Tillandsia latifolia air plant

Tillandsia Spotlight: Latifolia Air Plant

by Jamie Beck

Tillandsia latifolia air plant

Native to Ecuador and Peru, the Tillandsia latifolia is a large growing caulescent air plant (a plant that grows along on a stem) It hails from semi-arid and arid habitats. This xeric plant can be found growing abundantly on sand dunes, plains, in coastal deserts, and amongst rocks. 

The T. latifolia has thick light green leaves that are covered in trichomes. These can change color to a more of a golden yellow tint in bright sunlight. These plants though slow growing, can grow to be over 4-6 feet long. 

Tillandsia latifolia growing in the desert

Tillandsia latifolia, a slow growing "xeric" species can be found growing in the Atacama Desert. This is a species that survives unrooted and moves about the desert, blown by wind. Notice the silvery "dry" leaves, these are full of trichomes to soak up as much moisture as possible. Photo: Climate Policy Watcher  

The T. latifolia emits a long inflorescence when in bloom with red/yellow bracts and produces purple flowers. Pups can grow from the inflorescence like a viviparous plant, but most will grow from the base of the mother plant after the bloom cycle. 

Tillandsia latifolia air plant in bloom

Since these plants live in drier regions in the wild, they can withstand more sunlight and less water than most air plants. With plants that grow this large, we usually recommend dunking or spraying instead of soaking. When spraying, we spray the plant until it is saturated, and then gently shake out any excess water from the plants leaves. Misting will not be sufficient moisture for such a large plant.

Tillandsia latifolia growing in the wild

A T. latifolia growing in the sand in the desert Photo: Timm Stolten


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