Connie Lowery of the Calusa Garden Club never met a Tillandsia she did not like! For Connie, Tillandsias or “Tillys” are the perfect patio or house plant. They are spiky, fuzzy, round, trailing like a ponytail, with many colors and they have delicate miniature flowers.
Cristina Leske, another member of the garden club, became interested in Tillandsia after a talk with Connie. She started collecting them and also used them as table centerpieces for a rehearsal dinner for one of her sons who had a beach destination wedding. Cristina also got hooked on Tillandsias.
Tillandsias are air plants or epiphytes, which means that they do not require soil to grow. In nature, they grow on other plants—their roots clinging to tree trunks or branches. Tillandsias will grow on bushes, rocks, shrubs, even glass bowls, terrariums and the inside of seashells. Tillandsias are low-maintenance plants and require little space.
There are many types of Tillandsias—silver, green, smooth, thin leaves like grass types and thick leathery ones.
The best thing about Tillandsia, you can mount or glue them to hang on a wall or arrange them in a planter suspended from the ceiling and you don’t have to know which side is up or down or sideways.
Air plants can’t live on air alone and get their nutrition by absorbing water through their leaves. In nature, this is no problem. As an indoor plant, however, a good rule of thumb is to water an air plant once a week especially if your house is too dry. It will tell you when they need more or less water.
Air Plant Bath – Remove them from wherever you have them displayed. For the author, no matter the type of tillandsia, I water mine the same—I throw them in the sink full of water and let them soak for at least ½ hour. Sometimes I forget and they soak much longer. That won’t hurt the plant.
Remove the plant from its water bath and hold upside down and give it a good shake to get rid of excess water. Return the air plants to their regular container until the next Air Plant Bath. The most common problem people have with air plants are due to incorrect watering.
When you buy Tillandsias from a nursery or big box store, the label recommends spritzing them with water from a misting bottle a few times a week. In the wild, they absorb moisture from the air which is much more humid than indoors, so it’s preferable to soak them to rehydrate them.
Like all plants, they do need sunlight. Just because they don’t need soil, doesn’t mean it can survive without air or light. Air plants prefer several hours a day of indirect light.
Tillandsias can brighten a dull location with minimal effort. Use air plants rather than gold fish for your terrarium and accessorize with colored marbles, rocks, corals or moss. They also look great on a metal frame on your patio wall, as Connie and Cristina did.
Tillandsia’s bloom comes in arrays of colors such as red, purple, yellow, orange and magenta and you can blend the colors to get the most appeal.
If you live a hectic and busy life, the easy-care nature of Tillandsia is perfect. They are perfect for any space since you can customize their containers and you can easily move them from one location to another.
Tillandsias are resistant to disease and pests as well. With the right amount of water and light, they will last longer and they don’t die off easily. Plus, they have Air Babies which will grow from the main plant which you can transfer to another container—thus increasing your collection or share them as gifts.