Air Plant Highlight: Spanish Moss

air plant tillandsia spanish moss care

What is Spanish Moss?

One of the most common yet unique air plants found here in the United States is the Tillandsia Usneoides, better known as Spanish Moss. If you are native to the South or have visited cities such as Charleston, New Orleans, Savannah, or even our hometown of Saint Augustine, then you have probably set eyes on these whimsical, flowing strands from the ancient live oaks or swamp-loving cypress trees.

Contradicting its name, Spanish Moss is neither Spanish nor moss but is a bromeliad that is indigenous to regions of Central and South America, parts of the Caribbean, and southern United States. The name was given to this plant when French explorers recognized the resemblance of the tillandsia to the beards of Spanish Conquistadors, hence naming it “Spanish Beard” which led to “Spanish Moss”. Today the air plant is most often known for its aesthetic qualities and use in plant arrangements, but it has also historically been known for its use as mulch, insulation, and stuffing for mattresses and even automobile upholstery. 

Is it a live plant?


Along with other species of air plants, Spanish Moss is an epiphyte, and it collects minerals and nutrients needed for survival from the surrounding air and rainwater through its trichomes, the fuzzy hair-like substances seen on the strands. The Southern Live Oaks and Bald Cypress trees create the perfect habitat for the Spanish Moss as they have high rates of foliar mineral leaching of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Although the Spanish Moss relies on the trees for such nutrition, they are not parasitic to them as they only use the trees for support and not to draw in nutrients.  

air plant tillandsia spanish moss care

Will mine have bugs in it?

If you are familiar with Spanish Moss in the wild, then you have probably been warned of the pests it may contain such as chiggers or red bugs. This is a common concern among customers who are considering purchasing the Spanish Moss. We are happy to assure you, however, that all our Spanish Moss is grown in a controlled greenhouse environment and is routinely treated for pests.

How Do I Take Care of It?

Caring for Spanish Moss is very simple and similar to caring for other species of air plants. Proper hydration and plenty of air circulation are the key factors in providing a happy home for your Spanish Moss. Soaking in rainwater weekly is ideal, but frequent misting will also do the trick and will help prevent breakage. Providing bright, indirect light and partial sun in a warm area either indoors or outdoors is preferable. Direct, hot sun will dry the moss. 

Now that you know the odds and ends of this eccentric and admired species of Tillandsia, you can grow the Spanish Moss yourself and use it in your air plant and succulent designs! The sky is the limit when decorating and you will really enjoy adding dimension, color contrast, and scale to your designs and projects.

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