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Mr. Smarty Plants - How can I propagate Giant Ball Moss?

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Wednesday - March 11, 2009

From: Harlingen, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: How can I propagate Giant Ball Moss?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Recommended methods for propagation of Giant Ball Moss? (Bromeliaceae, Tillandsia baileyi rose ex small) Thanks

ANSWER:

 Mr. Smarty Plants usually gets questions from people wanting to get rid of Ball Moss, so this caught him a little by surprise. Of course we are dealing with the less spectacular Tillandsia recurvata (small ballmoss)  here in Central Texas. The Giant Ball Moss Tillandsia baileyi (reflexed airplant)  is found in the southern tip of the state, and can grow up to 17" across. The Ball Moss as you probably know is not a true moss, but is a flowering plant in the pineapple family, Bromeliaceae.
Since it is a flowering plant, it produces seeds, and planting seeds is one method of propagation you may try. Many people prefer to start with pups. These are offshoots produced at the base of the plant following flowering. A third possibility is to break the clumps into smaller pieces.
I sent a note to Sean Watson, the Nursery Manager, here at the Wildflower Center asking about his experience with the giant Ball Moss, and I've included his response below.
"We received some rescues form South TX (mature plants). I have not grown this species from seed, but it can be done. We have some of our specimens outside hanging in trees on a piece of drift wood, and the rest I have in the greenhouse under mist. The ones in the greenhouse seem to be doing the best. Of course, they are in a constantly humid and frost free environment. I have yet to grow this species from seed (no demand for it, like you said).
You can sow the seeds on a piece of wood covered in moist sphagnum moss and either tie the moss to the wood with raffia or pantyhose (some sow seed and then wrap the whole piece of wood in pantyhose and cut away the areas where the bromeliads germinate, more work to me though). Spread the seed along the moss, it should stick readily. You can even sow the seeds in a container with well draining sterile soil mix and have success. Keep in humid place (such as a misting bench). Hope that helps!"

I have also included three links that have information that may be helpful.
 
This first link describes propagation with seed.
The web site of the  Bromeliad Society of Houston, Inc.  gives a lot of detail about the growth and care of Bromeliads in general.
The Floridata site is about T. recurvata, but the information can be applied to T. baileyi.
 

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