Air plants, also known as Tillandsia, are a kind of epiphytes. The plants are well known for their thick, silvery foliage and vivid flowers, but these unique plants don’t require any soil to grow, however, they still require a place to hang-out. Unlike traditional plants, air plants are not parasites, meaning they do not get their nutrients from their host. Even though they have roots, the roots are used for anchoring rather than getting nutrients. These plants get all their water and nutrient requirements from absorption through their leaves.
When grown indoors, these plants make a striking addition to your indoor décor. They have different appearances and can be used to decorate different rooms in a house. Just like any other house plant, these plants require some care to thrive.
So how do we take care of Air Plants...
Water is crucial to the survival of air plants. When they receive the water in sufficient quantities, their silvery leaves are very beautiful. You need to mist them every few days, especially if they're exposed to dry indoor environments or drying winds.
These plants also require regular deep-water hydration, especially if there are signs of drying out. To give an air plant a bath, submerge the whole plant in clean, room-temperature water for about 30 minutes. Make sure the flowers are not submerged or they will die prematurely. Shake off any excess moisture, let dry and then return your plant to their home. Soak your plants once every month.
The plants are very sensitive to the chemicals in water. if you use tap water, let it sit overnight so the chemicals evaporate. Water with a PH higher than 8 or softened water which is high in salt is deadly to these plants. Bottled water works well and rain water is even more effective.
Air plants require indirect or partial sunlight to grow. When indoors, keep them no more than 10 feet from the window. A simple fluorescent light will also work well. However, be sure not let the plant stay exposed to direct sun for too long, as it might suffer from leaf burn.
Dealing with Pups
These plants produce beautiful, long-lasting flowers, before producing pups (baby air plants). The plants will grow 2-8 pups. The pups can be left on the parent plant to give a fuller appearance, or can be removed to create separate plants. If you want to remove the pups, make sure they are at least 1/2 the parent’s size. This ensures the pups are strong enough to live on their own.
Air plants rarely require pruning thanks to the natural dense, tidy growth pattern. However, they require occasional grooming to restore their beautiful appearance. Remove all dead, dry or brown leaves from your air plant. Cut back any dead or brown tips until what is left is a healthy growth. Trim any unsightly growth of, if you wish, roots from your plant. When pruning use sharp pruning shears. I like to use a small pair of surgical scissors.
Air plants in captivity need minimal supplemental nutrients to flourish. Feeding these plants differs from many others because of the epiphytic nature. Their own roots are very sensitive and can't absorb urea like the terrestrial plants. You can feed them with urea-free fertilizer with N-P-K analysis of '30-10-10'. Orchid fertilizer works well when diluted. Mix this fertilizer at ¼ the recommended strength. Dissolve the fertilizer in one gallon of water. Mist the fertilizer solution onto the plant’s leaves until they’re saturated, or just add to the monthly soaking bath.
Air plants experience few problems. They don’t suffer from chronic diseases and insects and pests rarely bother them because the do not grow in soil. For a healthy air plant, the entire plant requires access to free air. Grow the plants mounted on some wood or any other organic material, or place the plants on top of stones or sand, like in our Terrarium Globes. Avoid putting your plants vessels that allow water to collect, as this will surely kill you plants.
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.