A Guide to Tillandsia, Part One: Growing Air Plants



Growing everywhere from Virginia all the way  to South America, Tillandsia, or air plants,  are proudly the largest genus in the Bromeliad family. In fact, new ones are constantly being discovered and it is believed that one day these tiny plants will account for over half of the Bromeliads.

As the name suggests, these little oddballs don’t require soil to survive. Using their tiny root systems to attach themselves to trees, rocks, or cacti, they naturally survive in jungles or deserts, from sea level to mountain regions. Their leaves have small scales, called trichomes which create their silver appearance as they absorb moisture and nutrients. Many varieties even go through a dramatic color change once they begin to bloom. The bloom of an air plant can last anywhere from a couple days to an entire year, and don’t be surprised if a baby (pup) begins to grow from the bloom.

Easy to take care of and having a mounting medium that is limited only by your imagination, air plants are the perfect, and most interesting addition to any plant enthusiast’s collection. Their unique look fits perfectly on drift wood, simply resting on a window sill, or giving accent to any kind of container. They are also great worked into a dish garden, orchid arrangement, fairy garden or terrarium.  Air plants are hardy and very adaptable, but in order to maintain an air plant we recommend taking the following steps:

Light– Bright, indirect light is best, but air plants can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and are very adaptable. Great indoors or outdoors as long as the light is filtered. If indoors then place near a south, east, or west window.

Water– 2 times a week by spritzing them with fresh water in a spray bottle.  Be sure your bottle has never housed chemicals!

Ventilation– Air plants need good ventilation, so after watering be sure not to leave them directly on a wooden surface. Air circulation is key to a healthy air plant.

Fertilization– Once a month, and be careful of over fertilizing. Be sure to use a water soluble fertilizer with low copper (which is toxic to bromeliads), such as 10-5-5 plant food.

Orchid & Tillandsia Arrangement on Driftwood

Mounting– Air plants mount to almost anything, or just hanging. Just remember that your mounting media should not hold water. If using drift wood be sure to soak the wood in fresh water for a few days because the salt could burn the plant’s leaves. Do not use treated wood because the copper is toxic to bromeliads. Use wire or hot glue to attach the plant near the bottom but not over the roots (which will eventually attach themselves to the mount.)

For more inspiration on using air plants check out our Pinterest board!