Tillandsia brachycaulos is a type of air plant in the bromeliad family. They can’t be potted in soil, so they’re perfect low-maintenance plants for unconventional displays.
Their care habits are easy but very different from other houseplants, so make sure to read through this care guide carefully.
Tillandsia brachycaulos is also known as Tillandsia cryptantha, bradeana, and flammea. It is a beautiful medium-sized variety of air plants that puts out leaves in a rosette formation.
Brachycaulos leaves can be green to a light blush depending on maturity and light conditions.
Brachycaulos air plants are easy to care for and once you develop a good routine for your air plants, they’ll be a breeze to keep alive. Don’t settle for just being alive, though.
Keep reading to learn how to make your air plant thrive. Thriving air plants will eventually flower and give you baby pups.
Tillandsia brachycaulos care
Tillandsia brachycaulos are moisture-loving plants. Keep your Tillandsia brachycaulos thriving by providing it as much indirect light as possible and keeping it hydrated with long soaks and periodic misting. Just make sure it dries off a few hours after watering to prevent rot.
As their name suggests, air plants are flora varieties that do not live in the soil. Actually, potting up your Tillandsia brachycaulos in the soil is a sure way to kill them.
Instead of planting them in soil, place your air plant on a display that shows off their beauty. You can ‘plant’ them in pebbles, marbles, or sand, for example. Air plant displays can be as simple as a bowl or as complicated as an intricate piece of plant art.
I even saw a photo once of a hand-carved wooden ship with air plants poking out of the sculpture. All this to say that air plant displays can be adapted to your personal aesthetic preferences. Here are some things to keep in mind though:
Since you don’t plant air plants in soil, you’ll need to choose a display to show off your Tillandsia brachycaulos. I recommend choosing something that won’t inhibit airflow and light.
Ideally, the display should also be accessible for watering.
Another consideration to have when choosing the display is the material. Corrosive metals should be avoided since they can get wet while misting, will rust, and can introduce heavy metals to your air plant.
Watering your Tillandsia brachycaulos can be done by misting, dunking, or soaking with distilled water or rainwater. The specifics of watering your Tillandsia will vary a lot depending on environmental factors like temperature and humidity as well as your personal schedule.
Normal watering methods can’t be used because air plants don’t have functioning roots. Instead of uptaking water through the roots, air plants absorb water and nutrients through trichomes on the leaves.
How much you need to water your brachycaulos depends entirely on the temperature, amount of light they receive, and humidity of your home.
Tillandsias can be quite forgiving to the amount of water you give them and you can mix and match methods to something that works for your conditions.
The most important thing to note about watering your air plant is that you let them dry out completely before placing them back on their display.
We have an article on Watering your Air Plants. So check that out for detailed information.
Give your Tillandsia brachycaulos as bright yet indirect light as possible. Avoid direct sunlight, especially in the afternoon. They will also survive in low-light conditions but won’t grow so fast.
The broad, light-colored leaves won’t tolerate intense sunlight and will react by crisping up on the tips. The damage is cosmetic, but it is difficult to prune it off without affecting the whole aesthetic of the plant.
On the other hand, if you are determined to keep your air plant in a windowless room, just make sure to give it at least 10 hours of artificial light.
This setup can actually work extremely well in a humid bathroom where the artificial light can double as a night light.
If you figure out the perfect lighting for your brachycaulos, you’ll be rewarded in color.
First, the leaves turn a blush color when they get enough sunlight. Second, sufficient sunlight allows the plant to eventually bloom.
When brachycaulos blooms, it grows an orange or red inflorescence that looks like a flower.
Air plants originate in the warm regions of Central and South America and are therefore not tolerant to freezing temperatures.
Brachycaulos is actually a hardy variety of air plants. Thus, it can withstand temperatures as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 degree Celsius). Temperatures this cold should be avoided, but won’t be fatal.
Temperature considerations mean that if you live in a warm region you could consider displaying your air plants outside yearlong.
In colder regions, you can still place your air plant on a tree branch or tucked into a porch railing. Just bring them inside when temperatures start to drop.
Tillandsia brachycaulos are mesic air plants. This means they crave more humidity than their desert-dwelling zeric counterparts.
This means they will be happy in a room with humidity between 60% to 90%. Bathrooms and kitchens, for example, make the perfect humid rooms for your brachycaulos.
If the surroundings aren’t very humid, it’s not a big deal. You’ll just have to water more often or spritz between soakings.
Air plants don’t need fertilizing but you can certainly fertilize them to encourage growth.
To fertilize a Tillandsia, add a bromeliad or orchid-specific liquid fertilizer. Introduce the fertilizer when you water them by diluting half of the recommended amount into your spray bottle or dunking container.
As the air plants take in the water, they will also uptake the nutrients in the fertilizer through their leaves.
During the summer, you can fertilize them every week for two weeks. In the winter, stop fertilizing all together to give the air plant some rest.
Since air plants don’t get planted in soil, you don’t need to worry about repotting your Tillandsia brachycaulos.
Although air plants can grow quite a bit as they mature, your display should accommodate their growth without any problems. Displays that are too tight usually block airflow, so are not recommended.
Should your brachycaulos outgrow its display, repotting it is as easy as picking it up (or untying, ungluing, etc.) and plopping it whatever new display you choose.
Air plants don’t need pruning but you can tidy it up should you choose.
Like other house plants, Tillandsia brachycaulos will shed old and dried out leaves as it grows. You can help it out by plucking the dead leaves from the base.
It is not recommended that you take a knife or scissors to your air plants because excessive pruning will kill them.
Also, any damage to the base can prevent pups from growing in the best case or prove fatal in the worst case.
You can only propagate your Tillandsia brachycaulos after it blooms and grows pups.
Pups are just offshoots of the baby plants that grow from the base of the mother plant. You can separate the pup to propagate the air plant or leave it be.
If you choose to separate the pup, carefully remove the offshoot with a sharp and sterile knife. When the cut heals, begin caring for it like you’ve been doing with the mother plant.
The mother plant will eventually die out after reproducing, but this can take months or years.
If you choose to keep the pup on the mother plant, two things can happen. If you leave the first offshoot on the mother plant, brachycaulos has the potential to create a clump of pups.
Each of these pups can then be divided into individual plants.
The other thing that will happen if you leave the pups on the mother plant is that they can divert energy away from the original plant.
This tends to cause her to die more quickly than she would if you had separated the pups. She will wither and die and you will want to cut her from the new brachycaulos to keep the appearance nice and enable airflow.
All air plants only bloom once in their lifetime, and Tillandsia brachycaulos is no exception. If taken care of properly, this variety will shoot out bracts that form a colorful, orangy-red inflorescence.
When your Tillandsia brachycaulos gets ready to bloom, it will start to grow an inflorescence. This growth forms from the center and looks a lot like the leaves, only they are more orange or salmon in color.
The inflorescence is made up of bracts, which are just leaf-like growths that serve a reproductive role in the plant. From these bracts, a couple of purple tube-shaped flowers will bloom.
Sadly, the radiant blooms only last a few days but the colorful flower-like bracts will remain.
Even though the blooms are short-lived, the whole process from growing the colorful inflorescence to finally blooming can take several months. Enjoy the process.
Also, a blooming air plant means it will soon grow offshoots that can be propagated. For me, the idea of propagating my air plant is just as exciting as the blooms.
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Common Problems with Tillandsia Brachycaulos
Air plants are easy to care for because they don’t have a lot of problems. Pests don’t really bother them.
They bounce back if you forget to water them, and will survive in low-light conditions. Make sure your brachycaulos thrives by preventing the following issues.
The most common problem and most frequent cause of death with Tillandsia brachycaulos is rot. This normally happens when it doesn’t dry quickly enough.
If you notice the rot, it’s probably too late. Prevent this from ever happening by maintaining good airflow, giving it plenty of light, watering in the morning, and drying it upside down if possible.
Not enough water
Tillandsia brachycaulos is a mesic air plant so they like high humidity and aren’t as drought tolerant as xeric air plants.
Their leaves will show you that they need water by curling on the edges to avoid transpiration. Give them a long soak and adjust your watering habits if necessary. They’ll quickly bounce back.
Not enough light
If you’re frustrated that your air plant isn’t growing it might be that you’re not giving it enough light. Move them to a brighter room or supplement low-light conditions with some artificial light.
Tips for Growing Tillandsia Brachycaulos
The biggest tip I can give you for growing Tillandsia brachycaulos is to make sure it fully dries after you water it.
Rot is the most common cause for air plants to die. But, while it’s fatal for the plant, it is completely avoidable.
Another good tip is to give your Tillandsia brachycaulos plenty of light. They will perfectly survive in low-light areas, but if you want them to grow quickly, give you pups, and bloom, you’ll need to give your brachycaulos at least
Frequently Asked Questions About Tillandsia Brachycaulos
How big are Tillandsia brachycaulos?
With proper care, Tillandsia brachycaulos can grow up to 9 to 11 inches (25 to 30 centimeters) tall.
Can I propagate tillandsia brachycaulos?
You can propagate Tillandsia brachycaulos when it grows a pup. Unfortunately, you can’t divide it or root leaves like you can with other houseplants. This means you’ll need to give your air plant prime conditions in order for it to grow a pup.
How do I water my Tillandsia brachycaulos?
You can water your brachycaulos by either misting it daily, dunking it twice a week, soaking once a week, or a combination of the three methods. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, however, and how often you water them depends entirely on the conditions. Make sure to read our section on watering in this article to get all the details.
How often do tillandsia brachycaulos bloom?
Like all air plants, Tillandsia brachycaulos only blooms once in its lifetime. If they get enough light, these air plants will reward you with orangy-brown leaf-like bracts and short-lived purple flowers.
Tillandsia brachycaulos air plant is super easy to take care of once you understand the fundamentals.
Give them lots of indirect light. Don’t forget that they do need to be watered, and most importantly, make sure they fully dry out within a few hours.
Like other air plants, however, there’s a bit of a learning curve since their care habits are so different from most houseplants.
Once you understand the basics, this beautiful mesic air plant will be one of the most low-maintenance species in your houseplant collection.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.