What is Tillandsia Pseudobaileyi? Air Plant Species Explained

Tillandsia Pseudobaileyi are quirky, unusual air plants discovered in the 1980s.

Their twisting, spindly leaves make them look similar to T. Caput Medusae, two fascinating plants to add to any collection.

What are Air Plants

Tillandsias are a genus of the Bromeliad family, commonly known as air plants. There are 650+ species, none of which need soil to grow.

They are epiphytic; they use trichomes in their leaves – tiny hair-like cells, to absorb moisture, light, and nutrients from the surrounding atmosphere.

Air plants in the wild attach themselves to a surface using their small root network; this is often a tree, rock, cacti, or cliff face. Neither the host nor the Tillandsia is parasitic; they don’t drain anything from each other to survive.

Tillandsia Pseudobaileyi Classification

Tillandsia Pseudobaileyi

Family: Bromeliaceae

Genus: Tillandsia

Species: T. Pseudobaileyi

Cultivar: Gorgon, Long John, Mark Goddard, Pink Chiffon

Tillandsia Pseudobaileyi

Pseudobaileyi air plants are native to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Although the plant is found in altitudes from 0-2000m above sea level, it is most at home in warm and humid forest conditions.

It is so-called due to its similarity with the Tillandsia Baileyi plant although the leaf markings and textures differ.

Recreating a sub-tropical rainforest environment to ensure the survival of a cultivated plant might seem impossible. The Pseudobaileyi is hardy, versatile, and adapts to most conditions providing it has sufficient indirect sun or artificial light.

It needs a consistent watering regime to thrive and to encourage blooming and new growth.

Pseudobaileyi air plants tolerate full sun if left outdoors but prefer to be in a semi-sheltered position.

Appearance

Tillandsia Pseudobaileyi grows from a pear-shaped bulb. In their native rainforest, ants often choose to make their home in its tiered layers.

The leaves are stiff, wiry, chaotic, reminiscent of a mad scientist’s unruly hair! The core of the leaves is light green, yet some have a mauve-ish tint, depending on the level of light the plant receives.

Tillandsia Pseudobaileyi appearance

A closer look reveals faint red longitudinal lines running from base to tip.

As the leaves grow, they twist and contort. Dramatic curling leaves are the plant’s way of telling you it is dehydrated.

Pseudobaileyi plants thrive best when displayed at an angle or hung upside down.

Their abstract, almost sculpted form can grow to its wildest capacity, and water cannot settle in the bulb.

The average plant grows to around 40cm tall and 20cm wide, too high for most terrariums.

The Inflorescence

As with all Tillandsia species, the Pseudobaileyi blooms once in its lifetime when the plant has reached full maturity.

The inflorescence is a stalk that emerges from the heart of the plant; it is from where flowers eventually bloom.

It signifies the beginning of the reproduction cycle, and many Tillandsias leaves change color in readiness.

The first sign that the Pseudobaileyi is prepared for reproduction is the emergence of the bracts. Each plant has several, and initially, they look like leaves. The primary ones are green, and upon closer inspection, they consist of overlapping scales.

The consecutive bracts are pastel pink and lavender.

Over the following few weeks, purple flowers with yellow stamens and pistils emerge. They are tubular and measure around 3cm.

Pseudobaileyi have multiple flowers; each bract has a cluster of blooms.

Reproduction

Pseudobaileyi reproduces prolifically.

As the flowers begin to fade, small offsets emerge from the bulbous base. Each shoot is called a ‘pup’ and, given time, will grow into a replica of the parent plant.

Pups should be left attached to the parent plant until they reach at least a third of the adult’s size. They are gaining necessary nutrients from the parent while their leaves and trichomes fully form.

They cascade into clusters called clumps, and if preferred, can be left where they are until the parent plant starts to wilt.

Remove the pups carefully with a sharp blade; this is called offset division. When the young plants have soaked and thoroughly dried, they should be treated as you would a full-grown version.

It is possible to propagate Pseudobaileyi from seed when the flower dies and the seed pod dries out.

It is a long process; however, initial signs of seed growth show within hours of propagation.

How to Care for a Tillandsia Pseudobaileyi

Pseudobaileyi air plants have a specific set of care requirements to ensure they thrive. Although lighting, watering, and correct temperature conditions are important, positioning the plant at an angle or suspended upside down is paramount to prevent rot from setting in.

Watering

During winter, a Pseudobaileyi only needs to be watered weekly. As temperatures rise towards summer, double the frequency.

The safest way to water the plant is to use a spray bottle filled with pond or rainwater and give the leaves a fine mist.

Holding it upside down eliminates stagnant water from settling in the plant’s bulbous base.

Gently shake it dry, and lie it in a well-aerated space where it should dry within the hour.

Even drought-tolerant plants need to have a good drink sometimes, so we recommend soaking it, tip first, in a bowl of water. Doing this once or twice a month ensures the Pseudobaileyi thrives and reproduces but only if it is always thoroughly dried before return to its display.

Lighting

Pseudobaileyi plants appreciate lots of natural, bright light. It should be indirect so as not to scorch the leaves.

They enjoy being outside in the summer; indoor plants can sit outdoors in the morning or evening sun, providing they are in semi-shade.

During winter, they are happiest indoors, near to east or north-facing window or in a room with plenty of artificial light.

Temperature

Tillandsia Pseudobaileyi grows successfully outdoors, though should be brought indoors before winter sets in; they tolerate 32°F for short bursts, providing they are sheltered and dry.

They flourish indoors in temperatures between 50-86°F, well within the parameters of the average American home.

Pseudobaileyi plants prefer moderate levels of humidity and well-aerated spaces. Air circulation should be good enough to dry a well-soaked plant within an hour.

Feeding

Pseudobaileyi plants absorb nutrients from the atmosphere; but appreciate a boost, especially approaching blooming season.

Use a Tillandsia fertilizer once a month during winter, twice in the summer.

Gentle mist the upside-down plant with a diluted solution of nitrogen-rich fertilizer to encourage growth and promote pup formation.

Over-fertilizing is detrimental to the plant; only spray sparingly if the plant really needs a boost.

Cultivars of the Pseudobaileyi

The Pseudobaileyi is a particularly desirable species of Tillandsia, so unsurprising that cross breeding, grafting, and tissue culture creates many cultivar varieties with distinctive characteristics.

Some of the manmade hybrids of the Pseudobaileyi include:

Tillandsia Gorgon – crossed with T. Streptophylla to create an air plant capable of growing 40cm tall. The Gorgon emits a single, large pink spike from its mass of chaotic, curled leaves during the blooming phase.

T. Pink Chiffon – crossed with T. achrostachys, creating a smaller plant that thrives in terrariums. It will also flourish when growing outdoors; it tolerates lots of full sun and partial shade.

T. Mark Goddard – it is a relatively new hybrid, created in 2000 when Mr. Goddard cross-bred a Pseudobaileyi with a T. Bulbosa. The resultant plant has masses of large twirling leaves that grow in random directions. They blush intense pink before the blooming occurs.

T. Long John – crossed with T. hypermedia, resulting in a giant variety of Tillandsia. They have stems that blush deep pink before revealing softer pink bracts. The flowers are purple, yellow, and tubular and appreciate an abundance of indirect light to flourish. The leaves curl dramatically when the plants get thirsty.

Final Thoughts

Tillandsia Pseudobaileyi plants are funky. Their unpredictable leaf growth is part of their attraction, as is the sense of awe that one gets from caring for it well enough to bloom multiple stunning flowers.

Frequent watering and plenty of indirect light are all these air plants need to thrive. They make wonderful hanging directions, where their colorful arms can twist and curl in any direction they choose.

Anthony Marsh
Anthony Marsh is a writer with deep roots in the soil of western New Hampshire. His first experiences with gardening were at the age of 10 where his parents allowed him to plant and cultivate his first vegetable garden. Twenty years later he’s continued with his passion for gardening and actively rescues abandoned plant life.