Here where I live, Air Plants grow wild from the Southernmost Point of my country (Key West in the Florida Keys) all the way across the southern regions of all our southern states. I was surprised at how different the varieties of Air Plants are from one another, growing only 100 miles apart!
This got me to wondering about the different varieties of Air Plants, so I decided to do a little research to see where they originate, as well as discover the similarities and differences between the common varieties. To keep it interesting, I added a couple of the more rare varieties, too.
Today I want to share the results of my research with you! We’ll take a look at some of the most popular Air Plant varieties here in the United States in this article. Some grow here, some don’t. We won’t cover all the Air Plant varieties, as there are more than 400 Air Plant variety options available! And that number doesn’t include the more than 200 hybrid varieties to choose from, as well.
From my research comes Your Complete Guide to Air Plant Types/Varieties and Names
Once you get a gander at some of these unique and exotic beauties, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll be drawn into the wonderful world of Air Plants, where I currently reside!
So let’s get started!
Popular Air plant Varieties People Love to Grow
Although the Tillandsia Xerographica is one of the most popular varieties of Air Plants here in the United States, it does not grow wild here. Rather, the Tillandsia Xerographica originates from the countries of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Considered on the larger Air Plants, the Tillandsia Xerographica is the premier plant of many collections! I love mine because the leaves remind me of the beautiful ribbons hanging from a mysterious gift.
Tillandsia Caput Medusae:
You may not be surprised to learn that the Tillandsia Caput Medusae is a Latin name that means “Head of Medusa”. This Air Plant’s long and spindly leaves certainly do resemble the hair on the mythological Medusa’s head! Above that, the “TCM” blooms with exotic and vibrant color. I have a few of them myself, although my kitty decided he might eat one for lunch while I was at work. So glad that no Air Plant variety is toxic to pets!
The Tillandsia Houston is a “cultivar” Air Plant. A cultivar is just a fancy name for a hybrid created with a specific idea in mind. The two Air Plants that were “joined” to make the Houston are the Tillandsia Stricta and Tillandsia Recurvifolia. Their particular pairing was to create a drought-resistant variety of Air Plants. Their long leaves are wispy, soft, and whimsical. I really love their pink-ish mauve blossoms!
This piny looking Air Plant is native to the more Northern parts of South America. They are narrow and grow This includes Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Eastern Brazil. You’ll also find the Tillandsia Juncea growing wild in Central America, Mexico, and the West Indies; Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and in Trinidad. They blend in well to rustic environments and are less delicate than some of their relatives. A Tillandsia Juncea Air Plant is narrow and tall, usually about 8-10 inches (20-25cm)! They display well in vases and terrariums, too!
Most likely because of it’s luscious and colorful leaves, the Tillandsia Abdita is a highly desirable Air Plant! It is native to South America, Central America, and grows in Florida, in the United States. The leaves are soft and grow in a symmetrical rosette pattern. They vary in color from a lettuce green to wonderful combinations of red that deepens as the plant reaches its blooming cycle. Tillandsia Abdita produces many purple flowers. They are often mistakenly referenced when people are discussing Tillandsia Brachycaulos because of their similarities. True Tillandsia Abdita is extremely rare, and Tillandsia Brachycaulos are only somewhat rare.
Considered extra large in the world of Air Plants, The Tillandsia Fasciculata will grow to over ten inches tall! The blooms on this beauty can last for up to a year! It’s easy to see why this is one of the higher-priced Air Plants. They’re hearty and full and will bring life and color into any decor taste, indoors or out! The Tillandsia Fasciculata is from the Bromeliad family and is commonly known as the “Cardinal Air Plant.” The plant is native to Central America, Mexico, the West Indies, northern South America, and the southeastern United States.
Tillandsia Ionantha Scaposa:
Also known as Kolbii, Tillandsia Scaposa has short green leaves that form a fountain shape at the top when it reaches the whopping height of 2 inches. This small air plant clumps quickly to form a hearty, much larger-looking plant. Tillandsia Ionantha Scaposa flourishes in Sea Urchin planters and adds a unique flair to glass terrariums. The Tillandsia Ionantha Scaposa is native to Guatemala.
If you enjoy hanging Air Plants, the Tillandsia Oxacana is a great hanger! It has long, silvery leaves and hangs very well from the center. The Tillandsia Oxacana produces a giant pink inflorescence when in bloom, meaning the whole “head” of the plant changes color. One of the larger Air Plants, growers say some varieties of Tillandsia Juncea Oxacana can grow to be almost 3′ in diameter about 80cm)!
This Air Plant grows wild in Cuba and Jamaica. It is a small variety of Air Plant with a short and curved stem full of very thin, leaves. The Tillandsia Argentea will bloom with a long inflorescence and produces about five flowers on a pike. The blossoms are bright red. Tillandsia Argentea go well in any container, or look great just sitting on a tabletop! I know a lot of people who hang them outdoors, too.
I love how colorful this Air Plant is! The Tillandsia Velutina has an elegant look with soft, green leaves. It is is very easy to grow even though it has a delicate appearance. One thing that makes the Tillandsia Velutina really cool is that it produces pups quickly and prolifically in humid environments. Additionally, it blooms in brilliant purple flowers! Like many Air Plant varieties, you’ll find the Tillandsia Velutina growing wild in Mexico.
This exotic looking Air Plant hails from Guatemala, Belize, and Central America. Its leaves are like tendrils and are deep green in color, flat, and form a bulbous shape at the base. Near that base, the leaves will have purple-ish highlights. The Tillandsia Bulbosa will add character to any decor style! It will produce a bright red blossom with violet petals. They stand well in a tall vase and look great mounted to wall displays as they grow more up than out.
This Air Plant has an interesting and graphic look to it. The Tillandsia Tenuifolia has spiky leaves reminiscent of a hedgehog. The leaves are dark green and graced with violet highlights as long as they receive adequate lighting. The leaves curl as they grow, and when the plant blossoms, the blooms are spikey and dark pink and violet colored. The Tillandsia Tenuifolia originates from Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina.
More commonly known as Ball Moss, the Tillandsia Recurvata Ball moss is indigenous to the warm climates of the Americas. Ball moss is found in the United States in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, and coastal South Carolina. Tillandsia Recurvata also grows in Argentina, Chile the West Indies, and Mexico. most of Central and South America, and many of the islands in the West Indies. Here In the United States, Ball Moss is usually regarded as not attractive, but I really love using it in hanging displays! I intend to have a whole “wall” of them hanging on one side of my porch for privacy!
This Air Plant is a native of Venezuela. The Tillandsia Funckiana has needle-like leaves that look like pine, but are much softer to the touch. The leaves are in light green color shades and the plant has a strong base. The Tillandsia Funckiana will eventually have a light pink “blush” to its leaves. When in bloom, it will produce vibrant orange-red colored flowers, a rarer color for Air Plant flowers. This plant is hearty and very self-sufficient, good for a beginner’s collection! It compliments any Air Plant display, and is good for making centerpieces and holiday displays in the wintertime!
You likely know Tillandsia Usneoides by its most common name “Spanish Moss”. In French Polynesia, it’s called “Grandpa’s Beard”! Spanish moss grows wild in Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Central America, South America, the southern United States, and the West Indies. It is also one of the few types of Air Plants that grow naturally in Australia. Contrary to popular opinion, Spanish Moss is NOT a parasite and does not kill trees. It’s also quite lovely when it flowers! I think it looks beautiful, don’t you?
Talk about whispy Air Plants… Wow! The Tillandsia Andreana originates from Columbia. It has a compact base, not a stem, that sprouts delicate, thin leaves extending in all directions. It is one of the more rare varieties of Air Plant and will exhibit colorful flowers when in bloom. It is a delicate plant because of those thin leaves and the Tillandsia Andreana is more susceptible to shock from climate change than most varieties of Air Plants.
Tillandsia Ionantha Maxima:
This Air Plant variety was once known as the Tillandsia Ionantha Huamelula. Like the Tillandsia Oxacana, it hails from Oaxaca, Mexico, and can be found growing there on the “face” of rocky cliffs. It is a larger variety among Air Plants and will bloom in a vibrant shade of red. This hearty variety is great for beginners and a valued piece in any collection!
One of the very few varieties of Air Plant that will grow in soil, although I am not sure why anyone would want to bother with soil if they don’t have to. The foliage resembles tall grass and is exceedingly hearty, making them a great option for novice Air Plant enthusiasts. Lovely (and flat) blossoms are purple in color and will grow from a pink quill-like bloom tract. For this reason, they are also known as the “Pink Quill” Air plant. The Tillandsia Cyanea is native to Ecuador.
This pretty Air Plant grows naturally in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay, and is extremel popular here in the United States. The Tillandsia Aeranthos has sharp, spikey leaves and is a hearty variety among Air Plants. It blooms during the Spring and Summer months and will produce pups on offshoots at the base of the plant. Tillandsia Aeranthos is one of the most common varieties of Air Plants and is the prime size for terrariums and other collection displays. Their heartiness makes them another good option for beginning gardeners.
Also called Tillandsia Capitata Peach, this Air Plant variety hails from Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. It looks delicate, but is quite hearty, with curved, greyish-green leaves. The leaves exhibit an inflorescence when extended, and the leaves can take on a yellowish color. The Tillandsia Capitata blooms about 5 flowers that are tubular in shape and dark purple in color, sporting blue petals. They are a popular variety of Air Plants to grow outdoors but also do well inside.
Tillandsia Houston Cotton Candy:
This is another variety of the hybrid Air Plant, Tillandsia Houston, which means it has the same parents but has a unique characteristic which differentiates it ever so slightly. So slight, in fact, that you or I wouldn’t catch the subtle differences, probably. In this case, the Tillandsia Houston Cotton Candy is reported to have softer leaves. The two varieties seem identical to me, but I am not a botanist. It is an easy-to-grow Air Plant and prefers a bit more sunlight and water than most varieties of Tillandsia, making them do very well outside.
Most known for its beautiful pink inflorescence, the Tillandsia Didisticha will have a crown of white flowers in its blooming stage. It is a more rare Air Plant variety and grows wild in Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. Collectors of Air Plants enjoy having this delicate plant in their collection. It is medium in size with an attractive form with thick, greenish-white leaves that form a wide rosette. The Tillandsia Didisticha blooms right from its leaves!
This beautiful Air Plant is native to Trinidad & Tobago, Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuela. It is a rock-dwelling perennial and has scaly, silver-gray leaves in a triangle shape. It will produce spikes with 3-12 pinkish-lavender flowers. Tillandsia Gardneri does well outdoors and has a higher tolerance for colder temperatures than most Air Plant varieties. However, they are also less resistant to pests and disease than most varieties of Tillandsia. For this reason, some growers skip them when adding to their Air Plant collection.
Tillandsia Ionantha Feugo:
One of the most popular little air plants in the world, the Tillandsia Ionantha Feugo is only two inches tall and one inch wide. Though a smaller Air Plant variety, it will produce some of the most spectacular blooms in colors of yellow, red and violet during the reproductive cycle. They also produce many pups that are viable when removed from the parent plant. Left connected, the pups help produce a round-shaped Air Plant Cluster. Most Tillandsia Ionanthas are from Mexico and Central America, but also grow in the Southern regions of the United States.
The Tillandsia Stricta is one of the more common air plants here in the United States, It does very well well indoors, and is easy to fit into any decorating tastes. They can be mounted easily to most displays, they cling so well! Tillandsia Stricta does not like extreme cold or heat but does like fresh moving air, so make sure they are in a well-ventilated space. The plant is native to Trinidad, Brazil, Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, and Argentina.
This Air Plant hails from Chiapas, Mexico. The leaves of the Tillandsia Chiapensis are green with a hint of lavender. It will blossom with a pink flower on top of a pink spike at the center. The Tillandsia Chiapensis is great for decorating, often used in terrariums and glass or crystal Air Plant planters. A great Air Plant for beginners!
Tillandsia Ionantha Druid:
The Ionantha Druid is a medium-sized Air Plant known for its albino to pale peach flowers when it blossoms. This is a fairly rare Tillandsia Ionantha and is coveted by collectors for its unique appearance. The bottom leaves of this Air Plant has a thick covering of trichomes which gives it a silver appearance, the trichomes are less dense towards the tips of the leaves, making the green color show up more there. They grow naturally in Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and have many color varieties within their own variety.
This Air Plant has strong leaves that are thick and wide. The vibrant green color is attractive, and the Tillandsia Brachycaulos looks a little like a pineapple top. The leaves will develop luscious red and pink hues when the plant blooms in colors of purple with a splash of yellow. This variety tolerates sun well, and lighting will have a direct effect on the leaves blushing in differing hues. The Tillandsia Brachycaulos grows naturally in Mexico, Venezuela, and Panama. They do well for wall displays like sconces, and look great in terrariums, too!
This Air Plant is native to Peru, and is named for its ability to grow on various cactus plants or even rocks! The leaves are whitish-green, and the Tillandsia Cacticola blooms with flowers that fade from purple to pink on the blossom. Being one of the larger Tillandsia, its flowers can last up to several months.
This Air Plant Variety grows wild in Central America, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, the West Indies, and in Florida. Tillandsia Paucifolia typically has five to ten leaves that are light green in color. It has dense trichomes, giving the plant a silver-gray hue. This common Tillandsia variety has a large bulbous base which distinguishes it from other Tillandsias. It is very popular here in the United States among Air Plant enthusiasts.
The Tillandsia Loliacea is native to Bolivia and Brazil, and it grows best anywhere in semi-arid habitats. They make god indoor or outdoor Air Plants. The leaves are short, hard, and sharp, and have waxy scales. It blooms bright yellow flowers that grow before your eyes!
This unusual Air Plant hails from Ecuador. The Tillandsia Dyeriana has variegated green leaves and a spectacular orange blossom! It requires gentle support and can be top-heavy. This Air Plant variety grows well outdoors and can be found in nature among mangroves. Take caution with displays containing a Tillandsia Dyeriana, as you can see, that blossom will need room to grow!
You’ll find the Tillandsia Flabellata growing wild in Mexico and Central America. It is a small-sized Air Plant and grows wider and not taller. This plant has soft light green leaves that form a rosette and has triangular limbs. The Tillandsia Flabellata blooms from inflorescence in shades of reddish-purple. It is hearty and easy to grow, just pay careful attention that no water remains pooled in the center of the plant, as this can cause rot to occur.
Native to Mexico, the Tillandsia Fuchsii is elegant, refined and exquisite! Look how delicate, see how dainty it is! The plant’s inflorescence is amazing and beautiful. Readily available, this Air Plant is very common in collections within the United States. It blossoms in a brilliant display from pinkish stems to purple flowers with some yellow mixed in. You’ll want one in your collection, for sure!
Tillandsia Ionantha Rubra:
The Tillandsia Ionantha Rubra is a small, dependable air plant with green fuzzy-looking leaves. This variety has leaves that blush with bright red or orange tones when in more direct sunlight. It is exceedingly common and if you ever order a variety assortment of Air Plants, you’ll likely receive one in the collection. It is native to Nicaragua.
Tillandsia Ionantha Cone Head:
This Air Plant is medium-sized with greenish-blue grassy-like leaves. It will blossom with pink flowers, usually in the summertime. They hail from Central America and Mexico but are also reported to be found in Florida, in the United States. Easy to grow and prolific in reproduction, the Tillandsia Ionantha Cone Head makes an excellent addition to any collection!
This Air Plant is native to South America and is very popular here in the United States. It puts me in mind of a pincushion because of the round shape and spiky leaves. The leaves are light green and covered with trichomes, giving the color a grayish effect. A fun fact: Trichomes reflect color. The Tillandsia Magnusiana blooms a dark purple flower with yellow stamens. This bloom comes from a maroon colored spike. The Tillandsia Magusiana prefers good light and requires an area with air movement. They grow well outside or very close to a window.
Also known as a “Tillandsia Snowball”, the Tillandsia Tectorum is native to Ecuador and Peru. It’s covered with fuzzy trichomes and has a delicate, almost whimsical appearance. It is very popular to seasoned collectors and novice Air Plant enthusiasts alike. The Tillandsia Tectorum is extremely easy to care for! It varies in size from only a couple of inches tall to over a foot, rare in the Tillandsia varieties. Their flowers are pink with tiny, violet leaves around the bloom. The plant must be kept dry between waterings and requires more direct sunlight than most Air Plants.
Native to Guatemala, this Air Plant can grow to be over 8 inches (20cm)tall. When mature, it will exhibit red inflorescence which will bloom vibrant purple flowers. These plants thrive in lower to humidity and prefer good airflow. These Air Plants look great in a terrarium and mount well to wood.
This Air Plant comes from where most of them do, Central America, Mexico, and the West Indies. It is most often called a Tillandsia “Shirly Temple” because it’s wide, ribbon-shaped leaves resemble curly hair, although the name itself, “Streptophylla” literally means “curly leaves”. Like the Tillandsia Xerographica, the Tillandsia Streptophylla is a large Air Plant, and often the “crowning glory” of any collection. It does not have to be soaked long to water, as the wide leaves collect and assimilate moisture quickly. Misting is effective for watering, too.
Commonly called by the fun name “Tillandsia Fuzzy-Wuzzy” this Air Plant hails from South America, Central America, the West Indies, and from Florida in the United States. The Tillandsia Pruinosa is covered in large white trichomes which give the plant a unique “frosted” look. Its inflorescences are pink and will produce purple flowers. This Air Plant flourishes when temperatures are on the cooler side. Warmer temperatures won’t kill it, but the growth rate will be noticeably slower.
Did you see any Air Plant varieties today that you want to add to your own collection? I sure did! For everything you need to know about growing Air Plants, including how to keep them healthy and beautiful, I’ve got you covered! You find this treasure trove of information to help keep your air plants looking beautiful on the other end of this link!
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.