Tillandsia cyanea "pink quill" is a bromeliad, also known as an air plant. They are epiphytes that live in trees, but the trees do not provide nutrition for the plants. Moisture and nutrients are absorbed from the air and decomposing matter that gets caught up at the base of the plant. Pink quill plants are one of the few Tillandias that can be grown in a pot rather than mounted. They can be very rewarding when cared for properly.
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Pink Quill plants should never be planted in regular potting soil. In their native habitat the roots are covered only with leaves and debris. The roots will quickly suffocate and rot if they do not get enough air. They require a growing medium with an acid pH that allows the water to drain away quickly. Cymbidium orchid mix works well for these plants. For those who prefer to mix their own, three parts orchid bark to one part very course perlite and humus is a good alternative.
Always use a container with several drain holes in the bottom. The water must be able to flow right through the potting mix and out of the bottom of the pot. Plastic or ceramic containers may be used but clay is preferable. The porous clay will allow air to pass through and into the growing medium. Root aeration is as important as moisture for Pink Quill plants. Do not use too large a pot. The roots do not grow like most house plants. A 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inch) diameter container provides plenty of room.
Water the plant, not the soil. This should be done first thing in the morning so the plant is dry by evening. Put it in the sink without the catch saucer. Use a sprinkling watering can or a kitchen sink sprayer hose to wet the entire plant until it is dripping. It is OK for the potting mix to get wet in the process, but do not pour the water on the mix. Two to three times per week is sufficient in normal household conditions. Water more often in hot, dry conditions and less often in cooler more humid conditions. Check the plant four hours later. If water is still present on the leaves or at the base of the plant, tip it sideways and shake it gently. Turn a fan on to increase air circulation but turn the fan away from the plant. Do not set the fan to blow directly at the plant. Fertilise with water soluble 17-8-22 bromeliad fertiliser every two weeks during the spring and summer. Mist the plant each morning in very dry conditions. A humidity tray can also be used. Humidity trays can be made by placing 2.5 cm (1 inch) of pebbles or marble chips in the bottom of a shallow baking dish or pie tin along with around 5 cm (2 inches) of water. Cover the tray with hardware cloth or screening and place the plant on top of the screen. The humidity tray may also be set below the plant, but do not put the plant directly in the water.
Pink Quill plants need very bright indirect light. Put them next to a southern facing window or in front of the window with a sheer curtain between the plant and the window. If this light exposure is not possible, use an artificial grow light. Provide full spectrum light from a fluorescent bulb. Place the light 15 to 92 cm (6 to 36 inches) above the plant. Leave it on for 12 hours each day.
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