The World of Tillandsias

Better known as AIRPLANTS, the Tillandsias are fun to collect and care for. They are often misunderstood because people think they require no care. They are actually kind of strange and a little bit ugly, but that does not seem to bother their new plant owner!

 There are over 500 different species of Tillandsia found growing wild in South and Central America, the Caribbean, and the southern US. 

Opal examining the huge airplants!
The air plants don’t grow in the ground. they are known technically as “epiphytes”. They usually grow on tree branches that serve as host plants. The tillandsias do not take any nutrients or water from their host plant, and use their host only for support to grow on. They do no harm at all to their host plants.

Tillandsia  are actually perennial flowering plants in the Bromeliad family, and are closely related to pineapples. Spanish  Moss is Tillandsia Usneoides. 

In the wild the plant absorb water and nutrients from the air.  The flowers can bloom all year round, and look like little blue spikes at the end of a protruding stalk, which then produce  seed capsules. The mature seeds are dispersed by the wind,  until it lands on a tree branch and begin growing, using tiny rootlike tendrils to anchor itself to the tree until the leafs can wrap around and secure it in place. If a ball is pulled apart, each piece will grow into a new air plant.

In our home the care of our Tillandsias have a few requirements.

  • Water– soak  your Tillandsia 1-2 times per week in a bucket; more often in a hot, dry environment; less often in a cool, humid one. Plants should be given enough light and air circulation to dry in no longer than 4 hours after watering. 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. Do not keep plants constantly wet or moist.
  • Light– should be bright but filtered (April – October). They should not be left in the direct sun in the summer months (this will cause the plant to become sunburned ). Tillandsias love direct sun (November – March). Tillandsias may be grown in the house directly in front of a window. Fresh moving air is advisable, but remember, the most important care need is bright filtered light.
  • Fertilize – use fertilizer (17-8-22) twice a month. It is GREAT for blooming and reproduction! Any water-soluble fertilizers can be used at 1/4 strength (Dr. Earth, Miracle-Grow, etc.) 
  • Temperature – Optimum temperature range for tillandsias is 50 – 90 degrees F.
  • Display and mounting – Mount plants on almost anything, – Driftwood, manzanita, seashells, coral, lava rock, crystals using a non – water soluble glue. Set plants on the prospective mount. If you like the arrangement, proceed. Place adhesive on mount, and then place plants onto that area. Larger plants may be supported with fishing line until glue dries. Cover exposed adhesive area with sawdust, moss or sand to camouflage. Tillandsias will live happily suspended on a wire. In a terrarium, be sure one end is left open, they need air circulation.

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