(by Robert Reilly)

In southern coastal Queensland and northern New South Wales, Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss) and T. mallemontii can be used to relatively quickly form Tillandsia screens in the garden.

In both cases, select locations which, at least, receive shade in the afternoon. This is especially important in summer.

Good air movement, such as that occurring in “breezeways” or locations with a north-easterly aspect, is also important. This is especially true for T. mallemontii. However, avoid locations which are exposed to cold, dry winds.

You can build a framework for the screen out of wood (but avoid treated pine) or galvanised pipe.

A wide variety of material can be used to form the lattice from which the Tillandsias are hung. Examples include: timber lattice panels (but not those made from treated wood), plastic garden mesh, weldmesh fencing panel, and galvanised wire netting (but avoid rusty wire).

For Spanish Moss, hang strands along the mesh. Use strands which are two to three plants “thick”, and hang then down the full length of the screen. Leave a gap of two to five centimetres, between each strand.

Create a T. mallemontii screen by using clusters of two to five plants. Use plastic covered wire or thin strips of nylon pantyhose to tie each clump to the mesh. Separate each cluster of plants by about 5 centimetres horizontally and 7 to 10 centimetres vertically.

Water the Tillandsia screens once a week in winter and twice a week in summer. Use liquid fertiliser fortnightly.

These Tillandsias will form an effective screen over 12 to 18 months. The screens need ‘renovation” every three years or so, as they “thicken up” over this period of time. (This outcome results in the plants in the centre of the clumps dying; as they do not receive sufficient light, air movement, water, or nutrients).

While the silvery-grey colour of these species is very attractive, an added bonus is the “fog” of fragrance which they produce during flowering time.

Spectacular Tillandsia screens can be created out of other species as well. Examples include: T. ionantha, T. purpurea, T. tectorum, and T. straminea. However, they take much longer to form a screen because of their lower growth rates.

Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Rob and Barbara Murray for their comments on a draft of this article.
(This article is based on one which I wrote that first appeared in Bromeliaceae in 2002).

Updated 13/11/20