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All Tillandsia are Bromeliads, but not all Bromeliads are Tillandsia

Weird, right?

Tillandsia are members of the family Bromeliaceae, which is a family of monocot flowering plants including the pineapple. Tillandsia, or "air plants", differ from bromeliads in several ways, but for the purposes of care, there are a few areas of special concern.

By the way - one of the few things I remember from high school biology is this handy mnemonic:

Keep Pots Clean Or Family Gets Sick

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species

Here is the break in the taxonomy:

Bromeliads

Kingdom: Plantae | Phylum: Magnoliophyta | Class: Liliopsida | Order: Bromeliales | Family: Bromeliaceae | Genus: "Bromeliads" Begin Here.

There are some 51 genera of Bromeliad and 3475 known Species. Example:

Kingdom: Plantae | Phylum: Magnoliophyta | Class: Liliopsida | Order: Bromeliales | Family: Bromeliaceae | Genus: Vriesea | Species: Gigantea | Cultivar: Nova

Air Plants (Tillandsia)

Kingdom: Plantae | Phylum: Magnoliophyta | Class: Liliopsida | Order: Bromeliales | Family: Bromeliaceae | Genus: Tillandsia | Species: "Air Plants" Begin Here

There are some 730 known species of genus Tillandsia. Example:

Kingdom: Plantae | Phylum: Magnoliophyta | Class: Liliopsida | Order: Bromeliales | Family: Bromeliaceae | Genus: Tillandsia | Species: Caput Medusae

Some Bromeliada are Tillandsia!

I know - it gets confusing.From Family Bromeliaceae, the taxonomy splits into three different subfamilies:

  • Bromelioideae
  • Pitcairnioideae
  • Tillandsioideae

And, as you can probably figure out, Genera Tillandsia are members of Subfamily Tillandsioideae. BUT - so are some plants considerd "bromeliads". Here is an example of a bromeliad that is in the subfamily Tillandsioideae:

Kingdom: Plantae | Phylum: Magnoliophyta | Class: Liliopsida | Order: Bromeliales | Family: Bromeliaceae | Subfamily: Tillandsioideae | Genus: Vriesea | Species: Gigantea | Cultivar: Nova

Planting Differences, Bromeliad VS Tillandsia

Tillandsia, or "air plants", unlike "bromeliads", should NEVER be planted in soil or other substrate. While both tillandisa and bromeliad are epiphytes, growing on whatever they can root too; trees, rock, other plants, sides of houses, etc., bromeliad do quite well planted in soil. Neither bromeliad nor tillandsia take in nutrients through their thread like, rugged roots. The roots instead are for structure only - to keep the plant in place and in position. Tillandsia will rot and die if kept moist for long periods of time, while bromeliad thrive with full water tanks.

Water Differences, Bromeliad VS Tillandsia

Tillandsia, air plants, do not have "water tanks" as bromeliads do. Tillandsia absorb water and nutrients through their leaves - with the aid of structures called Trichomes. This often gives new growers concern as they are used to checking moist soil or full bromeliad water tanks. Tillandsia instead as mentioned before absorb water and nutrients through their foliage. Tillandsia should never be kept wet for long periods of time. They will drown and rot.

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