Tillandsia (Airplants) 101


-Tillandsia species are epiphytes- an epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant or object merely for physical support. Their roots are used solely for attachment- rather than absorbing nutrients or water via roots, air plants rely on the moisture in the atmosphere to grow and thrive.

-Epiphytes have no attachment to the ground or other obvious nutrient source and are different from parasitic plants, which absorb nutrients directly from the host plant.

-Most epiphytes are found in moist, tropical areas, where their ability to grow above ground level provides access to sunlight in dense shaded forests and exploits the nutrients available from leaf and other organic debris that collects high in the tree canopy.


-If you want your air plant to thrive, bright, indirect light is key. Rooms with southern or eastern facing windows make good homes, because these spaces will be brightly illuminated with sun for most of the day. Rooms with north-facing windows work well, too, as long as the plant is placed close to the window, and the window isn’t blocked by trees or a neighboring apartment building.

-A good general rule of thumb- the higher the humidity in your space, the more light is tolerated by the air plant. This means that if you’re putting your air plant where it will receive loads of light, you should plan to mist it more often, or perhaps add a humidifier. A sunny bathroom makes a happy home for an air plant, because the humidity from your shower will take care of most plant misting for you.

-The first step to watering your air plant is to evaluate your space. How much light is your plant receiving? What is the temperature in your home at this particular time of year? Is the space very dry (is your plant near a heater or fireplace?) Or is it very humid? Some people swear by misting, others by soaking, and still others use a combination of both misting and soaking in their air plant care regimen.

-Every one to two weeks, soak your air plant in room temperature tap water for 10-30 minutes.

-After soaking gently shake excess water from your plant. This is very important! Air plants will quickly rot if they are allowed to stand in excess water.

-During the summer and early fall additional misting may be needed. The hotter and dryer the air the more you need to water. The cooler and more humid the air (winter and spring) the less water your air plant will need. Remember, though, that heaters and fireplaces dry the air!


-Most epiphytic plants are angiosperms (flowering plants); including many species of orchids, tillandsias, and other types of bromeliads like pineapples. Types of mosses and ferns are also common epiphytes found in both tropical and temperate regions.

-The blooming cycle for the rapidly growing species may be only two or three weeks. For most, it is a month or two, and for some of the most xeric, slow growing species, it may last as long as a year.

-The flowering season for tillandsias usually begins in late fall or early winter and runs through early spring.

-Tillandsias reproduce by seed and offset. In their native habitats, they have adapted to conditions of often brisk air movement and intense sunlight.

-During or after blooming, tillandsias produce anywhere from one to a dozen baby plants called offsets, offshoots, or pups. Many produce pups from the base of the plant, while other grow offshoots from the base of the inflorescence (the flower head).