Air plants have risen in popularity over the last few years, and for a good reason. These plants are easier to care for than traditional houseplants and can thrive in various environments.
1. No Soil Required
Air Plants, also known as Tillandsia, are epiphytes which means they grow without soil. Instead, their roots are used to attach themselves to trees, rocks, or any other sturdy surface. Unlike most plants that derive their nutrients from their roots, air plants get nutrients and moisture from the air around them. Therefore, they are not considered parasitic as they do not rely on their host plant for food.
2. Hearty Plants
Native to Mexico, Central America, South America, Florida, and the Caribbean, air plants are hardy species that can withstand climates. Air plants are even found in arid deserts, where they get their moisture from the morning dew.
Yet, despite their natural habitat, air plants can also thrive in more moderate conditions. A well-lit window, weekly watering, and occasional light misting are needed to keep them happy and healthy in the home.
3. Trichomes Are The Heroes
Trichomes, or little hairs, cover the leaves of air plants and allow them to absorb water more efficiently. These little cup-like structures help the plant catch rainfall and morning dew, giving the plant the moisture it needs to survive.
4. CAM (Crassulacean acid metabolism)
Arid plants evolved a special way of dealing with lack of water called CAM (crassulacean acid metabolism) instead of C3 and C4 plants. CAM plants open their stomata at night to allow CO2 intake (photosynthesis in this case) and save water by closing their stomata during the day. This allows the plant to store water in the form of malic acid, which is later used during photosynthesis.
Other plants that use CAM include agave, aloe vera, cacti, and, you guessed it, air plants!
5. Air Plants Are Bromeliads
Bromeliads are plants that include over 3,000 different species (source). Many of these plants are found in tropical regions in the Americas and are known for their brightly colored flowers. The most popular within the bromeliad family is probably the pineapple, which is a terrestrial bromeliad!
6. Air Plants Vary in Reproduction
Tillandsia plants reproduce in both sexual and asexual ways, depending on their species. For example, some air plants produce tiny flowers pollinated by bees or hummingbirds, while others produce offsets, or pups, that can be divided from the mother plant.
Air plant pups will typically appear at the base of the plant and can be detached once they are about one-third the size of the mother plant. These pups can then be transplanted to their pot or terrarium.
7. Air Plants Make Great Terrarium Plants
Terrariums are living works of art and a great way to display your air plants. Terrariums can be hung from the ceiling, placed on a table or countertop, or even mounted to the wall. They are highly customizable, and you can use whatever materials you like to create your unique terrarium.
8. Air Plants Can Be Grown Without Fertilizer
While a fertilizing spray or soak can help encourage growth, air plants do not require fertilizer to survive. If you decide to fertilize your air plants, use a water-soluble fertilizer that is diluted to one-quarter strength. Fertilizing more than once a month can harm the plant.
9. Air Plants Are Non-Toxic
If you have pets or children, you’ll be happy to know that air plants are non-toxic. But, of course, this should never be an invitation to allow children or pets to eat the plants. So be sure to keep them out of reach, just to be safe.
10. Air Plants Can Be Used in a Variety of Ways
Air plants can be used in several different ways, both indoors and out. They can be planted in pots or terrariums, glass globes, shells, mounted on driftwood or rocks or even hung from the ceiling with fishing lines. No matter how you choose to display them, air plants will add a touch of nature to your home.
11. Air Plants Are Low-Maintenance
Unlike some houseplants that may require you to water them multiple times a week, air plants require very little care. However, a few basic steps – including regular misting, will keep your air plants healthy and happy.
Their low-maintenance nature makes them perfect for busy gardeners, office environments, and indoor hobbyists alike.
12. They Can Bloom!
While air plants do not rely on pollinators for reproduction, they can still bloom. Certain species of Tillanadius plants will only flower once in their lifetime and then die shortly after.
When an air plant blooms, it produces a beautiful flower, typically white or pink. The flowers only last for a few weeks, but they provide a striking focal point in any arrangement.
13. Air Plants Thrive With Natural Water
While tap water can mist air plants, the best water to use is rain or pond water. This water is rich in nutrients and can help the plants to grow even more quickly.
14. You Can Buy Them Online
If you live in an area not conducive to growing air plants, or perhaps you don’t have a good nursery near you, don’t worry – you can buy them online! There are several reputable dealers that sell air plants, and you can even find them on sites like Amazon and eBay.
Are air plants and Spanish moss the same species of plants?
Yes, air plants and Spanish moss are the same species of plant! Tillandsia usneoides, or Spanish moss, is a member of the Tillandsia genus and is widely known for its ability to thrive without soil or natural water sources.
How long can air plants survive without water?
While there is some variation between species, most air plants can last two weeks without water. However, you should still give regular misting to prevent them from drying out.
How long do air plants live?
Tillandsia is a perennial plant, meaning that it can live for many years. Most household air plants will live anywhere between two and five years, depending on the care they receive.
Samantha Taylor is the Senior Editor of airplantcentral.com. Her love for plants goes back to her childhood when she spent hours in the garden with her dear grandfather. As an aspiring botanist, she started her own business specializing in air plants.