Calusa Garden Club studies air plants

Sara Wolf
Special to the Eagle
Susan Oldershaw, Jenn Ferrier, Laura Furlong, Barbara Messner, Linda Ariel and Sara Wolf with their tillandsia creations and pink quill tillandsia.

Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island members Linda Schwoeppe and Eva Kubinsky presented a workshop to Calusa Garden Club members on tillandsia, plants which are commonly known as “air plants,” at Eva Kubinsky’s residence. 

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Schwoeppe opened the July summer meeting of about 20 garden club members with an educational presentation  She said there are over 650 types of tillandsia, discussed how they grow in nature, and described how to cultivate them in your home or garden.

Laura Furlong shows her pink quill tillandsia and cork log tillandsia display.

Tillandsia are epiphytes and have small roots that serve to anchor them to trees or other plants. They gather moisture and nutrients through their leaves – which can look like spikes or flat ribbons. They come in many colors, shapes and sizes, from small spidery light grayish-green clumps to dark green puffs  to long Spanish moss that hangs from oak and cypress trees.

Schwoeppe also covered the watering needs of these plants, and members were surprised to learn that these small air plants require watering, even though the commonly held misconception is that tillandsia take all their nutrition and water requirements from the air.

Jennifer Ferrier shows her pink quill tillandsia and cork log tillandsia display.

Schwoeppe and Kubinsky described how they soak their own tillandsia in buckets or basins of water once a week – or less often if temperatures outside are mild. When it is very hot outside, they water them more often than once a week.  In addition, club members learned that if they keep tillandsia inside their homes, where the air conditioning reduces the humidity level compared to Marco Island’s outside humidity level, they might need to water them more often.

Shwoeppe and Kubinsky then showed the group their own tillandsia which were displayed in pots made by each of them—in addition to being members of Calusa Garden Club, they are both accomplished potters who work in ceramic to make beautiful containers as well as other ceramic items. And Kubinsky showed her wall of tillandsia plants inserted into shells – a curtain of attractive living plants!

Linda Schwoeppe, left, and Eva Kubinsky, right in front of Eva Kubinsky’s wall of tillandsia.

After the educational presentation, six garden club members who had pre-ordered a tillandsia display kit worked on their own tillandsia displays. Using cut portions of cork tree bark as a base, they glued tillandsia to their bases with E6000 glue, then added decorative shells to make a pleasing composition. Those who ordered tillandsia display kits were also given a pink quill tillandsia offshoots to put in a pot of orchid bark growing medium.

The beautiful pink quill tillandsia sends up a flat pink oval flower spike that looks woven, and that sometimes grows purple flowers between the leaf bracts.

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Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island is a member of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs.  Membership is open to persons interested in horticulture, floral design and environmental matters residing five months or more in Collier County. 

Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island meets the second Monday of each month, October through April.  If you are interested in membership, please contact the Garden Club at calusagardenclub@aol.com.  For updates and information, please visit the Garden Club’s website, calusa.org, or visit the Club’s Facebook page Calusa Garden Club.