water and add drops of vinegar to get it to about 5-6pH. You can have your water tested to see what the problem might be, then correct as needed. I hope this helps. Caput medusae are another species that rots very easily. I only soak them for a few minutes, then hang upside down to dry.

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