Bulbous Air Plant (Tillandsia bulbosa)
The bulbous air plant is a supernatural species that emphasizes tendrils that pop up from a notable bulb at the bottom. This is where it gets both its botanical name and its popular name.
The leaves of bulbousa are a mysterious green that turns a truly splendid violet when the plant is ready to bloom. Don’t predict a floral display every year, yet, as it only flowers once in its life. Once it blossoms, it offsets pups and clumps or can be separated from the mother plant.
Air plants are typically straightforward to grow, but bulbosa is precisely simple as it has very relaxed watering needs. If you are keen on trying your hand at an air plant, this is the appropriate opener option.
For people with a notably black thumb, who wish to grow a plant in the worst way, air plants are the most practical option, and Tillandsia bulbosa is undoubtedly the best bet in winning with air plants.
Tillandsias – Air Plants
Tillandsias (also known as air plants) have become very popular houseplants in recent years because of their unusual appearance and reputation for being low-maintenance.
Tillandsia is a large genus containing around 650 species. They are in the Bromeliad family and are related to pineapples. They vary in size, shape, and form, from small (5-15 cm) stiff, grass-like tufts to more significant (5-90 cm) bulbous plants.
We find them in various habitats, from the southeastern U.S. south to Argentina and the Caribbean.
Unlike most other plants, tillandsias do not live in the soil. Instead, they are typically epiphytes found above ground in rainforests on trees, telephone wires (like Spanish moss), roofs, or even rocks. A few species are adapted to desert conditions and grow on shifting sands.
They have adapted to these environments by being able to absorb moisture (rain, dew, humidity) and nutrients (dust, decaying leaf, and insect matter) from the air using specialized silvery hairs (trichomes). They have rudimentary roots mainly used to anchor themselves to surfaces and crevices.
How To Care For Tillandsia Bulbosa
Understanding their native habitat provides clues on caring for tillandsias in your home. The volume of light required depends on the species. In general, the stiffer and more silvery the foliage, the more light they need. Never place them in full sun, though.
Watering is pretty simple. In many cases, providing a highly humid environment is enough. A friend of mine says hers are outside her bathroom, and she has never had to provide additional water.
If not situated in or near a steamy bathroom, and because many tillandsias are sold stuck to shells, other hard surfaces, or perched on colored lichen in glass globes, misting may be your only option. I mist mine four to five times per week, which has kept them healthy and happy for nearly two years.
If they are not attached to anything, the grass-like species can be soaked in tepid water for five minutes once per week. Bulbous types should not be washed, as water will collect in the center of the bulb and lead to rotting.
Water early in the day. This is an important point. Tillandsias have crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) photosynthesis. This adaptation to low-moisture environments is significant for plants with poor root systems. Other CAM plants include aloe, cacti, agave, and orchid species.
Watering Tillandsia Bulbosa
While the primary photosynthetic reaction is the same for all plants (water plus carbon dioxide plus light-producing glucose and oxygen), CAM plants use the carbon dioxide that has diffused into the leaves and stored (as malate) at night when the stomata are open. The stored carbon dioxide is available for photosynthesis when the stomata are closed during the daytime to limit moisture loss.
Non-CAM plants open their stomata in the daytime to capture carbon dioxide, which is used directly in photosynthesis. They close them at night to limit moisture loss. So getting back to why it’s important to water early in the day, water is required during the daytime for photosynthesis.
If watered late in the day, photosynthesis may be reduced due to lack of available water, and excess moisture on the leaves at night may limit carbon dioxide uptake. Also, as fast as the specialized hairs absorb the water, they may escape through the open stomata.
Tillandsias are slow-growing and don’t require a lot of nutrients.
I spray mine once per month with one-quarter strength liquid fertilizer.
Multiplying Tillandsia Bulbosa
It is indeed so simple to create new plants in this species.
Occasionally, a tillandsia may produce pups (offsets or small plantlets).
You can leave these attached until they reach at least one-third the size of the mother plant and then gently twist or cut them off.
Although tillandsia bulbosa can be cultivated from seed, it isn’t a simple recommendation, and fertilization can reach many months or even years.