Tillandsias and Crytanthus

Tillandsias and Crytanthus

Previously we have discussed the larger and more familiar bromeliads like guzmania, neoregelia, and the larger tank type epyphytes. And a few that will grow in the ground.

But now we will explore their smaller cousins, cryptanthus and tillandsias. And there are some fascinating ones.

First, cryptanthus, or earth stars. And that is what they look like. They are small colorful rosettes of flattened leaves in solid substance that if they were vase-shaped would resemble the larger bromeliads more. But relatives they are. I have always thought they look like pastel, silvery, and striped starfish. They can develop interesting patterns and color depth in the right light.

This genus consists of about fifty terrestrial species. They have low spreading rosettes of leaves numbering from six to twenty. The leaves are succulent, and edged with teeth ,and may be three to twelve inches long. They develop into fairly large clumps if given water in dry times. They like very good light for color development, but if they are outside in a hot climate, they really need protection from summer sun. There is a cryptanthus society affiliated with The Bromeliad Society.

Tillandsias are what we are going to concern ourselves with today as we are going to do a craft. And they are just lovely to do it with.

Tillandsias are those little clumps of grey, and greeninsh-grey hairy rosettes that are so often sold with no mount and out of a pot. Their blossoms come from a handsome stalk, much the same as larger bromeliads. At times they can be purchased mounted on shells, rocks, or driftwood. Outdoors they can take good light, but filtered in mid-summer. They need to be soaked a couple of times a week in hot weather. I use a spray bottle. They love hot weather, but I have to admit, that this winter in Florida mine were tested at temps in the thirties and they came through, because, I think, they were sheltered from frost. I'll give good referrals for care later.

Indoors, thoroughly mist them two or three times a week until they are wet. Again, I'll give you good culture resources. But now we want to concentrate on doing a wreath featuring tillandsias. The supplies you will need are:

  • One wreath. We will be using a straw one today, because I'm chea--thrifty. This could be done with a dark green styrofoam one.
  • A collection of small tillandsias. You can start with a few tillandsias, and add more later. They are quite reasonably priced. Find them at nurseries, and I'll give you sources.
  • A low-temp glue gun and glue.
  • A packet of florist greening pins (craft store). Croquet wicket-type shapes.
  • A package of green moss, lichen or Spanish moss, your choice. If you choose to use live Spanish moss, I suggest you soak it in a casserole dish, and microwave it if there is any sign of insects in it. Dry it thoroughly before beginning. The others are in your craft store. I think flatter green moss is easier to work with here.
  • A length of wire to put around top of wreath to form loop for hanging.
  • Fine silver-colored wire to wrap over moss--optional.
  • Clear acrylic sealer or hair spray--optional
  • A decorative butterfly or mushroom bird if you want it. Your choice. I ended up not.

Put the loop around the top of the wreath first. If you are using straw, do not remove the cellophane wrapping. If you put it on a front door, every time the door is opened, straw will drop into the entryway. I've learned, finally.

Also, if this is going to be hung on your front door, make sure it won't cover the peek hole. Don't ask how I know about this. Okay, I spent the whole Christmas season forgetting I couldn't see through greens. If you are in Southern Florida, expect the frog who is behind your silk tulip basket to be a little miffed when you change the arrangement once again, and he has to get used to new stuff to sleep behind. Mine is developing an attitude. One day he jumped on my head, ended up in the house, and had to be caught in the lizard net. (Aquarium net used to catch lizards.) I live a full life.

With your glue gun, glue chunks of the green moss to the top curved surfaces of the wreath only. I did not put any on the back so it would lie flatter against a wall, door, or on a tabletop. Since the green moss is messy, you will want to do this somewhere where you will not be tracking it all over. If you are friendly with your neighbor, do it in her yard.

Insert greening pins (which are silver) here and there to tame wandering tendrils of moss and further secure it. I find slanting them in makes them less noticeable. This is the time to wind the fine silver colored wire around over the moss to further hold it down. I further secured it by spraying clear acrylic sealer on it to keep it from shedding. While it was still damp, I pressed it in a bit to hold it better and make it look less unruly. We don't want any bad-moss days.

After it is dried, begin arranging your tillandsias in the composition you want. If the wreath is to be hung, put heavier looking ones toward the bottom. If you plan on using it as a centerpiece, they can be distributed evenly balanced around the whole thing. (A candle in a chimney would be nice in the center.)

If you decide you want the tillandsias living in a slatted wooden basket later, they can be held down with greening pins and removed later, if they are to be a temporary centerpiece.

Your plants will have labels on them so before you remove them, I suggest you draw a diagram of the wreath and the names so you will know what you have. Done? Remove the labels.

Position them carefully with the greening pins. I put one around the "stem" if there was one, or lay them over two basal leaves and pushed them in just enough to secure them. Watch for new pups, and make sure you don't smush them. When you have finished, get your spray bottle with water only, and spritz them well. I decided to drape a bit of Spanish moss on mine, as it will be outside, and I sprayed that, too.

As you can see from the pictures, mine did not stay on my front door, as Kermit didn't have a place to hide, so it will go on the garden gate. Wonder how long I'll have to keep those tulips up? He's so picky.

Good cryptanthus and tillandsia information on culture is available from:

The Bromelliad Society at: www.bsi.org

Culture information and plant sources are:

Tillandsia International at: www.airplant.com

Tropiflora at: www.tropiflora.com

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