What are Air Plants?

By Jennifer Hagaman

 

SO, WHAT EXACTLY ARE AIR PLANTS?

Here's what you need to know:

First things first.  What most people refer to as Air Plants are actually Tillandsia. This is important to know because Air Plants refer to many other species of plants that have different needs such as orchids, mosses, liverworts, some succulents, ferns and algae. Tillandsia are the largest genus of the Bromeliad family with over 600 species and counting!

 

OK, THEN WHAT ARE TILLANDSIA?

Tillandsia are Epiphytes which essentially means they grow on rocks, trees, and other plant life without being parasitic or taking nutrients from the host. Tillandsia do not grow in soil. They have an underdeveloped root system that is used solely for attaching to previously mentioned rocks, trees etc. With this said Tillandsia are not to be planted in soil. They simply don’t need it and it is a hinderance and most surely will cause rot. They should only be placed or “planted” on materials that wick away moisture, such as sand or orchid bark or nothing at all!

 

 THEN HOW DO THEY SURVIVE?

Tillandsia take all their nutrients in through their leaves using these nifty little things called Trichomes. Trichomes are essentially hairs that grow on the surface of the leaves. Some are denser and easier to see than others while some you can’t see at all unless looking through a magnifying glass. Also, important to note, Tillandsia need water. Because they are commonly known as Air Plants there is a misunderstanding that they do not need any care at all. Most Tillandsia need a dunk or mist one to two times per week. It is also a good idea to make sure they have good air circulation avoiding containers or terrariums with lids.

 

WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?

Their natural habitat is mostly warm regions throughout Mexico, Central and South America. They can be found in rain forests, deserts, swamps and a wide range of elevations from sea level up to 9,000 feet high!

 

Thanks for stopping in to read up on Tillandsia!  For more detailed instructions on caring for your Tillandsia see our article titled “Caring for you Air Plants” under the Journal page of our site.

 

Luck on your search for the perfect plant!

Jennifer