Tillandsia. The easy to grow, no-soil, water-loving AIR PLANT! We love them. And it’s high-time you learned how to grow one of them for yourself. My cousin gifted me one for Christmas a few years ago, and it has been an interesting journey learning what doesn’t kill these tillies. Some people call them that for short. I prefer the simpler air plant, because it sounds cool and makes me feel like some kind of horticultural wizard. But that’s what YOU want to feel like, and I won’t bore you with this intro any longer.
The first thing to know is, you can’t over water these things. Other tillandsia fan-pages and websites like to say it’s a good idea to dunk your air plant for five to ten minutes every week, or whatever, then mist once or twice a day. My suspicion is that these people have their plants in greenhouse conditions where it’s 90% humidity or something ridiculous. You will not. Your air plant will be inside with a heater or cooler drying the air and your plant out. So how will you ever get it to survive? Easy. Your house isn’t like the deep (and damp) south United States where the tillandsia’s wild siblings thrive. You don’t even have to mist it daily. I mist once a day, sometimes not. This only helps the tips to not dry out. Truly watering an air plant is to soak it.
Leave submerged in filtered water for 1 hour. Soak in filtered water for 4 hours. Soak in filtered water OVERNIGHT. None of these things will kill the air plant. As long as you allow it to dry out completely between dunks, no harm should come to your Cthulhu-looking, zombie plant. Honestly though, 1-2 hours is plenty of time and they shouldn’t be soaking any longer. In the dry air of your home (unless you have an evaporative cooler) that shouldn’t be an issue. The desert will dry off one of these spaghetti-monster-looking tillandsia’s in oh.. say.. 15-20 minutes. This lets me place mine outside for a short time, in an enclosure (vestibule), because I don’t trust squirrels. You can hang or place it upside down until it dries in the spot you normally keep it, or on a towel. The latter method should take a couple of hours. But, hanging it to dry where it normally sits with lots of sunlight, you could set it and forget it, put it right side up a day or three later. No big deal. I’m telling you, tillandsia’s don’t care. They’re the honey badger of the plant world. You can’t say I’m single, because I have dated references.
When To Water and When Not To If You’ve Lost Track Of Time
Sometimes you can tell if the plant has enough water based on how it reacts to being in it for a while. Here’s a photo of a thirsty plant just placed in its water bath. I know this one is thirsty because when it is well watered the leaves are not curly. Take a “before pic” and compare after watering. Some have curly leaves normally, so you’ll have to be careful about over watering. The bigger the plant, the longer it will need to be in water.
Now you’ll notice the plant looks different after soaking. The curl is gone. Seems happier doesn’t it? The picture makes it seem smaller but that’s only because to get the whole thing in the shot, the camera had to be further away.
In case you were wondering, this IS the same plant from in front of the basket. These photos were taken before it began to flower. They are the same plant!
No full sun, no full shade. Filtered sun is ideal. Maybe dappled sunlight through window shutters. Have a porch with bright indirect sunlight? Perfect. Anywhere the light is bright but indirect. If the sun shines through a metal- or plastic-screen door, that’s considered filtered, and a good fit for an air plant. Have a sky-light in your hallway and want to hang a beautiful plant underneath it? Get yourself a tillandsia. This page is not sponsored by the air plant lobby.
While not absolutely necessary every month, you might want to make your air plant feel its best, and a part of that is soaking it in water that has nutrients. If you don’t mind Miracle-Gro, you could try that at a very low concentration. That means, whatever the recommended dosage they give for normal plants, cut that in half or 1/4 and don’t let it soak more than 15 minutes in the solution. If you use compost tea, filter before soaking, and follow the same instructions. 15 minutes. Then, rinse (don’t soak!) carefully in fresh, filtered water and let sit to dry, as discussed above. Avoid fertilizing more than twice a month. Heck, you don’t need to fertilize, but doing so will make the plant create baby air plants, and a flower later on down the road.
Now social media that plant, show the world you know how to grow weird things. You know what else you might like to grow if you’re into this? Pitcher plants. Wow, now you’re that weirdo friend with those pots that hang in rope-hammock hangers. You’re a real horti-cultist. Is it that something readers want to hear? Hmm.
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