Air Plants or Tillandsia (till-LAND-zee-uh) grow without soil and make for incredible living sculptures in any medium to bright light indoor space. These unique epiphytes from tropical rain forests are the perfect low-maintenance plant for the home or office. They offer an exotic look, showy blooms, entrancing fragrances, and limitless arrangement possibilities.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to government restrictions, Tillandsia cannot be shipped to Hawaii.
- Colors: Air plant varieties come in shades of white, green, pink, or purple. Short periods of direct sunlight will bring out their brightest pigments.
- Form: The plant sprouts abundant leaves and can grow to 2″-12″ in diameter. Some plants will show roots, though they are strictly for anchoring the plant to a tree and a rootless air plant will not suffer.
- Foliage: Leaves can be thin as a wire or broad and flat. They are covered in a fine coating of short hairs that absorb water and give a fuzzy appearance. Some varieties have curly leaves that will curl tighter when water is scarce.
- Flowers: An air plant can bloom once in its lifetime if well cared for. Some have fragrant, showy blooms in purple, pink, white, or yellow. After flowering, it’s easy to cut the dry flower off at the base of its stalk.
- Light: Give Tillandsia plenty of indirect light by keeping them in rooms with bright windows or skylights. They can tolerate short periods of direct sun in the cool morning or late afternoon and can also be placed in low-light rooms temporarily.
- Soil: Air plants live without soil and should be used bare root or in a non-absorptive medium like sand, rocks, or glass beads. They can be displayed as-is or affixed to objects with wire or non-toxic, waterproof glue. Though not required, an application of epiphyte/orchid fertilizer or a ½ strength dilution of balanced fertilizer every 2-3 months can encourage growth and flowering.
- Water: Tillandsia are adapted to humid rain forests, and they need more water than most people expect. There are three easy methods: mist generously 3-7 times a week, submerge completely 2-4 times a week, or soak the entire plant for 1-2 hours once a week. To prevent rot, always shake off excess water and provide enough airflow for the plant to dry within 4 hours.
- Hardiness: Indoor, room temperature environments are perfect for air plants, but they can grow outdoors in zone 10 climates with dry winters. At temperatures over 100F they are more susceptible to desiccation, so indoor growing is generally recommended year round.
- Propagation: Though it can take years, an air plant will produce "pups" or new offsets after blooming. Most emerge at the base of a parent plant and form an abundant clump. If you choose to separate the pups, gently pull apart the clump after the pups grow to 1/3 the size of the parent plant. Water separated pups diligently.
Notes from the Nursery
Air plants are one of the easiest plants you will ever grow. They hold colorful, sculptural forms and require little maintenance. If a problem does arise, it’s often related to a shortage of light, water, or airflow. Adjust conditions and the air plant will dependably recover. These easy, forgiving growers make the perfect houseplant for plant lovers and novices alike.
For more details about these lovable plants, we recommend Air Plants: The Curious World of Tillandsias, by Zenaida Sengo. It’s brimming with digestible tips and heaps of arrangement inspiration. Or delve into the research with "The physiological ecology of vascular epiphytes: current knowledge, open questions" (Zotz, 2001).