Thursday, January 31, 2013

Air Plants - Tillandsia

Air Plants, also known as Tillandsia, don’t require soil to grow, only moderate light and a good soak every week—very low-maintenance. Beautiful as modern home decor, in terrariums or as incredibly unique (and affordable!) housewarming or all-occasion gifts. These little guys have so much personality, beautiful blooms, and just fun to look at. 

Tillandsias grow differently than most other plants, so they can be confusing to the beginner. They are really very hardy, and require much less attention than other plants. The following simplifies the instruction but you can scroll down for much more specific information.If you are growing them indoors and the air is dry, you will need (at minimum) to submerge the plant in water for 2-3 hours about every two weeks. Otherwise, in a shade-house or unheated home, you can use a soaking mist once or twice a week in summer, once a month in cooler weather.


    Thoroughly wet your Tillandsia 2-3 times per week; more often in a hot, dry environment; less often in a cool, humid one. In conditions of extreme drying, and consequent moisture loss, Tillandsia cannot get replacement water from their roots like a terrestrial plant, or draw on internal reserves like a succulent.

    The Water you use is important. NEVER USED DISTILLED WATER! Softened Water is a NO NO for the salt content. Filtered water, tap water that has sat long enough for the chlorine to dissipate, bottled water or RO are all fine. Pond water, aquarium, or rain water are all preferred but tap water is better than no water.

    Outdoors you may never need to water Tillandsias hanging in a tree if you live in a temperate climate with some humidity. Indoors, the hotter and drier the air, the more you need to water.

    Plants should be given enough light and air circulation to dry in no longer than 4 hours after watering. Wind can be a detriment as the plant dries too quickly. Remember that inside with a window fan as well. If the plant dries within a very short period of time, it is not hydrating at all.

    Spray misting is insufficient as the sole means of watering but may be beneficial between regular waterings in dry climates to increase the humidity.

    If the plant is in a shell, be sure to empty the water out. Tillandsias will not survive in standing water.

    Under-watering is evidenced by an exaggerating of the natural concave curve of each leaf.

    New Information: After wetting your plants thoroughly, turn them upside down and gently shake them. I have found that the water that collects near the base is detrimental if left to long. I have lost many stricta that way.

    One last thing about watering your air plant. It is much better to water in the morning than at night. Air plants absorb the carbon monoide from the air at night instead of the day time. If the plant is wet, it does not breath therefore unless it can dry quickly at night, plan on morning baths.

    Following each watering, Tillandsias should be given enough light and air circulation to dry in 4 hours or less. Do not keep plants constantly wet or moist.
    Do not allow to dry to quickly though. 1-3 hours is optimum

    Optimum temperature range for Tillandsias is 50 - 90 degrees F.
    I have kept my plants outside during 40 degree F. weather but only for a night or two knowing it would be warm during the day. Tillandsia will die with frost.

    Use Bromeliad fertilizer (17-8-22) twice a month. It is GREAT for blooming and reproduction! Other water-soluble fertilizers can be used at 1/4 strength (Rapid Grow, Miracle-Grow, etc.) if Bromeliad fertilizer is not available.
    Note Here: If you use pond water or aquarium water, Don't use fertilizer

    Bromeliad Tillandsia have a life cycle of one plant growing to maturity and blooming. Before, during or after blooming (depending on the species) your plant will start producing young (PUPS), most plants will produce between 2 - 8 pups. Each plant will flower once in its lifetime, remember that each pup is a plant and it will bloom. Flowers can last from several days to many months, depending on the species, and different species bloom at different times depending also on its care and environment. You can expect blooms from mid winter through mid summer depending on the plant.

    If you leave your plant to clump just remove the leaves of the mother plant as she starts to dry up, just pull the leaves out with a gentle sideways tug, if the leaf resists, its not dead yet, so just trim any dried areas instead. Once you've fully removed the mother plant, the gap that's left will quickly be filled in by the other plants growing & spreading.

    To remove the pups, they should be at least 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the mother plant. Hold both mother and pup at their bases and gently twist in a downward motion. If this does not happen easily, you may need to remove the pup by cutting downward as close to the mother as possible. Do not discard the mother plant yet, as long as she is still alive she will continue to produce more pups for you. Often taking several years after blooming before she finally dies.

    Tillandsias can be grown basically anywhere, on rocks, in a seashell or on coral, in ceramic or pottery, attached to wood (not pressure treated wood this is impregnated with copper, and copper will kill your plant). When considering what you are going to do with your plant don't forget that you have to be able to water it and it has to be placed somewhere that it will get sufficient light.

    Try not to put Tillandsias in containers that hold water, they need to dry out. If you do place your plant in something that holds water, empty out the excess after watering your plant. The same thing applies when mounting your plant. Do not surround your plant with Moss. It will hold too much water and will rot your plant.

    You can use glue, wire, fishing line, twisty ties, nails or staples. Nails and staples can only be used on plants with a woody stolon or with sufficient roots. DO NOT staple your plant on its fleshy parts as it will kill it. Try to use a waterproof glue such as Liquid Nails or a Hot Glue gun, allowing the glue to cool for 5 seconds. Do not not use superglue or copper wire as these will kill your plant.
Below are pictures of some in my collection

                                                                   My Air Wall

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