The genus Tillandsia was named by Carl Linnaeus after the Swedish physician and botanist Dr. Elias Tillandz . The genus contains around 650 species, where 635 are considered epiphytic are traditionally divided into seven subgenera.
Airplants are in the family Bromeliaceae. They are native to the forests, mountains, and deserts of northern Mexico and the southeastern United States, Mesoamerica and the Caribbean to mid-Argentina.
Some common types of Tillandsia include air plant, ball moss (T. recurvata) and Spanish moss, (T. usneoides ).
They are known as Airplants because of their natural propensity to cling wherever conditions permit which includes telephone wires, tree branches, bare rocks, etc.
Their leaves, more or less are silver in color and are covered with specialized cells capable of rapidly absorbing ambient humidity. Tillandsia also absorb their nutrients from debris and dust in the air
Tillandsia species are epiphytes which translates to ‘upon a plant’. Due to the epiphytic way of life of the plants the peculiarity arises that these bulbs do not lie in the ground, but hang in the air on branches.
Air plants grow without dirt and come in all sizes and colors. Although air plants used to be a rare greenery, these hardy plants have become popular in the past couple of years,
I should say most Air plants are epiphytes, meaning plants that grow without dirt.
But there are also species that survive lithophytic on rocks, roofs, and even telephone wires. Some species are more or less xeromorphic and even aerophytes, which have a minimal root system that grows in shifting desert soil.
Airplants have naturally been established in diverse environments such as equatorial tropical rain forests, high elevation Andes mountains, rock-dwelling regions, and even Louisiana swamps, such as Spanish Moss (T. usneoides), a species that grows atop tree limbs.
There are several types of air plants: Those with silver foliage tend to be the most drought-tolerant; greener plants dry out faster.
The key to air plant survival is constant air circulation, as its name indicates. Water your plants about once a week even though some varieties can go two weeks without being watered.
You should always know where your plant is native to and mimic the conditions as such. Keep an eye on them to determine what exactly your plant needs.
The green species with their claim to a cool-humid climate live mostly more in the shade terrestrial or in the lower levels of the forests. In contrast, almost all gray species live in low precipitation areas with high humidity.
Generally, the thinner-leafed varieties grow in rainy areas and the thick-leafed varieties in areas more subject to drought.
If one of your plants looks severely dried out, pull off the bottom dried parts and place the plant in a bowl of water for several hours. In the winter, if your home’s heater is on, your air plants may look a little dry.
Simply mist them with water (focusing on the base of the plant) every few days to keep them looking fresh.
You’ll know that an air plant is happy when it sends up flowers. Once the flower dries out, all you need to do is snip it off.
These low-maintenance plants are the perfect little companions for home, work or school. They require very little upkeep and are a nice green addition to brighten any setting regardless of the season.
How To Use AirPlants?
Air plants look great alone as architectural elements or in an air plant terrarium. Place varieties such as Tillandsia aeranthos ‘Amethyst’, also called the rosy air plant, in a pot or against a container that complements or contrasts its pink flower spike.
Air plants naturally suited to growing in trees can be lashed against a protected wooden post with translucent fishing monofilament and a bit of sphagnum moss to hold moisture.
Tillandsia species also make fine companions on a branch with orchids because they like essentially the same conditions. Hanging air plants are a popular design element
How To Water Airplants?
You should water in accordance with the weather. Water/mist/soak more often if it is hot and dry, and less often when it is cold, dark or damp.
Larger varieties like to be soaked, and smaller varieties do wonderfully with just a good misting.
Generally, the best way to care for them is to have a soak once every two weeks that can range between fifteen minutes to overnight.
Allow them to dry completely before placing them back into their home, to avoid mold.
A good tell for whether or not they are thirsty is the curvature of the leaves of your Air Plant. They will curl in as they are getting a little too dry.
Their roots are only there for anchoring them as they grow, but are not necessary to maintain and can be trimmed down without harm to the plant.
If the tips begin to dry out, it is a sign that they might be getting too much direct sunlight or are a little dry. You can also clip the dry tips with clean scissors. You should then remedy the care by moving it out of direct sunlight or increase your watering or misting.
Light And Temperatures For Airplants?
Don’t let an air plant sit somewhere colder than 45 degrees; it will die at those temperatures. If you live in Zone 9 or warmer, you can grow an air plant outdoors all year if you keep it dry during the winter.
Although they love warm temperatures, most air plants need protection from full sun. The amount of light required depends on the species; overall, air plants with silver dusting and stiff foliage will require more sunlight than air plants with softer foliage.
They generally need a strong light. In summer outside, however, they prefer the light shade of a tree at the hottest hours. If it’s a type that grows naturally wild on trees, keep it in moist, partial shade. If it is a ground type, such as T. cyanea or T. lindenii, grow it indoors in bright, filtered light or outdoors in the partial or dappled shade.
Species of Tillandsia photosynthesize through a process called CAM cycle, where they close their stomata during the day to prevent water loss and open them at night to fix carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
This allows them to preserve water, necessary because they are epiphytes. They do not have a functional root system and instead absorb water in small amounts through their leaves via small structures called trichomes.
Most species also absorb nutrients through the leaves from dust, decaying leaves and insect matter, aided by structures called trichomes.
How To Propagate Airplants?
The best way to propagate tillandsia is through the division of the offsets, or pups. The time to do the task is during the morning hours or early afternoon. Separate the pups from the parent plant by gently pulling the plants apart at the base. The leaves may break if you pull from the top. Put the pups into the bowl of water as you separate them from the parent plant.
Tillandsias, like other bromeliads, can multiply through pollination and seed formation. Since Tillandsia are not self-fertile, the pollen must come from another plant of the same species. Their light seeds have a silky parachute that helps to promote this spread.
Tillandsie takes many years to flower. With the fruiting, the life of the individual species has come to the end. There are still seeds formed, then the mother plant is destroyed.