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Blooms & Reproduction


Beautiful flowers are another remarkable feature of these plants. Different species have different colored inflorescences (peduncle, flower stalk, bloom spike). The intensity and rich­ness of the purples, reds, pinks, yellows, and greens is truly something to behold! When you notice the plant beginning to send out its inflorescence, give it more light. This will inten­sify the colors and make the inflorescence much brighter and more pronounced. They are usually very long lasting, any­where from a couple of weeks to over six months. There are a few tillandsias whose blooms are wonderfully fragrant. Especially nice are T. straminea and T. xiphioides.

The flowering season for tillandsias begins in the fall and runs through winter and early spring, although, in the United States there always seems to be something blooming in a fair sized collection. The plants generally don't grow much when they bloom, and because of this, they should be watered less frequently.

During or after blooming, tillandsias send out anywhere from one to a dozen baby plants called offsets or pups. Many send the pups out from the base of the plant, a few send out pups from the inflorescence, some send them out along the stem of the plant, others from among the leaves of the rosette (lateral inflorescence), and in some species the pup grows from a short runner sent out from the parent plant. This runner is called a stolon.

These pups gradually grow to adult size in from one to four years while the parent plant gradually dies over the space of a year or two. In this way, along with seed production, the species is perpetuated, increasing its numbers through the generations. Although the parent plant eventually dies, in most species, it keeps up its appearance until the pups are full grown. Since each parent usually sends out more than a single pup, your plant will increase in numbers over the years forming a colony or clump of tillandsias.

There are, however, a few tillandsias that produce very large bloom spikes with many thousands of seeds. The spike

As previously mentioned, tillandsias reproduce by seed and by offset. In their native habitat, tillandsias require quite a bit of air circulation and many also need lots of sun­light. Because of this, they've adapted to living high above the ground, usually in trees. If tillandsias produced normal seeds like other plants, most of these would fall to the ground. Species would gradually become extinct due to lack of light and air circulation. But tillandsia seeds have a fuzzy, cottony attachment on them, the strands or "hairs" of which are shaped like a parachute. It allows the seeds to float on air currents thereby maintaining their height. It also allows them to cover long distances to start new colonies. The hairs of the para­chute (pappus) get entangled in the rough surface of the bark or rock thereby attaching the seed to the surface. This develop­ment of the dandelion-like parachute, like the peltate scale, is a very high degree of specialization and evolution.