Air Plant Care: How To Care For Tillandsia

Caring for Your Air Plants

Tillandsias grow differently than most other house plants, so they can be confusing to the beginner. They are really very hardy, and require much less attention than other house plants. The following simplifies the instruction but you can scroll down for much more specific information.

Caring for Your Air Plants

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Air plants in glass globes have become so popular that I get calls all the time about caring for them. Follow these simple instruction to enjoy your glass surrounded plant for many years. If you are looking for glass globes, find many unique designs in our shop.

Watering Your Air Plants

More About Water

The water you use is important. Avoid using distilled water! Softened water is a not good either because of the salt content. Filtered water, tap water that has sat long enough for the chlorine to dissipate, and bottled water are all fine. Pond water and aquarium water works well, too. In fact, they love the extra nutrients that the fish provide.

Outdoors you may never need to water Tillandsias if you live in humid Southeast or Florida. Indoors, the hotter and drier the air, the more you need to water. Plants should be given enough light and air circulation to dry in no longer than 3 hours after watering. Wind can be a detriment as the plant dries too quickly. Remember that inside with a window fan as well. If the plant dries within a very short period of time, it is not hydrating at all. 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. Under-watering is evidenced by an exaggerating of the natural concave curve of each leaf. After wetting your plants thoroughly, turn them upside down and gently shake them. I have found that the water that collects near the base is detrimental if left to long. I have lost many plants that way while learning. One last thing about watering your air plant - It is much better to water in the morning than at night. Air plants absorb the Carbon Dioxide from the air at night instead of the day time. If the plant is wet, it does not breath therefore, unless it can dry quickly at night, plan on morning baths. Find out a little more about watering in this blog post

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Air Plant Requirements

Air Circulation

Following each watering, Tillandsias should be given enough light and air circulation to dry in 4 hours or less. Do not keep plants constantly wet or moist. Do not allow them to dry too quickly though. 1-3 hours is optimum. Also if the air is hot, a breeze acts to cool the plant and keep it from becoming overheated.

Light

Full spectrum artificial light (fluorescent) is best. Plant should be no further than 36" from the fluorescent tubes and can be as close as 6". A four-tube 48" fixture works well. Bulbs can be any full spectrum type Gro-Lux, Repta-Sun, Vita-Lite, etc. Light should be set with a timer, 12 hours per day. 

Comfortable Temperature

Optimum temperature range for Tillandsias is 50 - 90 degrees F. I have kept my plants outside during 40 degree F. weather but only for a night or two knowing it would be warm during the day. Most tillandsia will die with frost. Learn here how to acclimate your plants to the outdoors after their indoor winter holiday.

Air Plant Growth Cycle

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Air Plant Life Cycle

Growth to Maturity

Air plants begin their life either as a pup or seedling. An individual plant may live for 3 to up 15 years before moving through the following stages. Depending on the season (mainly rainy versus dry), the plant's foliage may fluctuate between greens and brighter reds and oranges. This color change is known as "blushing".

Blooming & Pollination

Air plants bloom one time in their life. Most air plants blooms' have purple petals. The amount of flower bracts and length of bloomstalk depends on the species. In nature, pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees, butterflys and moths travel between the blooming plants.

Setting & Spreading Seed

If properly pollinated, air plants will produce seed after blooming. The seed capsules form out of the bases of the old flower petals. The seeds form in tufts of cotton-like material. This material is meant to be carried by the wind to different trees, branches or even cliff faces. Germinated seedling are extremely delicate and instiguishable from other air plant species until they are about two years old.

Sexual vs. Asexual Reproduction

There are two ways that air plants reproduce. Air plants germinated by seeds are from a sexual reproduction. The genetic makeup of the plant is from two parent plants. However, air plants also produce offsets after blooming, known better as "pups". These are genetically identical to the mother plant. Most people will encounter pups in their time working with Tillandsia, as germination of the seeds outside of nature or a nursery environment is rare. The air plant mother will go on to produce 2-8 pups in their lifetime before passing away.

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Removing Air Plant Pups

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Displaying Your Tillandsia

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