What to Plant in July

The following is a list of vegetables you can plant in July in Sydney, a temperate zone, (just click on the link for the growing guide for each vegetable)

Plant of the Month – Tillandsia usneoides- (Old Man’s Beard)

Tillandsia usneoides is an epiphytic plant in the Bromeliaceae family that grows draped over the branches of trees in tropical and subtropical climates, and is native to Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Central America, South America the southern United States and the West Indies.

In Australia it is also known as ‘old man’s beard’ due to its lush silvery growth.

The perfect “old man’s beard’ !

It grows as a number of slender stems of thin, curved or curly, and heavily scaled leaves 2–6 cm long and 1 mm wide that grow in long lengths of hanging stem masses of up to 6 m.

The plant has no roots but absorbs nutrients and water through its own leaves from the air and rain falling on it.  The leaves are densely covered with small scales.

Detail of scales on the leaves that are adapted to absorb nutrients and moisture from the ambient air.

The flowers of the Tillandsia usneoides are 9 – 11 mm long and have a perfume. The fruit capsule is 2.5 cm long.

An illustration of the parts of Tillandsia usneoides. Source

The illustration from 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica shows ”Tillandsia usneoides’ : 1, Small branch with flower; 2, flower cut vertically; 3, section of seed of ”Bromelia”

The small open seed capsule. Source:

Tillandsia usneoides prefers indirect light whilst growing on tree branches where it gets the benefit of adequate light but is protected from the sun’s direct rays that can dry it out. This is especially important from midday to late afternoon when the sunlight is at its strongest. Too much direct sun can cause the moss to die and turn black.

With good airflow and humidity ‘ Old Man’s Beard‘ will make use of natural rainfall and will only need spraying lightly with water during drought periods experienced during summer. If well located it will grow happily. Misting with rainwater is preferred or if using town water that has been left standing for a day or two to allow any chlorine to evaporate.

It is propagated both by seed and by stems that are blown by the wind or carried by birds onto other tree branches.

The location of the plants in the image below faces east where they are brightly lit whilst under the canopy of trees with some light also from the west and protection from winds. They have been growing with minimal attention for over a decade with just some misting in the heat of Sydney’s hottest days and always allowing it to dry before re-watering.

Tillandsia usneoides grows slowly into thick curtains draped on branches in the dappled light of trees.
Tillandsia useneoides draped and growing over an old tree stump.

Tillandsia usneoides, or ‘Old Man’s beard’ as we know it here in Sydney, is an attractive plant that can be draped over trees or old stumps and needs little attention if it is well located. It catches the breezes and adds some extra beauty and interest to your garden.

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