Houseplant Spotlight: Air Plants - Tillandsia
Kathy__ <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/36346810@N02/27484907898">Tillandsia magnusiana</a>
Unique architectural plants in an abundance of shapes
Air Plants will thrive in a bright location without direct sunlight. An East, South or West window would be perfect. They can also live under fluorescent lights but need to be within 3 feet of the light source.
Air Plants are epiphytic by nature which means they survive by clinging to trees and extracting moisture and nutrients from the air. The name ‘Air Plant’ refers more to their ability to live without soil then their ability to survive on nothing but air and just like any other living plant this plant has hydration needs! Air Plants typically do well on a good misting 2-4 times a week and a soak for 10 minutes 1-2 a week in room temperature water. Air Plants may also benefit from daily misting during especially dry times or less watering if they are located in a high humidity area. After watering allow air plants to dry upside down on a towel for a couple hours. This will prevent water from standing in the crown and rotting the plant. If the plant hasn’t fully dried within 3 hours move it to a brighter area with better air flow.
Fertilize Air Plants with a weak, low copper fertilizer once a week to twice a month using a special Air Plant, bromeliad or orchid fertilizer.
Air plants typically do not have roots and would rot if placed in soil or moss. Instead take advantage of their unique qualities by affixing to any number of decorative mounts including wood, glass, wire sculptures, cork or driftwood. Make sure they can still be misted or are easily removed for regular watering.
With around 500 species, Air Plants make up the largest genus of the bromeliad family. They are typically found in the Southern United States, Central and South America. They are found in a multitude of environments from hot and sticky forests to arid mountain climates.
Air plants do well in the home environment as long as their light and watering needs are met. A dried out Air Plant will often curl it’s leaves under itself and the leaf tips may turn brown and crispy. A long soak in water will revive it.
Reproducing and Blooming:
Air Plants typically blush a vibrant color from blue to deep red before blooming. Their blooms may last anywhere from a couple days to a couple months depending on the species. The blooming period marks the peak of their life cycle also marking the decline of their life. After blooming Air Plants will produce several pups or clones near the base of the mother plant. The pups are ready to be removed from the mother plant when they are ⅓ to ½ the mother plants size. Up until this point they are still receiving nutrients from the mother plant and may struggle to adapt on their own. Eventually after reproducing pups the mother air plant will die.
Air Plants are unique and rewarding house plants that can brighten up an area otherwise off limits to plants. Take care to provide them with proper watering and light and you can enjoy them for many years.