Not at all, air plants grow quite happily in the wild without any tacky ornaments! In fact they’re usually more than happy growing loose.
Air plants can be fixed using a variety of methods. The cleanest is to tie them on using a fine clear thread, although this method is a bit fiddly. The most common method is to use an air plant fixative glue. It’s important to ensure that the glue doesn’t cover the rooting zone of the plants at their base. The glue can be neatly disguised by adding a small amount of reindeer moss while the glue is still drying.
Like all plants, air plants need access to water. In their native habitat, Tillandsia take in water from rainfall, atmospheric moisture, coastal fog etc. Air plants in the home need a little help, as most homes don’t have the required humidity and certainly lack the rainfall and coastal fog! Tillandsia can be watered either by misting or soaking them. For most species a light misting a couple of times a week or a fortnightly soak is plenty. Our Air plant Care page runs through watering in a little more detail.
Tap water changes from place to place so it’s important to know about the water you’re using. Tillandsia are generally happy with ‘soft’ water. If you live in a ‘hard’ water area or aren’t sure, it’s better to use either rainwater or bottled water.
Like most plants, air plants will continue to grow without specific feeding. Like other plants though, if they’re given the right nutrients they do a lot better! We feed all our Tillandsia at the nursery using Air Plant Food, fortnightly in Summer and monthly in Winter.
Many of our air plants are produced from vegetative offsets known as pups. Around the time an air plant flowers it begins to produce anything from 1 to around 12 baby plants, usually at the base of the plant. These tiny air plants grow attached to the mother plant and can be removed when they are a third to half the size of the mother plant. The baby air plants can then be grown on to maturity and treated in the same way as the parent plants. To produce air plant clumps, we leave all the pups attached and over a few generations an attractive clump is produced. Some air plant species produce relatively few pups, sometimes only 1 per parent plant so production via offsets alone would be totally inefficient. In these instances seed is collected, although this method takes much longer to produce plants that are ready for sale it is a much more viable method of producing certain species.
Yes, some air plants flower more easily than others. A lot of our beginners Tillandsia can flower annually! Generally speaking, the longer you have to wait for a Tillandsia species to flower the more impressive and longer lasting the flower is. Air plants such as Tillandsia Ionantha ionantha flower very easily with up to 7 flowers but each flower lasts only a matter of days whereas species such as Tillandsia xerographica can take many years, but then flowers with an impressive flower spike that can last months. After the plant has flowered, its concentration goes into the pup (baby airplant) production as the mother plant slowly withers and dies.
Some species of air plant produce scented flowers. Tillandsia duratii for example has a scent that can fill an entire room. Tillandsia streptocarpa looks very similar to a miniature duratii and has an impressive perfume too. The tiny yellow flowers of Tillandsia crocata have a sweet fragrance. Tillandsia reichenbachii‘s perfume is more delicate but the scented flowers can go on for months. Tillandsia caliginosa is a dwarf whose flowers, whilst not the most attractive, carry a subtle perfume.
Like any other plant air plants aren’t indestructible, but the good news is Tillandsia are one of the easiest types of plants to look after. They need a little bit of care and their basic light, air and water requirements need to be met but other than that they’re really easy plants to care for.
Greenhouses are great for air plants, but greenhouse growing creates problems of its own too! It’s important to remember that air plants need air movement so a greenhouse with the door and windows permanently shut would be far from ideal. Air plants will be happy down to around 10ºc so the greenhouse would need to be heated. In summer Tillandsia can suffer if they’re in too much sun. Growing them on other greenhouse plants such as Tomatoes can provide a much needed bit of shade, alternatively shade netting is needed.