Home Plants Ionantha Rubra – The Plant With Violet Flowers

Ionantha Rubra – The Plant With Violet Flowers

by gardeningit
Ionantha Rubra

Ionantha Rubra is a rather beautiful air plant from the genus of Tillandsia, which is why it’s full name is Tillandsia Ionantha Rubra. It gets the name Ionantha, meaning “with violet flowers” from its colorful appearance. Overall, the plant has a gorgeous but very typical air plant structure and appearance. So what is it about the plant that sets it apart and makes it such a popular option as an indoor ornamental plant? Let’s talk about everything Ionantha today.


  • Family: Bromeliaceae
  • Subfamily: Tillandsioideae
  • Genus: Tillandsia

About the genus Tillandsia

Tillandsia plants, sometimes known as Air plants, are distinctive because of their abilities to grow anywhere they find suitable. They could grow on water pipes, rocks, barks, trees, or any other place for that matter. And how they survive is not a mystery. These plants have several trichomes on their leaves. These trichomes are cells that help the plant absorb hydration from the air and from whatever falls on its surface.

Their silky, light, parachute-like bodies and practically weightless seeds help them move around very quickly. They grow red-purple or yellow flowers that attract hummingbirds, moths, and other pollinators to help the plants reproduce.
The genus of Tillandsia has more than 700 reported species, each unique and different in their separate way, whether by their colors, shapes, or any other characteristic.

Common Names and Synonyms

  • The Sky Plant

Origin and Distribution

Tillandsia is a genus native to the deserts, mountains, and forests of northern Mexico and the South East of the United States. Plus, they are also widespread in the Caribbean and Mesoamerica.

The Tillandsia Ionantha Rubra species, however, is native to Central America and certain suitable regions of Mexico. You can also find these plants growing in Broward county, Florida. Some of the most popular Tillandsia plants are Tillandsia magnusiana, Tillandsia Capitata, and Tillandsia Harrisii.

Structure and Features of an Ionantha Rubra Plant

Foliage and Stem

Like all other Tillandsia plants, this one also has a unique and interesting appearance. This air plant starts off looking green, red, and yellow and later produces colorful pink, blue, and purple shoots as it matures. These leaves are thick, stubby, roughly 4 to 9 cm long, and grow in a spiky outwards manner.


Luckily, these plants are evergreen, which means that they stay the way they are regardless of the seasons passing.


A mature Ionantha Rubra can grow to a height of 2.5 to 3 inches and spread around 1.5 to 2.5 inches.

Temperature Tolerance

Harsh winters and low, frosty temperatures had not an ally for Ionantha Rubra plants. Thus, this species can work fine with warm, temperate environments, but when it comes to lower temperatures, they are not as tolerant.

Humidity Tolerance

On a scale of minimum to maximum, a Tillandsia would be moderately tolerant of humidity. It means that it can survive without it but appreciates its presence. However, overdoing it is as harmful as it is easy.


This species of plants bloom two to three times a year. They grow white flowers against their colorful leaves and look very attractive in their blooming phase.


Moderately drought-resistant, Ionantha Rubra is a tough and low-maintenance plant. Suppose you leave it unattended for a few days, you don’t have to worry about it dying on you.

Pressure Tolerance

The leaves of this Tillandsia are thick and spiky, which gives them leverage against pressurized environments. However, acute pressure or being stepped on will not be well received since the leaves are still pretty soft and breakable. Overall, they are moderately pressure-resistant.

Disease and Pest Resistance

The most common problem found amongst these plants is an aphid infection. If your Tillandsia looks negatively different or unwell, your first instinct should be to check the plant for such a disease. If you find one, don’t panic.

Start by separating the plant from the rest of your collection and spraying appropriate insecticide on it. Doing this will help get rid of all the pests lingering around the air plant.


Generally, these plants are pretty slow growing. Tillandsia plants can take anywhere from weeks to months to years to start developing into their mature selves. Hence, if you wish to grow these from scratch, you must be very, very patient.


Thankfully, Tillandsia plants are not toxic and are safe around pets and children. However, human and animal digestive systems are more often than not unable to digest plant leaves. Doing so can cause mild symptoms of pain and inflammation. It is why it is a piece of popular advice that you don’t ingest or mishandle the plant.


Tillandsia Rubra is a perennial plant that gives it a long life cycle. This cycle would be from somewhere between two years to several decades, meaning that you fully get your money’s worth.


Considering that you don’t need to pay any extra time, energy, or money on this plant’s care, this Tillandsia species is relatively low-maintenance.


Dormancy is not common among these plants, and they reportedly grow at the same pace throughout the year.

Ionantha Rubra Care

Weekly misting and watering, along with an occasional fertilizer, is all you need to feed the plant. Environmental care includes indirect sunlight, warmer temperatures, and lots of humidity in the air. Given these environmental characteristics, your Tillandsia Rubra air plant will thrive.

Water Requirements

Two to three watering sessions a week are pretty much enough for a Tillandsia Rubra. It has a particular way of being watered, though.

Dip and soak the plant in a jar or bowl filled with water and let it sit for about 10 minutes until it absorbs all the water it needs. Then, gently shake the plant to get rid of any excess water.

However, remember that the plant needs to stay hydrated but does not like to stay wet. Make sure the Tillandsia gets reasonable amounts of air circulation so that it dries up nicely soon after the watering session. If the water stays and accumulates, your air plant can be prone to diseases.

Soil Requirements

The fun part about these plants is that they don’t require soil to grow. These plants are mounted on terrariums, jars, containers, and anything else, but they don’t have to be put in the ground. They get all the nutrients and water from the air and the surface of their leaves.


Ionantha Rubra requires moderate amounts of sun exposure but never any direct exposure. Keep the plant in a well-lit room or behind some sort of “sun-blocker.” Using a shade cloth also mellows the harsh rays, so using such a piece of equipment is also a great idea.

Temperature Requirements

Any temperature between 50 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for an Ionantha Rubra air plant. You must make sure that the environment stays warm and suitable. The cold is not an ally for these plants, and neither are sudden fluctuations in the temperatures.


While these plants do not necessarily depend on humidity, they are fond of it. Occasional misting is always a good idea, but make sure you don’t overdo it. Two or three times weekly is enough and make sure that the plant dries up within the next four hours of misting. Excess of moisture around or on these plants is a no-no. However, you must also remember not to put it under intense heat or cold to dry it quicker. It’ll just damage the plant. Let the drying happen naturally.


Low nitrogen liquid fertilizer once a month is the ideal recommendation. These fertilizers serve the purpose of growth boosters every once in a while. Use them wisely.

Cultivation and Propagation

As mentioned earlier, Tillandsia plants grow through pollination. However, there are other ways to propagate this plant as well. There are two: layering and sowing.

  • Select a mature Ionantha Rubra and make sure that it is perfectly healthy for propagation.
  • Remove the Rubra plant from the present container and dunk the plant in water.
  • Do not remove the plant from the water until it is completely hydrated.
  • Once it has taken up all the water that it needs, remove the plant and shake off the excess water.
  • Lay the Ionantha on a flat surface and spread the leaves until you see the small pups near the base.
  • Slowly and gently, start pulling the base apart.
  • Remove these pups and separate them from the Ionantha.
  • You can put the Tillandsia back into its container or repot it.
  • As for the pups, place them in a suitable container with a warm and well-lit environment.
  • Mist the baby plant regularly and make sure that it grows well. Do this twice a day and never during the night.


Week 1-10: Identify and remove the pups from the mature plant and place them in a well-suited pot.

Months 4-15: During the initial two years of growth, Tillandsia plants can grow a maximum of 1 inch.

Years 2-3: And soon as the first year passes, the plant starts to show some progress in terms of physical growth.

Final Thoughts

Tillandsia Ionantha Rubra is a popular choice for indoor ornamental plants. They’re small “air plants” that are extremely easy to style anywhere in the house where there is moisture, light, and warmth. These plants are also easy to take care of and effortless to propagate indoors, which is why houseplant enthusiasts love this particular species.

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