Air Plant or Air Fern is the common name for the Tillandsia family, which belong to the diverse Bromeliad family. Air Plants actually get all the nutrients and water they need to survive from the air, hence the name Air Plants.
Air Plants require no soil. Instead, they are epiphytes in nature, meaning they attach themselves to trees, rocks, fences, telephone wires and whatever other structures are available, but do not rely on their host for survival. They attach themselves by a cluster of long, tough root-like arms growing from the base of the plant.
Air Plants are native to the West Indies, Mexico, and much of Central America, south to Colombia, eastern Brazil and Argentina. They are also grown and widely distributed in the tropical and subtropical states, from California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
There are well over 550 different varieties of air plants. While each variety is similar in the way they grow and reproduce, the variety among species is phenomenal. When Tillandsias begin to flower, the uppermost leaves become bright red and most produce tubular flowers with bright violet petals that are absolutely gorgeous.
After flowering, most plants produce offsets, called Pups, around its base. Mature plants will eventually produce many Pups and therefore continue the life cycle. If left to grow together, the Pups grow into beautiful Air Plant clusters.
Most Tillandsias require bright, diffused sunlight and will benefit from misting several times per week, as well as a good soaking every other week. Placing the entire plant into a tub of water from several minutes to several hours to fully benefit from the hydration. Bottled water works well, as does tap water that has sat overnight so the chemicals have time to evaporate. Never use distilled water, it will kill your air plants. When you remove your plants from the soaking bowl, shake off any excess water and let the plant air dry before returning it to its home. Be careful to not soak the delicate flowers, as they will dissolve.
With proper care and a friendly environment, your Air Plants will live and reproduce for many years.