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Tillandsia, commonly known as air plants, are fascinating tiny plants whose popularity has grown. You have probably spotted them often at your local garden center or even at the grocery store. Better still, you or someone you know has a collection of tillandsias in their home. We all consider them a must-have addition to our collection of houseplants. Don’t we?
Proper tillandsia care is straightforward and relatively low maintenance compared to other plants. As many plants grow without soil, it would be best to get it right with other elements such as light, water, and temperature.
Are you keen to learn how to care for your tillandsias properly? Stick with us as we explore the best practices for taking care of tillandsias. This complete tillandsia care guide will share what you need to have happy and flourishing air plants.
The Right Way to Water Your Tillandsia
Generally, plants have a root system that performs many functions, one of them being to help them get water and nutrients from the soil. However, the case is different with Tillandsias.
They only have small roots that carry out the sole function of offering support while using their leaves to absorb moisture and nutrients.
Tillandsias get all the moisture they need in their natural habitats from either rainfall or enough humidity in their native areas like Southern US, Mexico, and Central America. But when you keep your air plants at home, you must adopt a watering schedule to provide the required moisture.
Here is a definitive guide on the correct way to water your air plants:
- The type of water to use: Use lukewarm water for your air plants. It would be great if you could find rainwater or spring water because this kind has beneficial minerals for your tillandsias. Alternatively, use the lake, well, or pond water, but skip fertilization when you do. If you need tap water, allow it to settle for 24 hours so the chlorine can dissolve. Avoid distilled, filtered, and contaminated or dirty water on your tillandsias.
- Incorporate misting and soaking: To ensure your air plant gets sufficient water, mist it at least once a week and soak it at least once in two weeks. However, it is important to note that your watering frequency highly depends on the location of your tillandsias and the season. This simply means that you may need to water your plants more during summer than you would during winter.
- If your tillandsia is placed near a fireplace, you may need to water it more than you would if it were placed near a kitchen sink.
- What to do after watering your air plants: With tillandsias, leaving them drenched in water is a bad idea. This is because the excess water will cause your plant to rot. Therefore, turn your plant upside down after soaking to drain excess water.
- Within one to three hours, your tillandsia will be dry enough for you to return it to its usual spot. To be safe, water your air plant during morning hours to give it ample time to dry before nighttime when they respire.
The Right Amount of Light Your Tillandsia Needs
Plants need light for a successful photosynthesis process, and tillandsias are no exception and have particular light requirements. Here are some guidelines on the perfect amount of light that will make your tillandsias “happy”:
- Give your tillandsias bright but indirect sunlight. If you expose your plants to direct sunlight, you will fry them. To achieve bright and indirect sunlight, you must get the location right. Therefore, you should place your air plants near an east or south-facing window.
- A north-facing window could work if no trees or buildings block the sun from reaching it. Nonetheless, we highly discourage west-facing windows since they do not receive sufficient sunlight.
- Alternative sources of light also work well with tillandsias. Worry less if you have kept your tillandsia in a room without access to sunlight. You are required to ensure you get the right lighting for your plant. Use a full spectrum fluorescent light and see that your tillandsia is exposed to this light for at least 12 hours daily. The distance between your tillandsia and the light source also matters; ensure they are not more than three feet apart.
The Best Temperature for your Tillandsias
It would be best to remember that tillandsias dislike freezing temperatures, and very high temperatures are also not very friendly for these unique plants.
The best temperature for your tillandsia to thrive ranges between 10°C and 32°C. Any temperature above or below this range can be detrimental to your air plants.
For instance, if you live in a coastal area that tends to get overly hot for many days during summer, you can take the following steps to save your plants:
- Provide more shade for your plants against the hot sun to avoid scorching it.
- Increase your watering frequency. Your plant will be thirstier because of the high heat. You, therefore, need to water it more and inspect it daily during summer for any signs of overdrying.
- Supplement the tillandsia’s nutrition. Your plants will benefit highly from extra nutrients during high heat. Using fertilizers meant for tillandsias will therefore be helpful.
On the other hand, when temperatures get too cold, here’s how to keep your air plant alive:
- Increase your plant’s exposure to sunlight. Allow your plant to get warmer, and remember to remove it from the sun when it’s warm enough.
- Cover your tillandsias at night to keep them warm.
- Protect them from the wind. You can do this by placing them next to a building or in a patio that will act as a barrier from the wind.
How to Fertilize Tillandsias
You will be happy to learn that fertilizing tillandsias isn’t mandatory, especially if you water with rain or pond water. However, giving your plants more nutrients will go a long way in helping them thrive. Fertilizing tillandsias is a reasonably straightforward process. Keep the following pointers in mind, and you are good to go:
- Use a fertilizer that is specifically made for air plants or bromeliads. An alternative can be a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer at a quarter of the recommended concentration.
- Pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions on correctly using the air plant or bromeliad fertilizer.
- You can fertilize your air plants once a year or every quarter.
- To ensure your air plants get food and water simultaneously, add the diluted fertilizer to the water you use on your plants.
The Best Way to Handle Your Tillandsias During Display
Because tillandsias do not grow in soil, you can display them creatively in your space. You can either mount, perch, suspend, or place them in decorative containers. After doing everything to have thriving tillandsias, it would be sad to lose them because of mishaps during the display. Here are the best practices:
- When mounting tillandsias on surfaces such as boards or trees, ensure they are securely attached to this surface. You can use a wire, fishing line or good glue for light air plants. The best way to water your mounted tillandsias is through misting.
- Proper care is needed for air plants displayed in a glass terrarium or any other container. Take them out during watering and allow them to fully dry before placing them back. Also, be keen on ensuring proper air circulation for the plants.
Air Circulation for Tillandsias
Ample air circulation is another essential ingredient in air plant care. Good air circulation will:
- Ensure your plants get the oxygen they need for photosynthesis and the carbon dioxide they need for respiration.
- Help the air plants dry up faster after watering them and
- Discourage pest infestation.
Provide good air circulation for your air plants by considering the recommended spacing between plants, placing them away from barriers such as tall structures, and exposing them to sunlight.
Caring for Tillandsias in case of Pest Infestation
Tillandsias are relatively pest-free plants. But in those unfortunate instances when they get attacked by either scales, mealybugs, or insect bites, this is what you will need to do:
- First, isolate the plant from other houseplants to prevent spreading.
- Use a cloth with some rubbing alcohol to remove the pests. If you must use an insecticide, ensure it’s not soap-based to avoid blocking the pores the plant uses to breathe.
- Then increase the air circulation in that location to discourage more pest infestation.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my air plant is healthy?
Check your plants’ leaves for clues on whether they are thirsty. Dry curl leaves and a healthy white fuzz mean your plant is healthy, not necessarily drying out. Brown leaf tips and a general shriveled appearance are other clues you are under-watering.
Can air plants survive without air?
Air plants cannot live on air alone; they get nutrition by absorbing water through their leaves if the air in your home is arid, water an air plant more often (every five days), and in a humid environment, water tillandsias every ten days.
Can I plant a Tillandsia in soil?
An air plant will not grow in soil; air plants will grow on bushes, rocks, and shrubs. Other epiphytes include orchids and many kinds of ferns.
How long can air plants go without water?
Mesic air plants can survive for up to two weeks without being watered. Remember that the plant will survive in most cases but not thrive. Watering is required regularly for the majority of mesic air plants.
Do air plants get bigger?
They start to grow a little faster after the first few years. While seed-grown plants develop significantly slower than offset-grown plants, they tend to be larger and better specimens. Be patient when a little air plant might take years to grow and bloom.
We have said so much about proper tillandsia care. Here is a summary of the conditions you need to adopt for an easy time with growing healthy tillandsias:
- Water – Do not overwater or underwater your tillandsias. Use the right type of water on your plants. Include misting and soaking in your watering schedule w, depending on the plant’s location and season.
- Light – Your tillandsias need bright but indirect sunlight. You can use a full-spectrum fluorescent bulb as an alternative light source.
- Temperature – The best temperature for your air plants ranges between 10 to 32°C.
- Fertilization – Always use an air-plant-specific fertilizer. Ideally, you can fertilize your tillandsias once a month or every quarter.
- Display – Ensure your air plants are safely mounted. If placed in containers, be keen on watering practices and air circulation.
- Air Circulation – Give your tillandsias ample air circulation.
- Pests – Isolate the infested tillandsias and find a safe way to get rid of the pests.
If you want to learn how to grow tillandsia, please click the link How to propagate tillandsia.
To this end, you will agree that tillandsias aren’t so demanding. They only need air, light, warmth, water, and nutrition!