Guidance on Tillandsias:
Air Plants are members of the bromeliad family (just like the pineapple!). The major difference between them and other bromeliads is that they are part of a specific genus, tillandsia, which is considered epiphytic.
Epip-what!? Epiphyte comes from the Greek epi- (meaning 'upon') and phyton (meaning 'plant') – in other words – they can live on top of other plants/don’t require soil (think moss growing on a tree trunk) – or in other words they are air plants!
Bonus fact: Spanish moss is a tillandsia – just like your air plant!
To learn about how to best take care of your new friend we have complied answers to some frequently asked questions.
Tillandsias are called air plants because they just need air to survive, right? No, they need water, sun, and nutrients just like every plant. In nature, they get rain and lots of sun. You will not find them growing in a cave (i.e., away from the window in your home).
I heard the best place to keep a tillandsia is the bathroom as it provides humidity, is this correct? Most likely this is the worst place to keep your tillandsia. The humidity provided is likely for only a short period or time and inadequate for their water needs. Likewise, many bathrooms have very minimal light due to small windows or frosted glass.
Do tillandsias have roots? Yes! But they aren’t for absorbing water. They exist solely to help anchor the plants to tree branches, rock faces, and even telephone wires where they can best sunbathe.
If they don’t use their roots to pull water, then how do they absorb water? Those tiny gray hairs all over your plant are not because they are stressed. In simplest terms, this fuzz is how the plant absorbs water and nutrients.
How much sun should I give my Tillandsia? They love the sun and need it to thrive. Make sure it's new home has the most bright, indirect you can give them. A few hours of full sun will also be a benefit, if it is in the morning or late afternoon. As they have been acclimated for the indoors, full and direct sun all day that they might enjoy in their natural outdoor environment would be a bit too much.
Will my tillandsia flower? And when? It can flower with patience and good care… the trick is when. As they are inside (artificial environment) they can be a bit unpredictable. Though rare, we consider a flower a sign of good luck!
What is the biggest mistake I can make with my Tillandsia? There are three common mistakes. Not providing enough light, not providing enough water, and keeping them wet for too long (i.e., not enough air circulation). Let’s examine:
Symptom: leaf tipping, leaf curling, and/or shriveled appearance. Cause: not enough water. The good news is that this is correctable with a good soak!
Symptom: mushy, base is brown or black, rotting and falling apart. Causes: the tillandsia has remained wet for an extended period and not been able to dry out. This is either due to the lack of air circulation, it being placed on a wet medium (a swampy terrarium), or the light is insufficient for the plant to photosynthesize and absorb water. The good news is that this is preventable. Remember tillandsias can’t really be overwatered but they do need good air circulation, light, and the ability to dry out.
How often should I fertilize my plant? This could be anywhere from monthly to every few months. Its best to buy a fertilizer specifically for tillandsias and follow the instructions provided.
How should I water my plant? There are numerous methods and instructions available online from misting to dunking to soaking. In our experience all three can be utilized however each must be executed correctly. Our suggested method is to submerge your tillandsia in water for 1 -2 hours, every week.
Tips Provided by Andrew Engel, Chief Horticulturist,
John Mini Distinctive Landscapes