Have you ever seen a plant that doesn’t need soil to survive? The Tillandsia xerographica or tillandsia kruseana is the king of air plants. It’s an epiphyte that absorbs water and nutrients through its thin silvery grey leaves.
Add air plant skills to your repertoire by learning about tillandsia xerographica care. Its inexplicable nature and striking aesthetic make it a brilliant addition to your collection.
What Are Air Plants?
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Air plants come from the tillandsia genus, a unique member of the bromeliad family. The genus has over five hundred species of evergreen perennial flowering epiphytes.
Epiphytes grow on top of other plants or tall structures such as trellises or telephone poles. They prefer places with high humidity that get plenty of morning dew.
While you can recreate the same environment with a humidifier, a pebble tray full of water, or frequent misting.
Air plants get their water and nutrients from the atmosphere.
All About Tillandsia xerographica Air Plants
Hailing from the semi-arid regions of Southern Mexico, Xerographica air plants are known as the king of air plants due to their size.
Unlike other smaller air plants, their rosettes can grow to become twenty-five inches across and nine feet tall in flower.
The plant consists of light green leaves arranged in a rosette shape which curl at the tips. The almost spherical plant also produces a single stem of tubular flowers.
When you turn the air plant upside down, you will notice that it has no root system, proving its uniqueness. This ultra-low-maintenance wonder thrives in sunny conditions.
Unlike its shade-loving cousins, Tillandsia xerographica can stand direct sunlight. It loves places with around 70%. It won’t be so happy in arid regions or places with dry conditions.
You can grow it in USDA hardiness zones 9a -11b. Any climates found to be sunny and somewhat humid. Recreating a plant’s natural habitat leads to the best success.
Tillandsia Xerographica Flowering
Every air plant species blooms only once during its entire lifetime. The flowers grow from a thick green stem from several leaf bracts.
The leaf bracts are red, and the floral bracts are a bright chartreuse green. The flowers themselves range from red to purple.
These bright contrasting colors give xerographica inflorescence its distinctive aesthetic look. If you want your tillandsia xerographica to flower, you should ensure it gets plenty of bright light and bromeliad fertilizer.
Once the flower dries, you must remove the stem from the leaf rosette. Removing the flower stem helps the plant refocus its energy on growing new leaves.
Tillandsia Xerographica Cultivars
When such a spectacular plant exists, people are bound to make more types when such a spectacular plant exists. Botanists and hobbyists develop crosses with xerographica and another mother plant to get different colors or features.
The new cultivar keeps desired features from the mother plant and adds more to the story. While there are many cultivars of Tillandsia Xerographica, here are the most commonly known.
This is a hybrid of chiapensis x xerographica. Its flower stem branches into ten or more branches.
The main stem is dark pink, while its branches start off light pink and fade to light green. The floral bracts are silvery in color.
This cultivar grows very large, its rosette over twenty-five inches across. The leaves are a light silver-gray color and hefty.
Tillandsia “Silver Queen”
This is a jaliscomonticola x xerographica cross. It has several flowers growing from one stem and remains in inflorescence very long.
The stem has silver leaf bracts with bright red to green ombre floral bracts. The flowers themselves are a beautiful blue color.
This cross between Tillandsia xerographica x roland-gosselinii has a silvery white stem and green bracts and red flower bracts. The thin leaf bracts give it the look of shooting fireworks.
This cultivar is created by crossing xerographica x brachycaulos and has chartreuse flower bracts and blue flowers. One plant is registered as “Betty,” while most others available are clones.
Tillandsia Xerographica Watering Requirements
There are two ways you can go about watering air plants. You could choose to see both methods together or pick one.
Soaking your Tillandsia Xerographica
The first method involves dunking the entire plant in a deep bowl of room-temperature water. We keep the plant upside down and submerged in the water for fifteen to twenty minutes, allowing it to rehydrate itself fully.
We use room temperature or slightly lukewarm water to ensure the plant doesn’t suffer a temperature shock. It must stay in its ideal temperature range.
Naturally, the plant would get its water from being dowsed with rain or vapor rising in the air. To mimic that as much as possible, we recommend using distilled water for soaking or misting your amazing air plant.
If you use tap water, you will expose your plant to many minerals, chemicals, and bacteria, depending on where you live.
You can soak your air plant species every one or weeks, depending on how dry or hot it is where you live.
Misting your Tillandsia xerographica
The xerographica plant employs natural mist or rain as a source to absorb moisture. Therefore misting it profusely with distilled water is a great way to water it.
You can mist the plant’s green leaves every week or more frequently If you live somewhere very hot.
The Importance of Drying Your Air Plants
Once you have soaked or thoroughly doused your air plant with water, you must dry them. If you allow water to sit on the leaves, you will encourage crown rot.
Allow your plant to air dry upside down, giving it a few good shakes to remove any excess water. Failing to do this means you cannot avoid rotting.
You can use a fan to speed up the drying process. Or lightly pat it with a kitchen towel.
Standing water on the leaves might attract pests like scale insects or mealybugs.
Watering Your Air Plants During the Winter
When the air plants are out of the growing season, you may get off not soaking or misting them frequently.
The reason is that cooler temperatures mean the plant’s silvery grey leaves lose less water than usual.
The plant is drought tolerant so wait for your leaves to droop a little before watering in the winter.
Tillandsia xerographica Light Requirements
Unlike other air plants, this one can bear moderate to intense indirect light. If you want to give it direct sunlight to help it develop inflorescence, you can as long as you keep it hydrated.
Contrary to popular belief, Tillandsia xerographica does not dry up in the direct sun. However, If it’s really dry where you live, then indirect light is preferable
The best thing would be natural light from a west-facing window.
However, if you don’t have many windows or any window space at all, you can provide artificial light instead of direct sunlight.
You will have to use a grow lamp since normal fluorescent light will not be enough. When Tillandsia xerographica gets enough light, it will grow well.
Tillandsia xerographica Plant Fertilizer Requirements
Growing tillandsia xerographica for the first time is a fascinating experience. It’s mind-boggling that a plant can grow without soil.
However, that’s why fertilizing is the most crucial aspect of tillandsia xerographica care.
On its own, the soil doesn’t do much more than act as a substrate to hold nutrients and water while anchoring the plant.
So long as the plant gets the nutrient and water from another source, it will be fine.
There are two ways you can fertilize your display xerographica for faster growth.
When you soak your tillandsia xerographica air plant in water, you can add liquid fertilizer to the water. This will help the king of air plants get their nutrition.
This should be done every three or four weeks. Even less frequently for already robust plants.
Special fertilizer developed for spraying on the leaves of these plants has been developed. You can follow the instructions on the bottle or spray them once every two or three weeks.
A struggling plant may need to be fertilized more often. Observe your plant carefully, and you’ll be able to tell.
The only air plant which can reach up to three feet in rosette length, the king of air plants is one for the books. Water it and fertilize it every couple of weeks.
You can forget about it the rest of the time. It’s quite the showpiece. Show it off at your next dinner party.