How to Care for Tillandsia
Tillandsia is the largest genus in the bromeliad family, accounting for approximately 550 of the over 2500 species of bromeliads. They are native to the warmer climates of the Americas.
Commonly known as air plants, they are found from jungle, rain forest and desert environments – from sea level to high mountain regions.
Most Tillandsia species use their root systems to attach themselves to trees or rocks and absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves. This classifies them as epiphytes. Absorption occurs through small scales on their leaves called trichomes. These trichomes are what give many air plants their silver or gray appearance. There is enormous variety in size, shape, texture, bloom and color of these bromeliads. Many of these unique plants undergo a dramatic color change as they prepare to bloom. Some have a very luscious and unequaled fragrance. Since tillandsias are epiphytes, the mounting medium you choose is limited only by your imagination.
These hardy plants are adaptable and tolerant to a wide range of environmental conditions and require minimal care.
If your tillandsias are going to be in your home or office, care must be taken to provide enough light and correct moisture to maintain a healthy plant. A South, East or West window would be best. Bright light or direct sun provide for the best color and bloom. If these light conditions are not possible, a broad spectrum fluorescent light, such as an aquarium light will provide short term light requirements for your plants. Monthly rotation of indoor plants with those grown in more favorable outdoor conditions allow for continued color and vitality of your tillandsias in the home or office.
Air plants do exceptionally well in outdoor environments. A backyard tree, screened porch or pool patio would be the most likely areas to find the bright light conditions (avoid noon day sun) tillandsia love. Even though many grow in full sun, as a general rule, we do not recommend it. Early morning or late afternoon sun should be fine under more humid conditions. In hotter, dryer conditions, (85°+) more shade and water should be provided.
Indoor tillandsias should stay healthy with a watering schedule of 2 to 4 times a week. If planted in a pot and soil let soil dry slightly then water. However, it may be necessary to water more often due to dryer, less humid air caused by air-conditioning or heating. Plants grown in humid outdoor environments should be watered 2 to 3 times weekly. In dryer climates, more frequent watering may be necessary. Saturate the bromeliad completely until water runs off the plant – light misting is normally insufficient. Allow to dry completely between waterings. If your plant’s leaves start to curl or roll it could be an indication of dehydration. This can be corrected by completely submerging your plant in water overnight, then resume normal watering schedule. Softer, greener-leafed plants will require more frequent watering and a bit less sun than gray or silver-leafed plants.
Locate your tillandsias in a well-ventilated area as they love fresh moving air. The movement of air dries plants between waterings which helps to avoid any disease due to overwatering.
If you wish to make your plants extra happy you should fertilize about once a month. Because they have the ability to capture and hold nutrients with their trichomes, they have a tendency to be sensitive to overfertilization. Use a good quality liquid or water soluble fertilizer with a formulation low in copper. (High amounts of copper are toxic to bromeliads.) We recommend 10-5-5 plant food. Normally dilute the suggested dosage to ¼ strength. You can also use a 20-20-20 food (low in copper) full strength. Fertilizing will increase the growth and vigor of your plants and their blooms.