Tillandsia Care

Tillandsia get their name from the fact that they quite literally grow in the air. Attaching themselves to trees, moss, vines, bromeliads, or even other air plants, these unique plants fill the canopy in their native Central/South America. Due to their unique growth habits Tillandsia make excellent houseplants and can be displayed in a variety of creative ways. From being attached to antlers or picture frames, in terrariums or hanging from ropes in the window, air plants are sure to make your space look a little more Amazonian. (Live in Canada? Buy Cork Tiles for mounting Tillandsia here.

Tillandsia do not need to be planted in any substrate, and can simply be placed on a surface like a table. Alternatively you can use hemp twine, fishing line, or super glue to attach them to your desired location. Due to their high natural habitat, Tillandsia thrive in bright light and can tolerate some direct sunlight however like most tropicals will prefer filtered light (such as through a sheer curtain). This also makes them excellent candidates for decorating fish tanks (a few plants growing on a dry protruding branch will give it a heavy jungle vibe), reptile and amphibian enclosures (provided they will not consume it), or terrariums.

It is important to know that when keeping air plants in glass terrariums or hanging glass globes direct sunlight will quickly overheat and potentially damage the plant, so it is recommended to keep any glass containers out of direct light.

The best way to provide moisture for Tillandsia is to mimic the rain and humidity of their natural habitat. This can be done with misting every few days to raise moisture levels if it is kept in a dry house, however will likely not be necessary in a tropical vivarium or terrarium. To replicate the heavy Amazon rainfall, plants should be soaked in dechlorinated water (not distilled!) between once a week to every few weeks depending on the season. Baths should be at least one hour, but can be up to 3. It is normal for air plants to appear slightly greyish and dusty-looking when dry, and this is no cause for concern as long as the leaves remain firm and the plant returns to a deeper green when soaked (although some air plants such as xerographica are largely always grey).

Air circulation is key to success with air plants, and they should be able to dry out in less than 6 hours after watering. This usually won’t be an issue for people keeping them as houseplants, but should be kept in mind for terrariums.

Air plants can be misted with very diluted fertilizer at the beginning of summer. We recommend an orchid fertilizer or bromeliad fertilizer if available. Our preference at home is to avoid prepared fertilizers and instead soak our air plants in aquarium water once every few months to provide a mild feeding. This is an excellent option, and room temperature pond water could be used as well.

All Bromeliads (including Tillandsias) only flower once in their lifetime, however don’t be quick to compost your air plant once the flower has passed. The end of flowering typically signals the start of pup growth, with each plant putting out between 2-8 pups before dying over the course of several weeks. We recommend leaving the pups attached to the mother plant until it has completely dried up. At this point you may remove them or simply trim the mother plant out and allow the pups to grow into a cluster and fill the gap.

The photos below show some air plants in their natural habitat, taken during our 2016 trip to Costa Rica.