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Tillandsia Care | Enjoy Live Air Plants without the Maintenance

Tillandsia Care | Enjoy Live Air Plants without the Maintenance
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Do you love plants but don’t have a green thumb? Do you like the idea of live plants but don’t have the time to devote to plant care? Perhaps you’re a plant connoisseur looking for an interesting species to explore? If you answered yes to any these questions, then Tillandsia (commonly known as the air plant) is for you!

Air Plant in Shell
Photo/Art by Shelley Wigglesworth
Tillandsia is a genus of over 500 species in the Bromeliad family, native to Central and South America, Mexico and Southern regions of the United States. Unlike typical plants, air plants do not require soil and traditional watering to flourish. Moisture and nutrients (from dust and other microscopic decaying matter) are filtered from the air by the plant, providing it with all necessities needed for it to survive and thrive.

In addition to offering all the benefits of traditional soil-potted house
plants–including enhancing air quality inside the home by filtering out carbon dioxide and other toxins, air plants are extremely versatile and have limitless display options.

Air plants may be placed in both traditional and non-traditional plant pots or hangers. Bathrooms are an ideal environment for air plants as they thrive in moisture filled spaces.

Whether grouped together as a dish garden, perched on a ledge, or under a glass dome, the possibilities for creativity with Tillandsia are endless. So go ahead and have fun with your new favorite friend. Try tucking your air plant into a favorite seashell or tea cup, placing it on a shelf, or setting it in a simple basket or bowl. Brighten up your office area by adding one or two to your desk or bookshelf.

Air Plant in glass bowl
Photo/Art by Shelley Wigglesworth
Tillandsia Care, Life Cycle and Maintenance:

Tillandsias can live for several years; although each plant will bloom and produce flowers only once during their lifetime. The bloom period will last anywhere from a few days to up to a month, depending on the species. Around bloom time, offshoots or “babies” will begin to grow at the base of the main plant. Tillandsia babies resemble the adult air plant in miniature. Babies may be removed by gently pulling them apart from the parent plant. Once removed, baby air plants are ready to begin their life cycle independently in their own container or space.

Submerge newly acquired plants in a bowl of water at room temperature. Allow the plants to soak for 20-30 minutes. Gently shake excess water from the plants. Allow plants to dry in a bright area with good air circulation. Soaking should be repeated 2-3 times per month. Do not submerge the blooms of flowering plants.

If your plants begin to look brown at the tips or start to wither between soakings, try an occasional misting from a spray bottle. Wrinkled and dry leaves are a sign of dehydration. It’s normal for some of the lower leaves the Tillandsias to dry out as the plant grows or acclimates to a new environment. Gently pull or snip any dead leaves off of the plant.

Air plants should be placed in areas of indirect light. Over exposure to light will quickly dry out and kill air plants.

Shelley Wigglesworth


Shelley Wigglesworth


Shelley (Fleming) Wigglesworth is an award-winning freelance journalist from Maine specializing in maritime topics and the commercial fishing industry. She is also a certified Maine Master Gardener who writes gardening articles on a regular basis for Yankee Magazine. Her work can be found in the following publications: The York County Coast Star, Portsmouth Herald, Bangor Daily News, Yankee Magazine (online), National Fisherman Magazine, Commercial Fisheries News, Tourist News, Points East Magazine, Coastal Angler and The Maine Lobstermen's Association’s “Landings.” Follow Shelley on Facebook.
Updated Sunday, February 20th, 2011

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