Air plants are perfect for anyone looking for a very forgiving houseplant that does not need as much attention as others.
My ever-growing collection of air plants lives mostly in my north-facing kitchen window. Some hang in decorative tropical seed pods, while others sit on branches of a whimsical felt tree. I also have a few others displayed in glass atriums throughout the house. Many of these plants have been with me for several years—some have made babies, and many of them even have names!
Air Plant Care
Air plants are formally known as Tillandsia—a part of the family Bromeliaceae—a group of mostly epiphytes, meaning plants that grow on other plants, trees, nurse logs, rocks, or whatever they can get their “hands” on. Tillandsias absorb water from their foliage, while their roots simply act as an anchor to secure them in place.
If you’re anything like us, the first time you laid eyes on these wild freaks of nature, you were simultaneously baffled and instantly in love. How is it possible? Where’s the soil? How do you water them? Is this some crazy invention from a mad botanist? Nope, this is just how these amazing plants live—dirt not required—such independent spirits! In addition to being absolutely adorable, Tillandsias are not only low maintenance, but they are also pet-safe and can occasionally produce a bloom, usually in pinks and purples, although flowering often signals the end of life for the plant.
Water & Humidity
Native to South and Central America and also found in the southernmost parts of North America, Tillandsia can be found in a wide range of climates. Simulating the air plant’s natural habitat will ensure a long and healthy life. A few general telltale signs of what to provide your Tillandsia come from the appearance of its foliage:
- Thin green foliage: originates from a humid, tropical/subtropical environment; needs regular weekly soakings for about 10–20 minutes; also benefits from spritzing throughout the week
- Thick foliage or silver fuzzy foliage: comes from dryer air environments and only needs a short soak in a bowl of water once a week or to be briefly run under the faucet until it appears wet
All Tillandsias prefer room temperature water; filling a bowl and letting it sit for an hour or two will do the trick. After their weekly watering, shake off excess water and drip dry in a warm room. Place them upside down so any excess water can drain out; sitting water caught in between their foliage can cause rotting. Allow plants to thoroughly dry before returning to the atrium or enclosed spaces.
Tillandsia prefers bright, indirect light, like the filtered light they would receive under tree canopies. Most can handle direct morning light, but anything stronger may cause burnt tips. Some species are hardy down to 50°F, which is much lower than many other popular tropical houseplants. Your Tillandsia will greatly benefit from fresh, moving air, so crack open those windows on a warm spring or fall day!
Creating an Aerium
Atriums are easy to create and a fun way to display air plants and other treasures in repurposed or unique glass containers. Similar to a terrarium, but without the use of soil, atriums are created by using small amounts of sand, pebbles, and/or gemstones, along with bits of other natural materials like moss, feathers, and tillandsias… or whatever inspires you.
Containers may be of any size, though clear glass is best for plant health. They can either have an opening or be fully enclosed. Just remember, air plants will need to be removed regularly for proper watering, so be sure you can easily get them in and out of the container!