Tillandsia (Air plant) - Care tips
Tillandsia, the botanical peculiarities commonly known as air plants, are found in jungles, rainforests or deserts and increasingly in homes and offices. Their low-maintenance and intriguing appearance play a major role in their upcoming popularity, we think. Although they are low-maintenance plants, this doesn't mean they don't need care at all. Give your Tillandsia the light, water and air circulation they need and they will shine!
Information about the Tillandsia
Tillandsia is a genus belonging to the Bromeliaceae family. Tillandsia is a genus of about 650 species that are native to the forests, mountains and deserts of Northern Mexico and the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean to Central Argentina.
These plants are also called air plants. Many of these unique plants do not necessarily need roots, they only need to attach themselves to other plants or trees. Most plants also do not need soil to grow and live, therefor they are named air plants. In the countries where air plants are native to (mainly Southern and Central America), the air humidity is very high and the plants can get their nutrients from the air. There are more than 500 different species of air plants, how cool is that!
Although there are many species of Tillandsia, many do not have specific names. Instead, they are all called 'air plants' or they are simply sold by the species name. Whatever you call them, here are some species of air plants you might consider growing indoors. We recommend them as your new housemates in any case!
Tillandsia Ionantha, also known as the sky plant, is one of the most popular air plants. There are dozens of cultivars available, but the primary species is very popular. Partly because it is extremely hardy and difficult to kill! The plant is also very attractive, with layers of silvery green leaves that change to shades of red and pink as they grow and expand. This colour change takes place just before the plant blooms with violet blossoms.
Then, secondly, the Tillandsia Bulbosa gets her name from its bulbous roots, but it is the twisted, narrow leaves that makes her most interesting. The leaves turn purple or red just before the plant is ready to flower. The Tillandsia Usneoides is a bit of an outsider within the Bromelia family. But it is very popular. It is also known as 'Spanish Moss' and is often used as a decorative plant. It is an air plant that is ideal as green addition to works of art, for example.
Finally, we would like to mention the Tillandsia Harrisii. She is native to Guatemala, and has soft silver-grey leaves. They have ample petioles that grow in a rosette form along the stem. Tillandsia Harrisii has broad silvery leaves that are covered with a thick layer of fluff (trichromes). Harrisii will therefore certainly stand out in your home.
Tillandsia Care Tips
Light and placement for Tillandsia
Although air plants can be happy in many different environments, they do need good lighting. Your tillandsia should get bright, indirect sunlight or indoor lighting. Make sure to give them extra water if they do get direct sunlight, as the sun causes these little plants to dry out quickly. Although air plants can cope with short periods of darkness, for example when being shipped or temporarily displayed in a dark corner, they need good lighting to grow at their best.
Tillandsias are known as air plants, because in their native environment they live entirely on nutrients and moisture in the air. Each leaf has a structure to capture as much moisture from the air as possible, and the plant's many leaves lead the water droplets to the base of the plant. Unless you live in a hot and humid rainforest, you will have to provide the water your air plants need.
Dip your air plants into the water once a week and let them soak for an hour. After the bath, carefully shake off the excess water from the plants and put them in a good air circulation to air dry upside down so that all the trapped water can run out and dry. Check the plants after four hours. When they are completely dry, put them back in their display. It is important that the plants do not stay wet, otherwise they will rot. Supplement the soaking (not replace it) by watering your air plants a few times a week. If you're in a very dry place or going through a heat period, you can mist more often and consider giving them a second bath every week. Or try putting your air plants in the bathroom before you take a long, hot shower. They will love the moist steam!
Pay close attention to how your Tillandsia air plants look and feel before and after their bath. You'll see what a difference it makes to your plants to be well-hydrated. The leaves are more open and flexible, and the colour is brighter. Although air plants can survive with much less water, they will grow, reproduce and flower much better if they are given the right amount of water.
Fertilising your air plants is not strictly necessary, but it does lead to better health, better growth and better flowering. Well-fed air plants are also better able to adapt to difficult circumstances, such as a two-week holiday. Once a month, use a fertiliser specially formulated for bromeliads or air plants, or dilute our PLNTS nutrition (or similar) in water to 1/4 strength. Add the fertiliser water to a spray bottle and spray it thoroughly once a month.
Dividing the "pup" is the easiest way to propagate a Tillandsia. The procedure is simple. Leave the air plant in water for 2-3 hours to hydrate it, this makes the work easier. Place the air plant on a flat surface and carefully spread out the leaves. It is always good to use your hands for this, as this will help you to locate where the plants are attached.
Once you have located the young plants, separate them from the mother plant. You can use a plier for this or do it by hand. Make sure you pull them apart at the base. Once you have safely separated the pup, keep it hydrated by putting it in a bowl of water. You can continue to let the pup grow as you would with an adult Tillandsia.
If you want to know how many pups an air plant produces, you must be sure of the species. The number varies from plant to plant, but Tillandsia plants produce 2 - 8 young. Even the time at which the young are produced depends on the species. Some plants produce young before their flowering cycle starts, while other plants make you wait even longer and only produce young when their first flowering cycle is over. The longer the young stay on the mother plant, the sooner they will be fully grown. However, it is better to remove the young ones when they are still small. This way the mother plant can focus its energy on growing more young and you will get more air plants.
Most common pest on Tillandsias
Air plants are vulnerable to rot and fungus. Tillandsias do not like extreme or sudden changes in temperature. If the humidity rises or the leaves have excess moisture in any way, air plants will rot and develop fungus. In this case, the leaves will fall out if the air plants are given too much water or are left in a damp place for too long. Excessive humidity can also turn the leaves black. When this happens, the air plant may have already succumbed to rot.
Pests are particularly attracted to dying air plants. When the leaves start to rot, turn brown or become crusty, you can expect an infestation. Mealybugs and scale insects are the most common pests, but they have different symptoms. To be sure which pest is bothering your plant, we recommend you visit our PLNTS doctor page.
Is the Tillandsia toxic for pets or children?
Good news! Tillandsia, also known as air plants, are not poisonous to pets or children. So if your cat, dog or child is a little too fond of nibbling on the leaves of your air plant, don't worry! Although air plants are not poisonous, we do recommend keeping them out of reach of your pets and children. Not only because they can be a choking hazard (for smaller animals for example), but mainly because losing your precious Tillandsia can be a real turn-off.
Buy your new Tillandsia at PLNTS.com
At PLNTS.com you can buy your new Tillandsia online, for example the Tillandsia Harrisii. Whether like you your PLNTS big from the start or prefer to grow them from tiny BabyPLNTS into full-grown PLNTS - we’ve got you covered!