All About Air Plants (Tillandsia)

We get dozens of calls and emails each week from Edmonton, St Albert, and all around Alberta asking if we carry air plants in the greenhouse. We do!

So why are people in Edmonton so fascinated with air plants?

Air plants (or Tillandsia) are interesting and unique because they don't need any soil in which to grow. The roots of Tillandsia are only used as anchors, while the water and nutrients are absorbed through the leaves of the plants.

Because they don't need their roots to absorb nutrients, air plants can grow in many places that other plants can't.  Many people grow air plants in wire frames, on driftwood, in glass balls or globes, in magnetic containers on their refrigerator, and even in living jewelry. Some air plants also sport brightly coloured blooms before making "pups" or baby air plants! These pups can be broken off the mother plant once they're about 1/3 the size of the original plant.

Many Tillandsia are a type of epiphyte (or aerophyte, if you'd like to get really specific). This means that they can also grow on other plants, but are not parasites to the other plant. They simply use the other plant as a place to support themselves. 

People also ask us how to care for their air plant. Taking care of Tillandsia is quite simple: 

  • Tillandsia like lots of bright, filtered light (air plants with wide, silvery leaves are the most tolerant of bright, hot light, and the slowest to dry out). Consider getting a full-spectrum grow light for your air plants in the winter.
  • Mist your air plant every 1 to 3 days
  • If the air in your house is especially dry, you may need to give your Tillandsia a bath every couple of weeks. Simply dip the whole plant in a bowl of water for few minutes, and then dry it off thoroughly to prevent rot.
  • If you'd like to give your air plants a treat, add the smallest bit of orchid or bromeliad fertilizer to your misting water once a month (this will especially help air plants that are in bloom).
  • Be careful to keep you air plants between 10-30°C.  Most air plants will not do well in cooler or hotter environments than this (so no putting them outside in these Edmonton winters).