Air plants (tillandsias) belong to the family of plants called bromeliads. There are close to 650 species and they often have unique structures and dazzling flowers when in bloom. They are living wonders of nature and have evolved with the remarkable ability of being able to capture all their water and nutrients through tiny scales on the leaf surface. Although they produce roots, these are primarily used to secure themselves and they can often be seen dangling from tree branches, power lines and cliff faces. Because of this, they can literally live off the air and hence their name. In fact, planting them in soil will eventually kill them!
Air plants are highly adaptable and can be grown well throughout Australia. They should receive bright, indirect sunlight. An east or west facing window area is ideal but avoid very hot positions. Outdoors under partially shaded conditions is fine but in the colder states protection from winter rains and frost is required so an undercover or indoors area is more appropriate.
As a rough guide, you can look at the leaves to determine what kind of environment the plant comes from. Plants with thick, rigid leaves (e.g. Tillandsia ionantha) are from dry environments with less water. Those with soft, silver leaves (e.g. Tillandsia magnusiana) generally receive more rainfall while plants with greener leaves (e.g. Tillandsia brachycaulos) are from more humid environments with higher water requirements.
As a general rule, a plant in a hot position will require watering every few days. In a dark, humid environment watering every few weeks can often be adequate. This can be achieved by misting or dunking the plant. If outdoors, a hose can be used. When dunking a plant, leave submerged in a bowl of water for 10-20 minutes before shaking off excess water. Air plants love to dry out completely between each watering and must never have water sitting at their base as this will cause the plant to rot.
A fertiliser added to the water each month in spring and summer will help speed up growth and keep your plants looking healthy. We have one specifically for air plants and this can be found under accessories.
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