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Tillandsia ionantha var. ionantha
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)
Tillandsia ionantha var. ionantha



Origin and description

The Tillandsia cyanea species is an epiphytic plant native to equatorial regions. This bromeliad has small, linear, arched leaves that form dense rosettes. They are green with a reddish line at the base. The stunning inflorescence is a spike of smooth, pink or red, overlapping bracts, from which rich violet flowers emerge.

Species, cultivars and related plants

Tillandsia caput-medusae is a robust plant that is adapted to drier habitats. The grey-green leaves are leathery, long and twisting, while the inflorescence is long and bright red. Tillandsia ionantha forms a bulky rosette 8 to 10 cm high, with triangular, leathery leaves that are superimposed and highly erect. The lower face is scaly and greyish. Before flowering, the tips of the central leaves turn a stunning pink. When the plant blooms, violet flowers with long yellow stamens appear in the centre of the plant. Tillandsia lindenii has foliage that resembles that of Tillandsia cyanea. Its 30 cm long inflorescence is bright pink and the 5 cm flowers are deep blue with a white throat. Tillandsia usneoides, or Spanish moss, resembles some lichens. In the wild, this tillandsia hangs from trees. The bare rootless stems that can grow up to several metres long are covered in small silvery green thread-like leaves. This species is generally grown suspended from trunks.

Common name


Latin name (genus)

Tillandsia cyanea

English common name

French common name

Botanical family

  • Bromeliaceae

Growing conditions

Tillandsia requires bright light in summer and full sun in winter. It does best near a west-facing window in summer and south-facing window in winter. Ideal temperatures in summer are 22 to 24ºC.  Winter temperatures can be cooler (18 to 16ºC) but should not go below 13ºC. Tillandsia is fussy when it comes to humidity. Keep humidity levels high. If you do not have a humidifier, spray the plant regularly with room-temperature water. If you are growing it in a pot, place it on a saucer filled with gravel and water.

Easy to grow?

It is easy to grow tillandsia vegetatively if you give it high humidity. Flowering is more difficult to achieve, however. The plant also gradually withers and dies a few years after flowering. The offsets that appear at the base of the plant will flower a few years later.

Watering and fertilizer

This plant absorbs water primarily through its leaves. Mist the plant regularly with room-temperature water. You can immerse the plant along with its support in room-temperature water (with a small dose of fertilizer) for an hour, then let it drain. If the plant is grown in a pot, water sparingly to moisten the soil, and remove any surplus water. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings, but never completely. In cooler temperatures in winter, cut back on watering and misting, allowing the soil surface to dry out thoroughly. Tillandsia does not tolerate excess mineral salts well. During the growing period, fertilize monthly by misting the leaves with a half-strength solution of 20-20-20.

Pruning and maintenance

Remove yellowed leaves, prune the inflorescence after flowering and regularly mist the leaves.


Tillandsia grows very few roots, and is often wired to a piece of wood or bark, with the roots covered in sphagnum moss. It can be planted year round except during flowering. Tillandsia can also be grown in a pot in porous, well-draining potting mix. You can use osmunda fibre, sphagnum moss or peat moss blended with perlite as a potting mix with gravel in the bottom of the pot. Once installed in a pot, the plant should never be repotted.


See also

Pests and diseases
Physiological disorders

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