Air Plant Propagation, Division, & Cultivation
Your Tillandsias will Keep on Giving
Everyone always gets excited when they hear that their new air plants will eventually start to produce little baby air plants called "pups". The production of pups is the easiest way for air plant hobbyist and nurserymen alike to propagate their air plants. Pups will always produce plants with characteristics identical to the mother plant. Tillandsia do produce small seeds after blooming, but production by seed germination involves a lot of patience and since pollination requires other air plants, the germinated plants may not be true to the species.
Pup production ensues shortly after an air plant's first bloom cycle. Depending on the species, an air plant can take 6 months to several years to produce its first bloom. Most of the plants offered in our store will arrive matured, and should bloom within 6 months of you receiving them. After blooming, you will begin to notice small growth nodes at the bottom of the original plant. When you see the small pups, continue to take care of the mother plant normally for the next few months. Take care to not damage the pups as they are very delicate when they first start growing.
Once the pups are between a quarter to half the size of the mother plant, they are ready to be separated. To ensure a clean cut, garden shears or a sharp kitchen knife are preferred. Gently lay the mother plant on its side and cut away the pups. Congratulations! You can now start your very own air plant farm! After their initial separation, it's best to allow the separation point on both the mother and newly-separated pup to "harden off" for a few days. Leave the plants to rest and for the cut to dry off before placing back inside terrariums or watering the plants. This will discourage bacterial growth at the cut and also will help to prevent rotting.
Meloncrater Tricolor readily produces pups. Pups can safely be separated when they are 1/4 to 1/2 the size of the mother.
What if I don't separate the pups?
In nature, there is no one climbing trees and cliffs to divide the air plants (Would that qualify as a dirty job?). Because they are left alone, these tillandsias slowly start producing clumps. Overtime, large balls of air plants can cover whole tree branches and rocky protrusions. In our store, depending on availability, we sell Ionantha Balls which are clusters of Ionantha air plants that have not been separated for a few years. Natural air plant clumps produce a gorgeous flower show when in bloom!
To the left, Ionantha Mexican produces symmetrical balls when pups are allowed to multiply over time. To the right, a clump of Bulbosa Belize proliferates along a tree branch in Central America.