What is an Air Plant?

An Air plant is a type of plant that’s called an epiphyte, which is just a fancy, hard-to-pronounce, scientific shorthand for saying these are plants that grow without the need for dirt. In their natural environments, these plants will perch above the ground and often find footing in the strangest of places. These persistent plants will hook on and attach to things like trees, rocks, shrubs, and practically anything that stays still long enough for them to find on the ground. Air plants use their roots as an anchor to secure their support in place. The leaves on the plant handle the job of absorbing moisture. Each of the leaves on the plant is covered in a specialized scale that is called a trichome. These scales allow the plant to absorb the needed water and nutrients. Depending on the variety of plant, some of the trichome will be smooth while others are hairy.

How to Take Care of Air Plants

Houseplants are one of those lovely, delightful things that can help brighten up a home quickly, and easily, without much effort most of the time. But for those of us with the black thumb of death, instead of the coveted green thumb, there aren’t a lot of options for plants that won’t die at the mere mention of our names. There is one exception, though: air plants. You can find these lovely little plants at a variety of stores, like Home Depot, gardening centers, Wal-Mart, and even some gift shops. You can choose from over 650 different varieties of these little guys that come in many sizes and shapes. But what are these odd little living things?  

How Do You Care for Air Plants?

As mentioned above, caring for an air plant is very easy – that’s why us black-thumbers can do it. The chief thing that air plants need to live is a constant amount of air circulation. Depending on the variety of the plant, it may need to be watered only once every one or two weeks, as well. Watering your plant is simple:

Place the air plant in the sink.

Very lightly rinse the plant.

Allow the plant to sit in the sink overnight so it may drain excess water.

In the morning, take the plant and put is back in its place.

Then you can admire your nearly indestructible house plant.


When Watering

While watering the plant, make sure to pay attention to the little silver disk or scales on the plant. These are the way that the plant can absorb moisture and nutrients. Make sure that the discs get moistened. Most tap water is hard or soft, so be sure to use bottled water or rain water for your plant, instead of standard tap water. Both soft and hard water contain elements that are harmful to your plants.

Air Circulation

Make sure your air plant gets enough air. They need to have a healthy amount of circulation to grow well. If they do not have the right amount of air circulation, then it’s possible for the plant to not dry quick enough from water, and they can start suffering from crown rot. If you are concerned that your indoor plant isn’t getting enough air then you can set up a fan that blows away from the plant. Make sure the fan does not blow directly onto the plant, though, or you will dry the plant out instead.

With Fertelization

Your plant will need fertilizer around every four weeks. If you use liquid fertilizer, you can use a 10-5-5 ratio without a problem. Pay attention to how your plant is growing. If it seems to be growing slowly, or seems to be lacking color, then you can try giving fertilizer more frequently.

Watch Out for Rot

If the crown or roots develop a rot, either place will start to look brown, or gray, and slimy. If the rot is located just on the roots, then you can trim off the roots. If the rot is on the crown then this is normally fatal for the plants.

Drying Out

If it seems like your plant is really dried out, there is a way to help your plant survive. Remove it from where you have it and place the bottom of the plant in a bowl of water for several hours. If, during the winter months, your air plants seem to be turning brown, or seems dry, you can help fix this by misting water at the base of the plant.

Concerning Sunlight

While almost every plant loves sunlight, you have to make sure to protect air plants from being in the full strength of the sun. When you set the plant up near a window, or outside, make sure it faces a south-east, south-west, or north-east, and north-west direction. By doing this you will help it get an optimum amount of sunlight without the risk of overexposure. Certain types of this plant need to grow indoors with artificial light being their main source of light, rather than sunlight.

About Temperatures

Air plants cannot handle degrees colder than forty-five degrees Fahrenheit.

How to Display Air Plants

Because air plants are so versatile, there are many ways that you can put them on display. A great way to display the plant in your house is by placing them in a bowl. This can be made into an interesting decoration by filling the bowl with colorful and attractive rocks before you place your plant in. Other options are to fill the bowl with glass beads or seashells. If you use rocks, you can also hot-glue the plant in to help give it additional stability. Another way to display air plants is by tying them to another object. These objects can be anything from a rock to a piece of driftwood. You can either tie them to the object with nylon fishing line, or, if you are concerned about wind, you can also use construction glue or hot-glue to help make it a more permanent fixture to a piece of wood or rock. Regardless of how you choose to display your air plants, make sure that you do not place soil or moss at the bottom of your plant. If you cover the roots, then the plant will get too wet and begin to rot.

Types of Air Plants

There are many different types of air plants that are available. Here are just a few examples.

1. Tillandsia Myosura

Tillandsia MyosuraThe name of this variety comes from Latin. “Myosure” means mouse tail in Latin. This is an apt name because it best describes the thin and curving leaves on the plant. This is a variety that grows easily and quickly forms clumps of young plants.

2. Tillandsia Lorentziana

Tillandsia LorentzianaAir plants reproduce by creating small offsets. These are sometimes called pups. These offsets will form alongside the mother plant. This particular air plant, which is a native to both Boliva and Brazil, will reproduce very quickly and reproduces by forming clumps. This plant also has white leaves, which are almost velvet-like to the touch.

3. Tillandsia Bergeri

Tillandsia BergeriWhile most air plants will only form pups during certain seasons, this one will produce them year-round. It is best to grow these suspended so that the clumps can develop freely. This is a plant that enjoys high humidity.

4. Tillandsia Tricolor

Tillandsia TricolorMany of the air plants have really colorful leaves on them. This particular air plant has bright green leaves that are contrasted with a dark base. There is a high light of red tint on both the foliage and flowers.

5. Tillandsia “Houston”

Tillandsia Houston with Pink PetalsThis particular air plant has silvery leaves. This coloring is an indicator that is a more drought-tolerant variety. This means that it can go without water longer than other varieties and is able to withstand brighter lights with no problem.

6. Tillandsia Abdita

Tillandsia Abdita GrandeThis is a variety of air plant that will produce a flower spike. During the process of blooming it will produce striking colors.

7. Tillandsia Caliginosa

Tillandsia CaliginosaThis air plant is a native to both the countries of Argentina and Bolivia. When the plant opens it has fragrant blooms that are a yellow toned. These flowers act as a beautiful contrast to its white leaves. It is a slow grower and can take several seasons for it form clumps.

8. Tillandsia Huamelula

Tillandsia HuamelulaPossessing a salmon tint, it is a smaller variety that grows around two to three inches tall.

9. Tillandsia Neglecta

Tillandsia NeglectaThis variety of air plant has green leaves and a purple base. It is native to Brazil and has flowers that bloom in shades of coral and blue. The flowering of this plant begins when it is in ideal conditions from late winter through midsummer.

Air Plants: An Easy-to-Care-for Plant

Ultimately, the most accommodating feature of an air plant is that they just don’t need a lot of work. They don’t require that special touch from those blessed by Mother Earth to care for her plants. Instead, anyone can take care of these plants that love nothing more than to be left to themselves, playing and multiplying in the breeze. keyword: air plants

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