Tillandsia aka Air Plants
So many strange names but they all mean the same thing. Have you never heard of them? What about air plants , does that tell you something? If not, you are in the right place. And if so, and you just need to find out how to properly care for such plants, you've come to the right place. Today's article will be focused on air plants.
Tillandsias are a diverse genus of interesting plants that look more like a work of art than a living plant. The way they are grown is also very decorative. They do not need a substrate for their growth, but grow only from air, water and air humidity. Of course, occasional splashing with water, but more on that later.
How to place it?
Simply display them
Just think that they had enough light (it should be indirect, diffused, but it depends on the type of tillandsia) and that the surface you put them on must not retain water. The material must have a low absorbency so that it does not mold easily . Even the tillandsia itself could get moldy.
These plants look great on a piece of wood (such as Drift wood or cholla wood), on a stone , in a bowl of sand, or even in a shell or conch . They also look interesting attached to an ordinary cork or cork stopper.
But Tillandsia should not just lie freely on a table or windowsill. Its leaves may then break, it will never begin to form aerial roots, and you may even have a tendency to reach and manipulate it unnecessarily often, which is not entirely appropriate.
Airariums , where tillandsia can be dominant, also look wonderful. But don't try to stuff it in there tightly, it should always have the possibility of air flow around it!
Hang her up.
You can proceed as in step one, with such an arrangement moving in the air. A solution like a jellyfish is perfect - put the tillandsia in a sea urchin shell and hang it up. Tillandsia usneoides is particularly suitable for this. A special glass flask is available in our e-shop, in which you can also grow tillandsia.
A plethora of other options…
Just take a look at pinterest or google and you won't be surprised what you can come up with when placing tillandsias. But it must always have enough light, enough air humidity and the associated occasional dew, and it should not be in a completely closed container.
How to attach it?
The simplest solution is probably to stick it with glue . But watch out! If you use a hot melt gun, the glue must not be hot. It is enough to apply it just a little, so that it does not leak everywhere and it is not very visible. Contact adhesive will probably be a better choice. A nylon fishing line or tying wire will also work well . But it shouldn't be copper. It is reported that copper (as well as zinc and boron) is toxic to tillandsia. So arranging these plants in copper pipes or attaching them with copper wire will not be the best idea.
Where did they come from?
These plants belong to the bromeliad family and are native to subtropical and tropical South and Central America and southern North America, where they commonly grow as epiphytes on trees or shrubs and other plants. Due to this diversity of origin, a number of species have developed - some are tiny with weak leaves, some are huge with large hard leaves. There are colorful species, flowering species, you just have to choose. For example, such a Tillandsia lautneri can turn pink, orange, or even red in direct sunlight.
How do they stay alive?
We have already mentioned that tillandsias do not require a substrate for their life. They get everything they need thanks to their tiny hairs, which are called trichomes. They thus receive water (from watering or air humidity) and nutrients. Trichomes also give tillandsias a slightly silvery tinge and a velvety surface, in some species it is even clearly visible, they are almost completely "hairy".
According to the amount of trichomes, they can be divided into two categories. Each comes from different conditions.
- The smooth, very green species come from rainforests and conditions where the air humidity is very high. It can also tolerate less light. In most cases, such species have smaller, slimmer and, one might even say, more flexible leaves. We can include Tillandsii butzii here.
- In contrast, species that are light, silver and with visible trichomes will tolerate more light, even direct sun, and can do with less water and dew. This includes, for example, Tillandsia tectorum.
How to grow them?
Tillandsias are really not demanding to grow and this can probably be due to the fact that they grow very slowly and generally react slowly to changes. Don't be afraid to experiment with different habitats as long as you are gentle enough when moving and handling.
As we mentioned above, the amount of light needed depends on the type of tillandsia. But the best for most species is plenty of indirect diffused light. Some species can even tolerate a few hours of direct light if you give them enough dew and water.
Again, we emphasize here that it depends on the specific species, but it is usually true that tillandsias like a frequent supply of water. But the water should not be hard with a large amount of minerals. These can cause unsightly deposits on the leaves (especially on the tips) and after some time they can clog the trichomes and thus gradually kill the tillandsia, because it will not be able to receive water and nutrients. So, if you have hard water without the possibility of watering with rainwater, try the first watering option listed here.
- Immersion in water for longer periods of time - you can submerge your tillandsias in a container of water once in a while and let them soak properly, maybe 30-60 minutes. Then shake off the excess water and let it dry freely. This method is also recommended when you have hard water so that the minerals from the water don't dry on the leaves as often.
- Short-term immersion in water - soak the whole plant in water for a while, wipe off the excess water and let it dry freely. It is recommended to proceed in this way 1-2 times a week.
- Spraying - you can also spray tillandsia with a sprayer, approx. 1 - 2 times a week, in summer even more. Spray all parts of it, so it's all green and soaked.
Because Tillandsias grow very slowly, they don't even need to be fertilized often . It has worked best for me to add liquid fertilizer for orchids and bromeliads once every 2-3 weeks directly to the watering, but only in a much smaller proportion than is normally indicated on the package.
Will we see a flower?
Tillandsias have really beautiful flowers that appear at first as orange or red buds and then blue or purple calyxes with yellow anthers appear in them. But it's a relatively rare phenomenon and some species are said to flower only once in their lifetime, so don't despair if you haven't seen a flower yet.
But if it already blooms, it's a joy to look at. Quite often the flowers also smell nice. The flower lasts for about a month and then dries up. You can then pinch or cut it off without damaging the mother plant.
How to reproduce it?
Tillandsia can be propagated using seeds , but this is a difficult and lengthy process. Most tillandsias are cross-pollinating, meaning that for pollination we have to have two plants that flower at the same time and are not related at the same time. Even that is already difficult to achieve, so we will not detail the procedure here.
We can also propagate them vegetatively, using offshoots. After flowering, a new small plant (or several) will develop on the mother plant, which can then be torn off/broken off and grown as a new individual.
Pests and problems
Tillandsias usually do not suffer from any pests, which makes them really undemanding houseplants. Even the method of watering by immersion for a longer period of time helps the plant to get rid of possible pests. Unfortunately, in combination with insufficient drying of the central part of the plant and the cold, mold can sometimes appear . The leaves may curl, then start to fall off, until finally there is nothing left... So make sure that the plant is not exposed to low temperatures after such a bath and that it dries completely.
Tillandsias are really adorable plants that you can't go wrong with. Let us know which one is your favorite!
Author: Ing. Alžběta Kadlecová
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