Caring for Your Air Plants (Tillandsia)
THE LARGEST GENUS IN THE BROMELIAD FAMILY
Tillandsia is the largest genus in the bromeliad family, commonly known as air plants. They can be found in many different regions and climates such as; jungles, rain forest, arid deserts and sea level to high mountains. Tillandsia blooms are as diverse and beautiful as any in the plant world and can last from a few days to as long as a year with some of the slower growing plants.
Tillandsia in the home or office must receive enough bright light (filtered sunlight) and moisture for a healthy plant. In place of natural light, a broad spectrum fluorescent light is recommended. Ideal watering schedule is one to two times a week.
Air plants thrive in outdoor environments for instance; hanging from under a tree canopy, placed in a covered screened patio, the Tillandsia along with natural bright filtered sunlight, provide just the right environment air plants love. Watering once a week for humid environments, twice weekly for the dryer climates. Dehydration will occur when the plant’s foliage begins to curl. Remedy, soak plants in water up to 15 minutes.
Air plants tend to grow in colonies or clusters, many look very nice just hanging on their own without mounting media. Since most Tillandsia are epiphytic the possibilities of mounting media are almost endless. Media suggestions are grape wood, drift wood, tree limbs/stumps, cork, clay pottery, rock or stones. A few things to consider when selecting your mounting media, be sure the media does not hold water, drill a hole in wood for complete drainage. Air plants can not sit in water, this will cause root rot. Adhesives can also be used for securing the plants onto the media such as: E6000, low temp hot glue or Liquid Nails. We recommend E6000 for it’s colorless, strength, water-proof and most importantly non-toxic qualities. Eventually, the Tillandsia will attach roots and anchor to the mount.
Tillandsia reproduce by offsets (pups) or by seed. Many send up pups from the base or between the leaves of the mother plant. This is one characteristic that endears Tillandsia to plant enthusiasts. In some air plants, it is not unusual to see any where from 4 to 8 offsets appearing before, during or after bloom of the mother plant. Young plants can be separated from the mother when they are a third to half of the mother’s size. Reproduction by seed is a rewarding process; however, the growing of the seedling can be very slow, taking years before the young plant matures.
Fertilize once a month, Tillandsia absorb water and nutrients through their foliage. Must watch for over-fertilization. Recommended use of any liquid or water soluble plant food that is “LOW IN COPPER”. (High amounts of copper are toxic to bromeliad species). Dilute to ¼ strength. A monthly fertilizer routine is not essential for the plant’s survival; it will however, boost the plant’s growth, color and bud.
Very tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, most species can withstand near freezing temperatures. Although preferring temperatures in the seventies (fahrenheit) Tillandsia will do quite well in the nineties with increased water, air circulation and shade.
Not enough water. If your Tillandsia are not receiving water from Mother Nature or humidity is very low, watering one to two times weekly is necessary.
Too little light. Especially if plants are indoors, need to be near a bright window (filtered light not direct sun light).
Tillandsia are epiphytes. Placing them in soil or covering their bases with moss can cause a wet environment resulting in root rot.
Too much fertilizer. Too much fertilizer can burn air plants. It’s important to use a non-urea nitrogen fertilizer, and dilute fertilizer to 1/4 strength of recommended dosage.