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Air Plants

by Lily

Stricta Hard Leaf
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Introducing air plants

While attending a recent orchid show, my son was introduced to air plants, or Tillandsia.  He purchased a lovely little one with pretty blue-gray spikey leaves and a flower bud.  He eagerly placed it in a coconut half, sprayed with some water, and placed it on our screened, covered patio. In a couple of days, the plant revealed an amazingly beautiful multicolored bloom that lasted for weeks!  I was quite impressed!  Thus, I felt compelled to look for more.  I found some in the trees, but different than the one my son purchased.  I decided to investigate further and research on the internet.  I had NO IDEA the number of air plants there are!!!  So many varieties!  Don't worry...I will not attempt to list the multitude of varieties, nor pretend to be a 10-second expert on this subject.  There is a plethora of information on the web!  However, I can provide the basics.

Air plants, or Tillandsia, are bromeliads.  However, not all bromeliads are air plants.  Tillandsia do not require a container, dirt, or moss as they cannot soak in water or retain excess moisture without rotting.  Air plants can be displayed in a container (i.e. a shell or coconut 1/2), but the container must be emptied of any water...the plant must be able to dry within 4 hours.  Air plants require very little watering if provided plenty of humidity.  The less humidity, the more water they require.  They enjoy misting 1-2 times per week or a "bath" every two weeks (soak in water for 1/2 hour) using rain, pond, or well water (otherwise add a pinch of orchid fertilizer to the water once a month).  As far as light requirements, air plants enjoy bright light but not direct light. 

Air plants flower once in their life span, but will produce pups during this period.  Pups can remain attached to the parent or seperated by using a gentle twist/pull action at the base of the plant once the pup is 1/3-1/2 the size of the parent.  If the pups remain attached, simply remove the parent leaves as they wither and die - the pups will quickly fill in the empty space.

A couple more helpful tips:

1. Water in the morning as air plants "breathe" at night and cannot breathe if the leaves are wet

2. Attach the air plant to anything (except treated wood - the chemicals will kill the plant) by using liquid nails or a hot glue gun (let cool ~ 5 seconds first), but not Super Glue as it has a copper base that will kill the plant.

3. Protect air plants from frost

4. After watering the air plant, turn it upside down and shake it. The excess water that accumulates at the base of the plant can be detrimental

Be sure to share your photos!!!


Air plant, Tillandsia, bromeliad


ugh. can't get enough of these plants. soooooo cool. it's like I traveled to outer space and died in heaven. ummm... you're an expert in my book! thanks lily.
FigTree commented on 11/20/09
The only Tillandsia I've grown is T. cyanea, tiny, but very cool. This one can actually be grown in soil...well-drained with some pine bark. I have it in a bed with ferns and terrestrial bromeliads.
Daylilyjoy commented on 11/20/09
That information sounds pretty "expert" to me. I love tillandsias! Didn't know you could hot-glue them! Or that you have to water them early in the day. Thanks for the info.
Daylilyjoy commented on 11/19/09