Plant usually in dense masses. Leaves rarely over 6 cm long, grey scaled, sheaths elliptic, 2 cm long; blades narrow-triangular, 5 mm wide, outer ones green, inner ones deep red at flowering. Scape none. Inflorescence simple, many-ranked; floral bracts, scaled toward top, shorter than sepals; sepals free, posterior ones short united, 16 mm long; petals violet, over 4 cm long, forming a tube; stamens protruding.
There are many different forms, some with cultivar names e.g. 'Apretado', 'Penito', 'Fuego'. A stemmed form is known as vanhyningii and a white-flowered form as 'Druid'. Forms with a leafless flower stalk are either var. scaposa or T. kolbii.
T. fuchsii Till from Mexico and Guatemala is stemless. Leaf sheaths succulent light green; leaf blades angled and succulent at base. Inflorescence simple, 5-10 flowered; floral bracts ovate to oval, 7.5 to 10.5 mm long, 6-7 mm wide, hairless, with broad transparent edges. Flowers regular; sepals narrowly elliptic, 13-16 mm long, 5-6 mm wide; petals violet, ligulate, 22-24.5 mm long forming a tube; stamens protruding. For many years this plant was known as T. argentea until 1990 when the plants on mainland America were given the new name. Plants from Cuba and Jamaica still retained the name of T. argentea and are very rare in cultivation.
T. magnusiana Wittm. from southern Mexico to El Salvador has many leaves in a globose rosette, 11-14 cm long, grey-tomentose; sheaths elliptic, 1.5 cm long; blades very narrowly triangular, thin, 3-5 mm wide at base, soon inrolled. Inflorescence stalkless, 1-3 flowered, dense; floral bracts ovate 25-35 mm long, 5-15 mm wide, much exceeding the sepals, grey scaled; sepals hairless, 15-18 mm long; petals 35-40 mm, violet, forming a tube; stamens protruding.
T. velickiana L.B. Sm. from Guatemala has a rosette erect to spreading. Leaves numerous to 14 cm long, grey scaled; sheaths distinct, 1-2 cm long, 1.2 cm wide, light brown; blades 8 mm wide, narrow-triangular. Scape 1-4 cm long with leaflike scales. Inflorescence pendent, mostly simple, 5-9 cm long, 1.5-3 cm wide, 3-7 flowers; floral bracts, 3.5-5 cm long, narrowly oval, exceeding sepals, fine scaled; sepals hairless, free; petals to 7.5 cm long, upper half violet, white toward base, forming a tube; stamens protruding. Sometimes incorrectly distributed as T. oaxacana (Guatemalan form).
Source: (2005). Bromeliaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 5. Flowering plants. Monocotyledons. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.