Simple and Sophisticated: Tillandsia, the Untethered Air Plant
Tillandsia, the genus more commonly known as air plants, are among a type of varied Bromeliads finding themselves among the most trendsetting and interesting in recent years.
Artists and sculptors alike have begun to create bowls, terrariums and wooden housings specifically for the presentation of plantings exhibiting such unique characteristics as spiral patterns, unusual twists and textures as yet unseen in any other plantings. The eye catching symmetries alone have inspired many to create one-of-a-kind landscapes that parallel no other.
While some air plants are stout of an almost succulent appearance, others feature unusual leaves and yet others resemble ornamental grasses. Some have small flowers of varying colors ranging from white and yellow to red, violet and even the deepest of purples in the axil of richly colored small leaves or bracts.
They can range in size from the small half inch Tillandsia usneoides plant, with its waxy deep green flower the size of an aphid, to a spiky flower stem that can be up to two to three feet long. When T. usneoides attach to each other from end to end and dangle from certain oak trees, it’s called Spanish Moss.
Air plants fall into the category of epiphytes, which grow on branches of trees, rather than soil.
However, despite growing alongside the exterior of the tree’s limbs, however unlike a plant like mistletoe they aren’t parasitic. The so called “root structure” is nothing more than an anchor which sort of tacks the growth to the tree. The Tillandsia isn’t drawing any nutrients or water from the tree through its anchors, but instead takes everything it needs to sustain itself through its leaves, eliminating the need for it to have any real anchors to any surface at all. This is why artists and plant lovers can get so creative with the use of the air plant creating pairings that would be impossible if anchors to soil were necessary.
Air plants thrive in indirect filtered light, some needing more light than others depending on the nature of the leaf. Tillandsia is best placed close to a window or if a window is unavailable it can be supplemented with full-spectrum grow lights.
Despite its name, it does need more than air to sustain itself. The water source the Tillandsia craves comes as a result of a good drenching once a week letting it dry out completely before watering again. In between, you can mist, but misting alone will not preserve life.
Watering can take place in a variety of ways from holding your air plant under the tap to submerging it into a bucket of water. Consider your environment’s conditions, dry or otherwise to determine the amount of watering you will need to do. You will know if the plant is not getting enough water if its leaves begin to tighten or curl inward at their ends. If your plant has wide, soft leaves, as it dries to an unhealthy level it will begin appearing flaccid or wrinkled.
Tillandsia likes locations with lots of natural air movement. Lovers of air plants hang them on just about anything from branches and trellis to mimicking a wind chime in a ball on a rope. We’ve seen them mounted on other plants, driftwood, seashells, rocks, or even thick branches. The sky’s the limit with this delightful plant variety that needs no grounding in order to blossom and thrive. For more information on T. useneoides or to create a custom air plant sculpture, contact Plantopia today and allow us to create a terrarium or other custom air plant arrangement for you. 800-690-7875