Air Plants

air plant header

From the depths of the Amazon rainforest comes one of the most peculiar and fascinating houseplants of all: the tillandsia! More commonly known as the air plant, this subspecies of the Bromeliad family doesn’t require soil to root. Instead, they’ll pretty much thrive wherever you place them so long as they receive adequate water and sunlight.

Choosing and Displaying Your Air Plants

There are over 450 different types of tillandsia and counting! It’s likely there are many more that have yet to be discovered, as they grow on some of the highest jungle canopies, which aren’t exactly easy for scientists to access. You can get a good idea of what your air plant will need based on the color and size of its leaves. If the leaves are on the silver side or seem a bit thicker, it’s an air plant that prefers a dryer habitat. It the plant is green and glossy with skinny leaves, it comes from a deeper, more humid area of the Amazon and will need frequent watering.

Since these plants are famously versatile, you can get pretty creative with how you want to display them. Lots of folks like to attach them onto untreated driftwood, which looks amazing when mounted on the wall. You can do this several different ways: by fastening the plant with some clear fishing line, plant tie tape, or a piece from an old nylon stocking, or you can add a little drop of hot glue onto the side of the plant. Sometimes just nestling it securely into a nook in the wood will do just fine, but if your home is a bit drafty it might not hurt to keep it extra secure with string, tape or glue. Another common display method is creating a hanging air plant terrarium. With no soil needed, they look particularly beautiful from every angle when placed in a glass container suspended from the ceiling or on a windowsill.

air plant staging

How to Water a Tillandsia Plant

Contrary to what the name might suggest, air plants definitely need more than just air to survive. Luckily, we live in a pretty humid environment, so our air plants are able to source more nutrition from the atmosphere compared to drier regions in America. That being said, it still doesn’t hurt to supply them with some extra hydration, particularly during our winters.   

Misting your air plants occasionally will help the cause, but ultimately, if you really want to make sure they’re well hydrated, run your tap water so it’s room temperature and hold the plant under the stream. Don’t use distilled water, because it’s actually too pure and may just end up soaking up valuable nutrients from the plant.

If the leaves are looking a little yellow and sad, it will help if you dunk the plant in a cup of water for half an hour, and it should perk back up. If it’s flowering, make sure you don’t soak the blooms in water or the petals will start to disintegrate.

air plant teal

Air Plant Care: How Much Sunlight?

Tillandsia don’t like scorching bright sun, so while they are tolerant to high temperatures, placing them in out in direct Florida sunlight is a no-no— instead, you can keep them outdoors underneath a shaded canopy. Just make sure you don’t place them under a tree that loses all its leaves during portions of the year, or else the sun will make its way through and bake those tillandsia leaves. For indoor displays, a sunny windowsill should be a comfortable home for your air plant.  

These strange and beautiful plant specimens are a lovely sight to behold, and it’s so much fun displaying them in creative ways that you can’t pull off with other run-of-the-mill houseplants. If you’re looking for a little inspiration on fun ways to show off your tillandsia, browse through some Pinterest boards! You’ll be amazed by the innovative designs people come up with.

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