Tag Archives: Rainforest Flora

Tillandsia Tuesday

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* Tillandsia duratii has the most fragrant flower over the longest period of time. There is currently more demand than supply.
* Tillandsia xerographica’s inflorescence can last up to a year. It has been overcollected in its home of Guatemala.
* Tillandsia aernanthos is the most common, the least expensive, and comes in lots of forms.
* Tillandsia brachycaulos’ deep leaf color lends that trait to colorful hybrids.
* Tillandsia tectorum was used as a model by James Cameron for jellyfish-like creatures in his movie “Avatar.”
* Tillandsia hybrid ‘Curly Slim’ is too beautiful to keep in stock.

I’m a mistress of tillandsia facts after listening to the recording of Paul Isley’s lecture given at our local Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific last year, link here.

Tillandsias, the so-called air plants, have a leaf structure and surface evolved to handle a drenching amount of moisture without rotting.
The most common mistake made growing them indoors is insufficient moisture. (Care instructions here.)

I felt immediate kinship with Mr. Isley upon learning that he inaugurated his adventure in tillandsias 40 years ago in a Jeep Wagoneer which he drove to Guatemala, bringing back seeds and plants to sell at the Pasadena Rose Bowl flea market. We never drove our used Jeep Wagoneer anything close to that distance, but it carried all four of us plus two Newfs for quite some time before the sagging headliner became too irritating to endure. (Next time you see a vintage Jeep Wagoneer check it out — I bet its headliner is sagging. We never could get ours to remain attached.)

Mr. Isley’s nursery in Torrance, Rainforest Flora, is now the largest grower of tillandsias in North America. No longer based on collecting, since 1993 the company has become entirely self-sufficient in producing this notoriously slow-growing bromeliad. A large part of their growing is done in Northern San Diego County.

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Tillandsia Tuesday — today’s micro-meme. Grab a drink and a comfy blanket and settle in. The lecture is a soothing 40 minutes’ long.

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Again, the link to the lecture can be found link here.
There’s an intro of about 2 minutes, where the word “bromeliad” is mispronounced more times than I would have presumed possible, so you can skip that and go straight to the lecture.


Saturday clippings 7/26/14


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Melocactus matanzanus

The Orange County Cactus & Succulent Society sale is this weekend, where the buzz and gossip amongst the sales tables might very likely entice you into bringing home your first melocactus.
It’s possible that the recent visit to the Huntington’s Desert Conservatory is behind this atypical impulse buy.
(I also snagged a small Agave ‘Tradewinds,’ with lovely blue-green stripes and a couple bromeliads, much more typical of my usual succulent show purchases.)
I’m going to designate the melocactus my favorite plant in the garden this week, because if you go to Loree’s blog, the post prior to favorite plants references a great deal on the Personal Recollections of William Hertrich, the man who made the desert garden for Huntington. And here I just bought socks on Amazon for my youngest son and forgot to add Hertrich’s recollections to my basket. Damn.

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Eulophia petersii at the sale

Plant shows are so helpful in filling in gaps in understanding the life cycle of these often very slow-growing plants. I’d never heard of eulophias before this week, a desert-adapted orchid, so would normally walk right by these pleated green leaves with the bulbous bases, which I’m sure I’ve done dozens of times before at succulent shows.

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But I had just seen eulophia in a staggering full-bloom display earlier in the week at Solana Succulents, on consignment sale for hundreds of dollars.
So what those underwhelming leaves were capable of producing was still very fresh in my mind. Pots about one-sixth the size of the above container were selling for $50 at the show.

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The eulophia fit neither my wallet nor the Mini Cooper, so the only purchase I made at Solana Succulents was this smooth-leaved Dyckia ‘Naked Lady.’

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I’m compulsive about planting something as soon as I bring it home. I tend to forget to water seed trays and cuttings, but if it’s in the garden I know I’ll keep an eye on it.
I planted the new dyckia as a ringer amongst a couple Yucca aloifolia ‘Purpurea.’
Maybe I’m just kidding myself, but I’m thinking this placement kind of minimizes that rank plant show impulsivity I fall victim to, as in Nothing to see here, just a disciplined repetition of key plants..
I have an enormous clump of barbed dyckia to tackle one day, so this Dyckia nudum had instant appeal.

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Pachypodium namanquanum

This pachypodium at the show reminded me of the verbascum I once grew and can’t seen to find again.
(The verbascum was sold as V. undulatum. Furry, chartreuse leaves, it could have been Verbascum epixanthinum.)

Lastly, in case you’re in need of more bromeliads, and who isn’t, Rainforest Flora in Torrance is having a 20 percent sale this weekend and next weekend too.

on the scent of tillandsias

Tillandsias, epiphytic bromeliads or “air plants,” have almost single-handedly elevated the caliber of gifts for people who love plants. Aeriums, terrariums, glass globes, and light bulb shapes like these from Los Angeles-based outdoor living shop Potted have all been inspired by and designed to accommodate tillandsias’ clever rejection of all things earthbound — and who wouldn’t gladly give or receive such airy, translucent worlds-within-worlds?


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But it wasn’t until I came nose-to-bloom with Tillandsia straminea at garden designer Dustin Gimbel’s garden recently that I realized that, in addition to being one of the hippest gift shop novelties being offered by great taste-makers like Potted and Dirt Couture, tillandsias in their own right are fascinating little bromeliads, some with delicate blooms and perfume that carries on a warm June evening. Like a hawk moth to a datura’s trumpet, I returned again and again that night to inhale its jasmine-ish scent.

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Some of the best plant discoveries are made not in plant nurseries or catalogues but in other people’s gardens. I’m also infatuated with Dustin’s Bocconia arborea, a macleaya relative, seen here with his ever-increasing assortment of hand-made, concrete, disembodied deities…

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As to the tillandsias, as it happens, one of the best places to see the most diverse collection of tillandsias around is not 10 miles from my home. Today at Rainforest Flora, Inc., in Torrance, Calif., I discovered there are other scented tillandsias, too, like T. streptocarpa, also a summer bloomer.

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Rainforest Flora creates elaborate naturalistic settings to display their tillandsias.

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But I’m trying out a spheroid, hinged wire cage for my T. straminea.

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Tillandsia straminea and streptocarpa’s new home is under my pergola, where the dappled light seems perfect except for possibly that late-afternoon blast of sun. The conventional wisdom says the more silver in the leaf, the more sun it can stand, but I’ll be watchful.


Tillandsias are frost sensitive and are grown as houseplants outside zone 10. Mist once a week and immerse completely for a few minutes once a month.