Air Plants: What are they and how do they survive?

Published on August 17th 2018
Air plants seem to have come back a storm recently and they are somewhat a mystery as to how they survive.
Tillandsias are a genus of 650 perennial, evergreen flowering plants native to warmer climates. They are found from jungle to arid desert environments – from sea level to high mountain regions. Some have adapted to grow in trees or swamps while others are from rocks or deserts, often without soil and thus referred to as air plants.
Tillandsia is the largest genus in the bromeliad family. Tillandsia duratii grows as an epiphyte on trees, shrubs and cacti, and occasionally as a lithophyte on rocks, both in sun or shade primarily in the drier areas.
Grow it in a well-ventilated place mounted on wood or grown bare root. They thrive in a wide range of light, water, and temperature conditions. The water and light levels should be complementary, and when given in high doses, T. duratii often grows very large.
Tillandsia intermedia is one of the most interesting tillandsias because it hangs upside down and although it produces basal offsets, it also grows them from the inflorescence itself. This means that over time it will cascade down into an ever larger and thicker clump. PLUS, it has an incredibly modern and attractive shape. The leaves can curve into circles that give this species such a whimsical appearance.
Tillandsia ionantha require some attention with regular misting and soakings. The Ionantha varieties love sunlight, so they should also be kept in an area that gets adequate light throughout the day (east or west-facing windows are best). Soaking the plant once or twice a week depending on the environment and regular misting as needed is recommended.
Spanish Moss has no relation to the moss family, in fact, Spanish moss is a bromeliad. It is a tiny epiphyte gulping moisture from the surrounding air. This flowering "air" plant grows in the upper reaches of tall trees or other structures and uses the scales on the leaves and its curving structure to anchor itself.


Possibly one of the simplest houseplants to care for. Air plants don’t have roots so use their leaves to obtain all the water and nutrients they need to survive. When living inside, they need a little help; spraying them with dilute orchid feed works very well. When the weather is hot and dry, they benefit from being submerged in rainwater, before being put on a towel to dry out. As a rough guide, usually the thinner the leaf, the more water needed.
Always mist your air plants in the morning and make sure to shake off any excess water before setting them out to dry.
Here's a long list of many types you might be interested in getting...

If you like this story and want to read more, download the Candide app and head over to the Discover section.

Free download for your phone or tablet
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Lots to see

Making plans to stay local or explore a new area? Use the Places map to explore and find out more details of gardens around your current location. To find gardens and garden centres near you download our free app.
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play