Air plants are epiphytic plants that absorb water and nutrients through their leaves from the air. Unlike the majority of green plants, they don’t need soil to grow. Instead, they are seen growing on unusual growing mediums like slate, wooden slabs, or stones. However, in the wild, they like hanging to the host plant absorbing water and nutrients from the air. Ionantha Rubra is a rare air plant and a cultivar of the plant Tillandsia Ionantha.
This American native root-less wonder is a soft and small air plant forming a rosette of dandy, spiky, and elongated leaves. The semi-succulent tiny leaves of juvenile Tillandsia Rubra are yellow or green in color. The foliage gets an attractive look in its blooming stage, with prominent bluish flowers and shaded reddish foliage. The small, lotus-like, and low-maintenance plant makes beautiful terrariums, frames, and urchin-pots. Let’s learn some facts about the rare Tillandsia Ionantha Rubra plant along with its care and an estimated growth timeline.
Ionantha Rubra Classification
The scientific classification is as under:
Species: T. ionantha.
Tillandsia is the largest and highly diverse genus belonging to the family Bromeliaceae. This genus comprises around 650 unique species. Tillandsias are native to the United States of America, Mexico, Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean up till the middle of Argentina. These are evergreen, herbaceous and perennial, and multi-habitat flowering plants. The majority of the plants have silver shaded leaves covered with trichomes.
(Trichomes are special tiny scales for absorbing the surface water. They are responsible for giving the silvery shade to the leaf surface).
Tillandsia Ionantha Rubra Plant
Rubra is a cultivar of the popular and one of the most interesting air plant, Tillandsia Ionantha. This is tiny and easy to grow plant native to America and Mexico. The tufting silvery rosette of the Ionantha plant remains smaller than 4 inches in height. Tiny trichotomous leaves are around 2 inches in length. Ionantha is well adaptive to both indoor and outdoor environments. Ionantha, commonly known as ‘the sky plant’ or the ‘blushing bride’ has many varieties and cultivars. Each of these has its own unique appearance and characteristics. One common cultivar is Tillandsia Ionantha Peach.
Tillandsia Ionantha Peach
Tillandsia ‘Peach’ is commonly sold by Guatemalan nurseries. It was introduced before 1993. The semi-succulent leaves are green in color and form an open rosette. The purplish flowers develop to beautify the plant, giving a rosy-pink shade to its foliage.
Important Features of Ionantha Rubra
Some important facts about the Ionantha Rubra air plant are mentioned below:
- The size of the plant depends upon the growth habitat. In a terrarium, it will remain around 3cm. However, if you allow it to grow in a pot, it may reach up to 8 cm tall and 12 cm wide.
- The plant’s Tillandsia Rubra produce through pups. Plant pups or puppies are small baby plants attached at the base of the parent plant and are separable. If left undisturbed, the puppies will grow to form clusters of adjoined air plants know as clumps.
Leaves of the plant
- The foliage is water-melon green or yellow and turns reddish during the blooming period.
- These plants have leaves in large quantities.
- They are arranged in a typical rosette pattern. (The rose-like basal pattern of leaves or petals in a plant is called rosette).
- The length of a mature leaf is around 2 to 5 cm, depending upon the size of the plant.
Flower of the plant
- The flower of the plant is large and showy with a beautiful purplish-blue shade.
- The length of an average flower is 3 to 8 cm, according to the size of the plant.
- The inflorescence is long and prominent.
- These plants bloom beautifully twice or thrice a year.
Ionantha Rubra Vs. Ionantha Guatemala
Let’s clear out the common confusion between the two plants. These two have strikingly resembling appearances and often create confusion for the people. However, the differentiating features are the slightly tall height and fewer trichomes of the Rubra plant.
Ionantha Rubra Care
If you want a low-maintenance plant friend that doesn’t eat up much of your time and attention, then consider having a Rubra plant. In this section, we will share important information regarding plant care. Moreover, the requirements of the plants may vary according to the climate and atmosphere.
The water requirements of air plants are pretty different than common plants. You can mist the Rubra air plant twice a week until it is fully wet. Additionally, in dry weather, you can mist the plant thrice or four times a week. Alternatively, just run tap water on the plant under a sink. After watering, turn the plant body upside down letting the excess water runoff. Any water standing at the base of the plant body will be an invitation to issues like plant rot. Please don’t fully soak the delicate plant body in water.
This plant loves bright indirect sunlight. This tropical plant dwells great in fluorescent light as well. Thus, it will be equally suitable for offices and basements.
The optimum temperature for the spring to the fall season is ranging between 18 to 27 degrees centigrade. However, the plant may survive in winter with a temperature of around 16 degrees centigrade.
The plant needs moderate to high humidity. Furthermore, it likes good aeration to dry the plant after watering.
As you know, the plant doesn’t need soil to grow. You can grow it on wood, sea-shell, or a cork base. Interesting! Isn’t it? It is important to mention here, that covering the plant base with moss or soil may cause rotting.
You can fertilize the plant once a month in a low or moderate quantity. However, it will not need fertilizer in its resting winter state. Air plant foliar fertilizers are easily available in markets.
Ionantha Rubra Propagation
Methods of air plant propagation are;
- Propagation by seeds.
- Division of the plant.
Propagation by Seeds
When propagated from seeds, air plants may take up to 2 to 3 years to turn into a decorative plant. Thus, this method is not in use commonly.
Propagation by Division
Propagating the pups or baby plants is the best method for propagation of the Rubra and other air plants.
The ideal time for doing the propagation is early morning up till the afternoon.
How to propagate an Ionantha Rubra Air Plant?
Let’s learn the basic steps:
- Remove the parent plant from its growing plane and dip it in a bowl of water. Let it soak for two to three hours.
- Take the plant out and place it on a flat surface. Spread the leaves to find and gently cut the puppies out.
- Soak the puppies in water for one to two hours.
- Now you can fix back the parent plant to its original medium.
- The next step is the fixing of the pups on the substrate. Take a slate, stone, a wood slab, cock, or a sea-shell for the base. Furthermore, a wire, strong thread, or even glue can help you to fix the plant on its base.
- You are done with the propagation process of the tiny air plant. Make sure you mist the plant regularly, keeping it in a warm place with indirect sunlight.
We are sharing an estimate to explain the growth pattern of the plant. However, it is important to keep the plants under observation and manage the requirements accordingly.
- Day 1: Fix the pups of the Tillandsia Rubra plant on their medium and place the medium in a suitable place with a warm temperature and indirect sunlight.
- Day 2– Day 30: Newly planted pups need warmth and gentle misting every day in the morning or afternoon. Don’t forget to dry the baby plants after watering. You can turn the medium upside down to remove any standing water on the leaves or plant base.
- Day 30 – Day 60: Baby plants are settled on their medium as independent plants. At this stage, you can fertilize the plant in very low quantity. You may decrease the misting frequency to twice or thrice a week.
- Day 60 onwards: Plants are completely settled and growing. By this time, the plant doesn’t need much of your attention. Bang! Time to enjoy your tiny Tillandsia ionantha Rubra plant.
Tillandsia ionantha Rubra is an air plant belonging to the largest and most diverse genus of the family Bromeliaceae. The plant remains as small as 4cm and makes perfect terrariums and air plant frames. The silvery-green small leaves form a rosette. In the blooming stage, the foliage turns reddish with beautiful and showy purplish-blue flowers. The plant produces small baby plants or pups which are separated to propagate new Ionantha Rubra plants.