How To Care For Air Plants
The misconception that Tillandsias survive on air only is probably the biggest reason for these plants dying or people not having success with them. Air plants are fairly easy to grow if the correct growing conditions and care is provided.
Some of the simple factors which is necessary and therefore affect all plant growth are also needed for air plants. How much light, water, air and what the temperature range for these plants are is what is most important.
Most air plants require very high light conditions to grow well. Placing them in your bathroom will therefore not be the best and the plant will not survive for long. In general, most air plants will not survive indoors for long. Bright light is needed for optimal growth but the amount of light needed and what the plants can handle will also be dependent on humidity and air movement. If the plants are grown in a garden along the coast with constant high humidity and good air movement, air plants may be grown in full sun. In the interior where humidity is lower for most of the year and temperatures can be fairly high in summer, it is advisable to grow these plants in bright light or morning sun but not full day sun. If grown under low light conditions the plants will often lose their grey colour and grow to be lanky and soft. In most cases they will eventually die.
Water is important for any living thing and as explained in the first article of this series, these plants do require water and cannot live off of the air only. The amount of water will depend greatly on the type of Tillandsia. In general, the greener the leaf, the more water is required to keep the plant happy. Those plants with more silver/grey will be able to survive on less water. When watering the plants give them a good spray with the hose pipe or dunk them in water for a short while. The colour of the leaves will go slightly greener when properly watered. The frequency of watering will depend on temperatures and humidity. In colder times once a week should be sufficient. Plants grown in areas with high humidity will probably only have to be watered once a week in summer. Those grown in warmer, drier climates will need more frequent watering, as frequent as every second or third day.
Air and air movement is important for these plants as this is something they have in ample quantities where they come from. The lack of air movement is often one of the factors which contributes to the death of these plants when grown indoors. Try and place your plants in a well-ventilated spot for best results. The varieties with bulbous bases and lots of grey scales also prefer to dry out a little and not stay moist all the time. Proper air movement will assist in this and prevent water accumulating in the crown which could cause rot in some varieties.
Temperature ranges in which the plants will be able to grow will depend on the species. There are some species which can handle colder conditions in winter than other while some will fare better in the hot dry summers than others. Almost none of the Tillandsias will be able to handle frost so be sure to protect them from the cold. In warmer climates, protect these plants from the worst of the heat by ensuring they are grown in a spot which is sheltered from mid-day sun and has proper air movement.
Where should you grow your air plants:
Having said that they will not survive for long periods indoors, they can be placed in the home for display for a few weeks and then returned to the outside growing area without too much damage to the plants. In cold climates these plants might also be brought indoors during the coldest part of winter to protect from the worst of the cold.
Grow your air plants on trees and shrubs or dead branches in the garden, on the patio or if you have one; a shade house or greenhouse. They are very adaptable and will fare well in a range of conditions. When you grow them in the garden, these plants may be tied to a branch or a wooden trellis with stockings cut into thin strips. The elastic stockings will firmly hold the plan in place until the roots have grown onto the mount/host and eventually just disintegrate unlike wire, fishing gut or twine which can also damage the plants. Some growers even attach their plants to the host with a quick drying glue.
Be creative and make a feature of your air plants by creating a tree made up of a dry tree stump covered in Spanish moss, hanging wooden hanging baskets filled with air plants all over your garden or even using wind chimes and dreamcatchers as mounts. Use your imagination.
Create a curtain of Spanish moss or by suspending lots of other air plants from a rope, grow them on a trellis to have a different look than a creeper clad trellis.
There are lots of ways in which to display your air plants to look their best and make your garden and home look great.