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Epiphyte suggestions for a tree in 9b, CA?

Posted by mark4321 9b CA Sunset 15 (My Page) on
Fri, Apr 16, 10 at 15:32

I have a loquat tree that a Passiflora membranacea climbs. The Passiflora and the loquat are both pretty vigorous, so I have to constantly prune them. I decided I would have some fun and mount some epiphytes on the loquat as well.

The tree creates a lot of shade, but it can be thinned to increase the sunlight that reaches the inner branches. Still, it's probably best to think of the light levels as shady or dappled sun. I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area, in zone 9b (Sunset zone 15). We get essentially no summer rain, with Summer temps 80/55, Winter 60/40. The tree would protect against minor frost, I think.

I'm not looking for more common epiphytes, but things that are particularly bizarre, spectacular, or fun.

So far I do have some pretty ordinary things in the tree--a Davallia fern and a couple Tillandsias (I know there are some spectacular Tillandsias, but I'm told we are too cold for them (??).

I'm thinking about putting pieces of a couple other things I have, once they are better established. I don't know if these are practical or not (except for the last ones): Pleurothallis restrepioides, Apapetes serpens (or maybe 'Ludgvan Cross'), Australian dendrobiums (maybe 'Delicatum')...

I know that there are many bromeliads, ferns and orchids that would be candidates given our climate. I know that there are plenty of other plants as well. Things that can stand a couple degrees of frost or occasionally drying out would be ideal.

Again, I'm not looking for ordinary plants. If anyone has anything really cool they want to trade for, I have recently rooted the following, (and the roots are getting big enough they should be shipped in their containers):

Passiflora antioquiensis
Passiflora 'Mission Dolores' (parritae x antioquiensis)
Passiflora membranacea
Passiflora gritensis
Aristolochia trilobata
Aristolochia gigantea
Salvia dombeyi
Brugmansia vulcanicola (Strybing clone, now thought to be a hybrid with sanguinea)
Brugmansia sanguinea 'Inca Princess' (the yellow form)

I do have other things, and there are others I will be rooting soon (such as Passiflora exoniensis) or later in the year (Deppea splendens, Brugmansia vulcanicola (Zunac)).

I'm probably going to be very picky as to what I want to put in the tree, though...

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RE: Epiphyte suggestions for a tree in 9b, CA?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 17, 10 at 14:43

I use lots of bromeliads as epiphytes in my own garden, and one that I particularly like is Tillandsia somnians. Rhipsalis of all kinds also work well, and Epiphyllums should probably be on your list. In my experience, Tillandsia bergeri is a good one also. If you are looking for a quick fix, check out the annual upcoming Strybing sale, and get in the first evening as a member, there would likely be a lot of good candidates to choose from. I do most of my epiphytes as hanging baskets these days, it gives more flexibility to have a bit of soil at the roots to help stretch watering frequency, but you could also mount directly on the tree or poke in crotches of the tree and pack with sphagnum moss. I grow a lot of Aechmeas, Neoregelias, Vreiseas, Billbergias in combination with succulents as hanging basket plants in trees as well. You might also check out one of the 3rd Thursday every month meetings of the SF Bromeliad Society at the Hall of Flowers, a good way to get started on a bromeliad collection and learn more about what would work best for you.

Very interesting collection of Passiflora species you have there, hard to find room for all those large growing vines, no?

RE: Epiphyte suggestions for a tree in 9b, CA?

Can't offer any suggestions as I live in s. florida but I love epiphytes lol.
You might pose the question on the orchid forum. What's more glorious than orchids.?? lol
At one time I had 75 species growing in my citrus trees
but the state whaked them down due to citrus canker So most were scraped off and moved to the shadehouse Had no trees left due to the hrricanes lol I am growing Catts, several types of Dends ,Epicatts ,Brassidium, orchids along with two species of epicactus and two species of Nepenthes . attached to a carambola tree.
Had a record cold winter naturally lol but all seem to have made it
I recently started a "hedge" using 5 species of Vanda and 3 species of Epidendrom orhids supported by two conjoined queen palms I made a make shift GH 4 times over winter but all seem to have made it!!! Disappointing flowerings so far compared to those in the SH. But I'm getting glorious new growth!!
In your are you might check into some of the high altitudes they would appreciate the cooler temps but many require lots of water. Good luck with whatever you choose!!! gary

RE: Epiphyte suggestions for a tree in 9b, CA?


Thanks for all the great suggestions. I am a member and I hope to make it to the Strybing sale. I'm a big fan of their sales, but I have yet to go to one of the major ones. My P. 'Mission Dolores', P. gritensis, P. exoniensis, Salvia dombeyi, and Brugmansia vulcanicola (hybrid) are all from their smaller monthly sales. I've seen both P. antioquiensis and P. membranacea at the monthly sales several times, for those who are looking for those plants.

The vines are all young, but the P. membranacea is the one that scares me because it grows so fast--I'm constantly hacking at it. The P. 'Mission Dolores' and P. exoniensis are in 5 gallon pots, so they are constrained in size. The other two are much smaller (but in the ground) in a small space. I'll be forced to keep them reasonably small. I do have a couple others in the ground that are fairly large (P. tripartita and P. edulis) and a few others in pots as well.

Gary, I used to have a lot more orchids when I lived in L.A. and I really should try more up here. We are right on the edge for being able to grow a lot of high altitude plants (and this includes the Passifloras and Brugmansias I listed above) because of our extremes in temperature and low humidity in the summer. Afternoon shade, a protected spot and lots of moisture are key for growing those guys here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plant sales at Stybing (San Francisco Botanical Garden)

RE: Epiphyte suggestions for a tree in 9b, CA?

Mark, What kind of orchids are growing there? I'm looking for possible candidates here so I'm growing hybrids of encyclia tampensis which is native into zone 9a in north central florida. As soon as my specimens in hanging baskets produce enough offsets I'll have to divide and give it a shot.

Here in 9a florida I'm also looking for good epiphytes. I've seen bromeliads such as aechmea gamosepala, aechmea distichantha, billbergias and neoregelia hybrids make it in trees around here, but I'm experimenting with vrieseas too. All of my vrieseas made it on the ground but when I get more offsets I'll place some in trees close to the ground.

I've been considering bromeliads under my loquat too but decided that the fruit drop would likely cause rotting.

Nice passifloras by the way; I'll have to look those up.

Bahia, you're growing rhipsalis outdoors!? I have a large collection but wasn't going to risk it this year with our super cold winter. An interesting note is that I left some christmas cactus outdoors and the survived winter under a light cover of pine needles!

RE: Epiphyte suggestions for a tree in 9b, CA?


My orchid collection has really dwindled--I brought very few from Southern California. I mostly have Australian Dendrobiums and only a few of those. I'm not sure if they do OK in Florida or not.

RE: Epiphyte suggestions for a tree in 9b, CA?

Sorry to hear about your orchids! I ordered my encyclia tampensis on ebay and they've been doing great. I'll have to look into the dendrobiums though.

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