Native to Central America and Mexico, the spiky Tillandsia melanocrater tricolor is one that you will definitely want to have in your collection!
Similar in shape to the juncea air plant, it is a slender green plant with a brownish base (we sometimes get questions on whether this dark base is normal and for this Tillandsia, it totally is). It gets the designation “tricolor” because it changes color based on how much sunlight that it receives. If it gets enough bright sunlight it will blush shades of deep red and purple. If it receives less sunlight it will stay more of a bright to dark green. The more mature the plant is the bushier it will become as it grows outward from its slender base. You may notice the leaves start to turn a darker shade of green to purple as it nears its bloom cycle.
Once the melanocrater tricolor air plant begins to bloom a flower bract will begin to grow from the center of the plant. The T. melanocrater tricolor's bloom spike tends to last longer than most typical air plant blooms. The bloom spike is normally bright yellow/orange and will display beautiful purple blooms. After its bloom cycle, the T. melanocrater tricolor air plant will produce multiple offsets. You can remove these babies once they are about ⅓ the size of the mother plant, or you can leave them to create a clump.
The T. melanocrater is considered a mesic air plant but enjoys more sunlight than many plants of this type. Its smooth green leaves don't show obvious trichomes but like all Tillandsia they do have them and this is how they take in their nutrients. In general we recommend that you water your T. melanocrater tricolor at least once a week with a soak and be sure to shake the excess water out of the stiff leaf base so your plant does not rot. As with all air plant care, you should consider your environment first and foremost when determining watering frequency and method.
Because of its height, the Tillandsia melanocrater tricolor lends itself well to styling in displays that hold it upright, such as a bud vase, a piece of cholla wood. It also can look great nestled amongst other plants in a terrarium, giving your air plant creation a bit of vertical interest.