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How To Care For Your Tillandsias aka Air Plants

tillandias-houseplant-care-tips

Tillandsia is their botanical first name but they’re commonly called air plants because they don’t grow in soil. Look ma, no dirt!  A few of them, however, like the Tillandsia cyanea, can grow in soil.  They are epiphytes, and in their natural environments, grow attached to other plants usually under the canopy of a tree.  Don’t worry – they are not parasitic like that oh so popular smoochin’ plant the mistletoe.  The host plant is merely their means of support. 

The care for these unusual and fascinating plants super simple.  I’ll break it into 6 categories so it’s crystal clear for you.  And, there’s a video, How to Care For Your Air Plants, waiting at the end of this post.

How To Care For Your Tillandsias aka Air Plants

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NATURAL LIGHTING

Bright, indirect light is best.  Make sure your air plants don’t get any hot, direct sun or that they aren’t in deep shade.  The light conditions they require are very similar to pothos or dracaenas.  That being said, those with more color in their foliage or thick foliage can take more light.  This is the same with their cousins the bromeliads – they are in the same family by the way.  I have bromeliads in my garden and some can take more sun than others.  My tillandsias live outdoors on my covered porch and enjoy the bright light with only an hour or so of morning sun every day.

TEMPERATURE

This is simple; no need to make it more complicated than it is.  They like temperatures no higher than 85 or 90 degrees and none below freezing.

WATERING

It’s best to spray or soak (for 15 minutes) your air plants 1-2 times a week. If you are drier, then soak or spray them more often and longer. Your temperature throughout the year will play a part also.

I’m an exception – I live in Santa Barbara, CA only 7 blocks from the ocean so mine that lives outdoors take moisture out of the air. I soak them only once every 4-5 weeks and the smaller ones get a good spray once a week.

They don’t like any salts (some of us have more in our tap water than others do) so I let the water sit in the pail for a few days before I soak them. I do the same with the water in the spray bottle. The finer leaf varieties would benefit from a soaking more often but don’t them let soak too long. They’ll “mush” out. Be sure to shake off all the excess water.

And, a plant that’s blooming doesn’t like to be soaked.

FERTILIZING

A fertilizer specific for bromeliads is best.  Either soak them in the fertilizer mixed with water or take them to the sink and spray them if they’re attached to something like a rock or piece of wood.  They really don’t need the fertilizer but they’ll grow a little faster, and pup (make new baby plants) and flower a bit more if you do. 

AIR CIRCULATION

Another simple one – they need it to make sure they have it.

TOXIC TO ANIMALS

This can be a concern with indoor plants.  They are not toxic to pets but I know from experience (Oscar, my tuxedo kitty, partially chewed three of them) that cats love to munch on their crunchy leaves.

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They are great for crafting, creating and for kids as a starter plant.  We offer you a nice little variety of air plants direct from a local greenhouse right to your home so be sure to check out the link right HERE.  Be warned:  once you get a few, you’ll want more!

P.S. Here is the video in case you didn’t catch it before!

 

Happy Gardening,

Nell-Foster-Joy-Us-Garden

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12 comments:

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  3. We have had a lot of luck growing our Bromeliads in our patio area. Down in Australia we can get some harsh summers, and our patio area is under some clear plastic sheeting, so they get plenty of light but no harsh, direct sun. So long as we water them regularly during the really hot months they are fine.

  4. That’s what you need to do. Keep them protected from that hot, scorching sun or they’ll burn right out.

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  6. hello, i’m from the philippines, perfect climate for air plants. do they do well in bathrooms? i have a real small one (60 sqft) with a small window.

  7. Hi Doni – Yes, the Phillipines is a great climate for air plants. Bathrooms are great for air plants. They don’t like strong, direct sun but they do need a decent amount of light to stay alive & grow. It’s definitely worth trying with a small one as an experiment. Put it as close to the window as possible without any sun burning them. Hope that helps! Nell

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  12. Hi there , I’m totally obsessed with your giant airplane on the right side of this video. I’m super curious because I can’t seem to find it anywhere online, what species is that!? I want it, I need it!

  13. Justin – I know how that goes, plant lust! That’s a Tillandsia utriculata or Giant Air Plant. I’ve had it for a while now but mine is smaller than it would be in Florida because California is so dry. It’s hard to find a large one by the way. Here’s a link so you can read about it: http://www.levypreserve.org/Plant-Listings/Tillandsia-utriculata Hope that helps! Nell

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  15. Two things I’d like you to expand on. Rotting and pups. I’ve got one species I can’t seem to keep because they keep rotting. I’ve also gotten a few that have died that I found a pup in the middle of. Is there any special suggestions for caring for pups

  16. Hi Nix – I’ve found that some varieties of air plants rot out faster & easier than others. The bulbous ones are harder for me to keep alive for any extended period of time. Soaking those for 10 or 15 minutes max seems to be the way to go. Now that I live in the desert, I’ve found the finer-leaved varieties don’t make it here (unless I had a greenhouse!). I leave the pups attached to the mother plants (even if they’re dried out) until they’re at least 2″. Then, I spray them a few times a week. Hope that helps, Nell

  17. Hi Nell,
    I am a newly owner of a few air plants, one which was given to me ina beautiful hand made stand. The other is attached to a branch which lays in a glass container. The one in the stand I can take out to soak but I was curious about soaking the one attached to the branch. Do I soak the whole thing and then let it dry out before putting it back in the glass? Also, what does it mean if they are a little silver looking as opposed to green. Is that a bad thing? Thanks so much!

  18. Hi April – Welcome to the world of air plants! 1st off, the silver is normal – it’s just a different species. Yes, you can soak it & it it dry before you put it back. Nell

  19. Hi Neil
    I HAVE been given a tillandsia cyanea which I have indoors in UK
    It was a lovely pink but after having it for a month or two it is now starting to turn a green colour is this bad and is it starting to die?

  20. Hi Linda – No, it’s fine. Your quill is just going through its normal growth cycle. It’ll eventually die but will stay that color color for a while. More info on that: https://www.joyusgarden.com/pink-quill-plant-care/ Nell

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