How to Care for Air Plants: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Care for Air Plants: A Beginner’s Guide

Air plants, also known as tillandsias, are one of the most unusual houseplants you can grow. Their whimsical shapes and unique shapes make them irresistible! Best of all, Air plant care It will be easy, if you understand what these plants need.

Air plants are epiphytes, which means they are anchored to a host plant with their roots. They do not need soil to grow, they absorb moisture and nutrients through small scale-like structures, called trichomes, on their surfaces. They grow on branches, tree trunks and rocks. “Similar to orchids, epiphytes have found a way to grow where other plants can’t,” says Mark Hachadourian, director of greenhouse horticulture and chief curator of orchids at the New York Botanical Garden. “They are not parasites and do not harm their hosts.”

Air plants are members of the pineapple, or bromeliad, family, and are native to tropical climates such as those of Central and South America, the West Indies, and the southern United States.Tillandsia uses neoids“It is recognizable as the iconic gray, beard-like moss falling from tree branches in the southern United States,” Hachadourian says. “It’s not an algae but a variety Tillandsia They are found throughout the southern United States, the Caribbean, and most of South America.

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There are actually hundreds upon hundreds of varieties, which fall into two main categories, based on where they grow in the wild. “Zericaceae air plants typically grow in drier climates,” says Rafael Di Lallo, a plant expert at Ohio Tropics and author of the book “Air Plants.” Houseplant Warrior: 7 Keys to Unlocking the Secret to Houseplant Care. “They are usually gray in color due to the large, dense colors that help them absorb water and nutrients efficiently.”

Mesic plants grow in wetter environments and receive more rainfall than xeric species. “They usually have smaller, less dense trichomes, which gives them a greener appearance,” Di Lallo says. Knowing what type you have — especially because they are not always labeled when you purchase them — will guide you to the care each type needs.

Read on to find out everything you need to know Air plant care.


How to take care of air plants?

The most important thing is to find a place where your air plant gets plenty of light, otherwise it will not survive. “It should be placed in front of a window,” Di Lallo says. “Tillandsias are not low-light plants. Some species grow in full sun, others in dappled sun or shadier conditions. This means don’t put them in a pot in a dark room and expect them to bloom!”

Xeric (gray) plants need more sun than mesic (green) plants. “Zeric plants should be exposed to at least a few hours of direct sunlight,” Di Lallo says. However, if you live in an area with very strong sun, such as the southeast or southwest, avoid placing the plant directly in the hot midday sun.

If you don’t have a beautiful, bright window in your home, don’t despair. These plants also do well under grow lights, Hachadourian says. Use an LED grow light to help these plants grow.


How to water air plants?

Air plant care

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Air plants can get misted a lot, but it is not always a foolproof method because they must be done daily until the water runs off. Di Lallo prefers to drench or soak the plants instead. Either place your plant under a stream of running water in your sink, rotating the plant so that its entire surface is wet. Or soak the plant in a bowl for about an hour once a week, Di Lallo says.

The most important thing to remember is that after watering, regardless of the method you use, you must shake off any excess water. Next, let the plant dry upside down on a kitchen towel before placing it back where it grows, Di Lallo says.


Should you fertilize air plants?

This isn’t strictly necessary, but you can help encourage growth, Di Lallo says. Feed it with a fertilizer designed for bromeliads according to package instructions. Some growers like to dilute the fertilizer to ¼ strength, but you can experiment to see what works best for you.

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Bromeliad Tillandsia Food
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Do epiphytes flower?

Air plant care

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Yes! When they are several years old, they may flower if they get enough light. They only flower once, then they die. Although the mother plant will slowly die back after flowering, baby plants, called pups, will develop at the base of the plant, Di Lallo says. You can leave them in place to form a mass, or you can separate the pups from the mother when they reach one-third to one-half the size of the mother. Now you will have a brand new plant!


How should I display my air plant?

There are so many great ways to show off your fun air plants! Make sure they get good air circulation, but then use your imagination. They can be displayed in a hanging basket or glass globe, on a piece of driftwood or veneer, or in a special plant stand. Just make sure they get enough light wherever you put them.

Air plant display frame
Air plant display frame
Credit: hand
Air Shell Plant Owners
Ceramic whale air plant holder
Ceramic whale air plant holder
Credit: True Fred
Hanging glass planters
Hanging glass planters
Credit: hand

What are the best types of air plants to grow?

With hundreds of species, it is difficult to collect just one. But Hachadourian and Di Lallo suggest these easy-to-grow varieties:

  • Tillandsia ionantha. This small cluster variety is one of the most common available, with a bright red blush and tubular purple flowers.
  • Tillandsia xerographica. This is one of the larger forms with individual plants reaching over a foot in diameter with stunning rounded curls of foliage.
  • Tillandsia roofs. The unique hairy appearance is due to the very large trichomes
  • Tillandsia aeranthus. The clumped, pine needle-like foliage will form round balls over time. It has arching flowers of purple with contrasting amethyst-purple flowers.
Head shot of Erika Elaine Sanson

Arricca Elin SanSone writes about health and lifestyle topics in the areas of prevention, rural life, women’s day and more. She is passionate about gardening, baking, reading, and spending time with the people and dogs she loves.

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