Growing Tillandsia Cyanea

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Pink quill's purple flowers grow from its pink bracts.
Pink quill's purple flowers grow from its pink bracts. (Image: AdrianaAr/iStock/Getty Images)

Tillansia cyanea, commonly called pink quill, produces a fountain of sword-shaped green leaves and a bright pink central flower bract during the summer. Although pink quill is part of the group of plants called air plants, it grows better in a potting medium than it does mounted on a board. Pink quill grows outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11, but it also can grow indoors with proper care.

Growing Medium

Well-drained, sterile potting medium provides the optimum growing conditions for a pink quill plant. An 8- to 12-inch diameter pot filled with a potting soil formulated for orchids or a bark mix drains well if the pot has at least one bottom drainage hole. Hanging baskets also provide a suitable potting option. Pink quill can grow as an aerial plant on a plank of wood or on an outdoor tree branch, although growth may not be as good as for those grown in a potting mix. When mounting pink quill, spread the roots over a cushion of moss and tie them in place with fishing line or thin wire. The roots anchor in the moss, which also holds water and nutrients for the plant.

Site and Sun

A spot with bright, indirect or filtered sunlight leads to healthiest growth and foliage color. Avoid areas with intense, bright sun. Place indoor pink quill plants near a brightly lit window but away from direct sun. Outdoor plants grow well in shaded areas under a patio overhang or in the dappled shade beneath a tree. Pink quill doesn't tolerate frost, so bring outdoor plants inside before the first frost in fall.

Care and Feeding

Frequent misting provides pink quill with the high humidity it needs to thrive. Mist the plants, using a spray bottle with a fine spray setting, every two or three days. Outdoor plants may require daily misting during hot, dry weather. Filling the drip tray beneath a potted pink quill with pebbles and water will also provide some humidity as the water evaporates. Deeper watering every two weeks is also necessary. Soak the plant's roots in water for 12 hours twice monthly. Light fertilization during the spring and summer growing season also keeps the pink quill healthy. Dilute 1/2 teaspoon of an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer, such as a 24-8-16 blend, in 1 gallon of water and mist the plant with the solution once monthly.

Problem Prevention

The scales covering the leaves of pink quill absorb moisture and nutrients. Handle the leaves gently and as little as possible to prevent damage to these scales. Pests rarely affect pink quill, but if scales or mealybugs do attack the leaves, dabbing the pests with a rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton swab kills them. Some leaf dieback is natural and doesn't indicate a problem. The leaves come off with a gentle tug once they have died, but avoid tearing off leaves prematurely because this can damage the plant's crown.

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