Air Plants: The Nearly Indestructible House Plant

 Tillandsia

air plant

So, you say you’ve got a black thumb? Can’t keep any type house plant alive? Well, I ‘ve got a solution for you. Don’t worry, it’s not a fake plant! Introducing Tillandsia aka Air plantTillandsia is an evergreen, perennial flowering plant that belongs to the family Bromeliaceae. They are native to the forests, mountains and deserts of Central and South America.

What makes Air Plants so unusual? They do not need soil to grow. They absorb water and nutrients through their leaves. The roots  on the plant are used as anchors only. They can survive for long periods of drought. Plus…they look cool! It’s an instant conversation starer!

air plant

How to care for your Air Plant

Although Air Plants are pretty tough, there are a few things that keep them happy:

Watering

Watering is one of the most important aspects of succeeding with Tillandsias and the most misunderstood. Most people think Air Plants do not need a lot of water, I mean heck, they don’t need soil to survive. They can survive long periods of drought but the lack of water puts them in a dormant state.  Proper watering is necessary for air plants!

The best way to water your Air Plant is to completely submerge the plant in a bucket of water or sink. Leave the plant to soak for about 20-30 minutes. After watering, the leaves of the air plant will feel stiff and full of water. When they are dried out they will be softer to the touch and the plant will be lighter in color.  After the soak, it is important to let the plant get proper air circulation and light to dry off. DO NOT LET THEM SIT IN WATER. Your plant will also rot and die if left wet for too long. Water your plant by soaking at least 2 to 3 times per week. You can mist them in between waterings if they look dry.

Light

Air plants like bright indirect light. For the indoors place in front of window, no further than 10 feet away.In the outdoors you can put Tillandsias under a tree, carport, or covered patio. Think of how they grow in nature; under the canopy of trees. They can handle some partial sunlight, but avoid direct sunlight.

Temperature

Air plants can handle a wide range of temperatures, but they are sensitive to frost. They can handle a light frost with some leaf damage, but not a freeze. If the over night temps are getting to 45 degrees,  go ahead and bring those babies in until spring.

Fertilizing

It is not really necessary to fertilize air plants. But fertilizing will result in faster growth, better flowers and more pups (offsets or baby plants). If you choose to use a fertilizer do not over do it.  Use a water soluble fertilizer at 1/4 the strength recommended on the label. Only fertilize your air plant once a month.

air plant

Dried out Air Plants:

If your plants get dried out, DON’T THROW THEM OUT! If there is a little bit of green on it, it can be revived!  Immerse the plant in water up to a  12 hours  max. Then immerse again for  another 4 hours 2 or 3 days later. Once you have your plant out of critical care, resume a good watering schedule.

Displaying Air Plants:

Here’s the cool part about a plant that doesn’t need soil…you can “mount” them on almost anything! Since they do not need to be “planted”, you can get really creative! I prefer not to glue them down, because that makes it difficult to soak them.  Let your imagination soar! Lay them on some drift wood or an old log. Put them in a terrarium with sphagnum moss or pebbles. Suspend them from the ceiling with some fishing line.

air plant

Where can you buy Air Plants?

Air plants can be hard to find at big box retailers. In my area (metro Atlanta) I can get them at Pikes Nursery. They are available on Amazon and Etsy.

So, go ahead a give the a try. Air plants can be a fun and unusual addition to your indoor garden.

Thanks to I Put a Bird on It for the linky!

 

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