Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Ball Moss
Tillandsia recurvata

Family: Bromeliaceae (bro-mee-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Tillandsia (til-LAND-see-uh) (Info)
Species: recurvata (rek-er-VAY-tuh) (Info)

13 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Light Shade


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Blooms all year

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel

Seed Collecting:
Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade; allow to dry
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

Click thumbnail
to view:

By Floridian
Thumbnail #1 of Tillandsia recurvata by Floridian

By htop
Thumbnail #2 of Tillandsia recurvata by htop

By htop
Thumbnail #3 of Tillandsia recurvata by htop

By htop
Thumbnail #4 of Tillandsia recurvata by htop

By NativePlantFan9
Thumbnail #5 of Tillandsia recurvata by NativePlantFan9

By cyroc
Thumbnail #6 of Tillandsia recurvata by cyroc

By Floridian
Thumbnail #7 of Tillandsia recurvata by Floridian

There are a total of 18 photos.
Click here to view them all!


2 positives
4 neutrals
4 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative Sandwichkatexan On Jun 3, 2012, Sandwichkatexan from Copperas Cove, TX wrote:

I have two large oaks covered in this , I pray I do not have the same experience as htop and hope they do not start infesting my crepe myrtles .

Positive Mrjocrooms On May 6, 2012, Mrjocrooms from Jacksonville, FL wrote:

I live in NE Fla. and this plant is ABUNDANT here. Oaks and crepe myrtles are apparently it's favorite but no tree is safe. Lol.
This plant is NOT parasitic. I have never heard of this plant killing a tree, shrub or even a branch. I have seen them grow very thickly though so shading out and killing plants seems plausible to me.
These are WONDERFUL indoor plants. Wash the leaves before you bring it inside as they often host many insects. Your options for displaying these are endless as they do not need to be planted in any soil/moss/gravel/water/etc. They make a beautiful wall hanging specimen, plant many into a wire orb for
a very unique hanging plant or you could even attach them to furniture, porch rails, fences, columns. The options are ENDLESS so be creative! I call this a brown thumb plant, they are almost impossible to kill.
Mine grow indoors near an East facing window, require no special temperatures and enjoy a heavy misting two or three times a day but will survive with MUCH less water.
Don't worry about it if you forget to water it for a day or two, a week or even a month! They bounce back with NO problems!

Negative sugarlandgardner On May 26, 2010, sugarlandgardner from Sugar Land, TX wrote:

Have been dealing with ball moss for over 5 years...have had professional spraying on 2 trees twice. They look better (has been a few years) but now the others are looking bad. Arborist told me that overpruning can cause this. So now I am letting the small branches grow back (trees were "canopied" by previous owner) and they are looking better. Ball moss has killed many trees in the area and people thinking they are just a flower and not killer are WRONG!! They are also invading have killed the crepe myrtles on my street. Need to go buy my personal cherry picker I guess!

Positive OleGeezer On Jan 20, 2005, OleGeezer from Herrin, IL wrote:

Floridian, PolarBear and Mono have pretty much covered it. In Illinois it just barely appears, so it does not usually acheive the dense populations the others have issues with. Just one detail not mentioned is that Tillandsia recurvata is a nitrogen fixing plant, so if you do harvest it from your tree, use it for fertilizer.

Neutral cyroc On Jan 20, 2005, cyroc from Upper Marlboro, MD wrote:

While backpacking in the Chisos Mts of Big Bend NP, we took an exploratory look up a side canyon. A wet overhanging cliff had hundreds of this unsual plants which I photographed for later identification. I can only conclude that Ball Moss is not just arboreal. Picture submitted..

Negative htop On Feb 5, 2004, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

San Antonio, Tx.
Those of us with oak trees that are covered with ball moss hate this plant. The fact that heavy infestations keep the sunlight from reaching the leaves, the leaves die and the branches that are covered die. The smaller branches break off constantly with the wind, rain (the moss becomes wet and heavy) and especially squirrels running and jumping on them. Many quite large branches have completely died by being smothered by the moss or because the limbs above are so heavily covered that the sunlight cannot reach the lower limbs. I will post a photo of dead limbs covered in the moss. Now it is spreading to my crepe myrtles and killing their limbs as well. To have my 3 oak trees sprayed to kill the moss, all of the dead limbs cut out and a lot of the ball moss picked off will cost me over $2500. The ball moss must be sprayed at least 2 years in a row for it to comp;etely die. Then, it will reinfest my trees because of all the other oak trees that are infested in my neighorhood. After each heavy rain or wind, I have to pick up dead limbs and ball moss from my yard. My neigborhood association has told me to trim all the dead limbs because they are "unsightly". I don't have the money to do so and I have trimmed all the ones I can reach. I spend hours pulling ball moss from my trees and now it is growing on my shrubs as well. It has ruined the beauty of my trees and in my opinion is harmful.

Updated 6/02/05 ... the huge crepe myrtle shown in my 3rd photo was taken over by the ball moss. Over half of its limbs have died because I couldn't remove the ball moss from them. It is in such terrible shape that it will need to be cut down by 2/3s. Hopefully, it will come back out nicely. I have just spent all day removing ball moss and dead twigs and limbs from a smaller crepe myrtle that I am able to reach up into when on a ladder and using a long pole. I should have taken a photoof all of the ball moss and debri before I removed it from my lawn. Yesterday, I spent all morning picking up ball moss and dead twigs to which it was attached from my flowerbeds and lawn after a strong storm passed through.

Neutral Monocromatico On May 28, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

The accurate therm for this plant is "epiphytic" ("epi=on, "phytum" plant, a plant that lives on another plant). It only uses trees as a support, and doesnt leech anything from it at all, besides the dust and rotten leaves/bark on its surface. It causes no harm to the hosting tree at all, and theres no reason to eliminate this plant, or any kind of bromeliad from trees, unless its really taking the trees appearance down

Neutral MrPolarBear On Nov 17, 2002, MrPolarBear wrote:

While Ball Moss can technically be classified parasitic, it is only a structural parasite, meaning it needs to attach to a host, but draws no nutrients from that host. Ball Moss does NOT kill trees via starvation. While it may be considered unsightly, the only real detrimental effect it has upon trees is the possible retardation of new shoot growth dependent upon its proliferation. (Added weight & blocked sunlight to underbranches are additional minor considerations)

Negative PippiPat On Aug 10, 2002, PippiPat wrote:

Ball Moss can grow in drier areas. I have always heard it was a parisite. I do know it is invassive and can kill a tree. Prefers oaks. Is plentiful in San Antonio, Tx. and in hill country, and can be damaging. I am forturate it is not plentiful in this part of Tx., northeast of Bryan/College Station, Tx.

Neutral Floridian On Sep 24, 2001, Floridian from Lutz, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Not a moss but a true flowering plant related to the pineapple. An epiphyte that gets its nutrients from the atmosphere.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Anniston, Alabama
Bostonia, California
Hayward, California
Bartow, Florida
Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Boynton Beach, Florida
Cape Canaveral, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Deltona, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Jupiter, Florida
Keystone Heights, Florida
Lakeland, Florida
Lutz, Florida
Oldsmar, Florida (2 reports)
Pompano Beach, Florida
Sebring, Florida
West Palm Beach, Florida
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Laurel, Mississippi
Beaufort, South Carolina
Bluffton, South Carolina
Hardeeville, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina (2 reports)
Islandton, South Carolina
Saint Helena Island, South Carolina
Baytown, Texas
Copperas Cove, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (2 reports)
Spring Branch, Texas

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