My Newest House Plant Obsession–Air Plants!

Air plants

Any time I wind up killing more than one of anything, I become obsessed. So when my tillandsia ball and another ball of mixed species of tillandsias suddenly up and died on me this winter, that was it–I was hooked. Clearly, I had to know what I was doing wrong and how to fix it.

air plant

Now in my defense, these two events happened months apart and I’m fairly sure I know exactly what happened in each case.  I have since confirmed it by reading Zenaida Sengo’s excellent book, Tillandsias: The Curious World of Air Plants.  Sorry there’s no photo, but I read it, as I read most things these days, on a device and not in paper.

I also talked to an air plant vendor at the Flower and Garden Show at the Convention Center a few weeks ago, specifically about my mixed ball of tillandsias, which I’d had less than a year.  The first one I’d had over five years and it literally bloomed itself to death, I think. So I’m not too concerned about that one.

air plant

His analysis was that the plants had dried out (and indeed, that pretty much seemed to be the case for at least one of the plants) because of my watering practices. So I’ve changed those up a bit–longer soakings–and I’m giving the plants a bit more light, although light in my house isn’t usually too much of an issue, particularly now that winter is over! The container of air plants shown above is one I purchased from him recently.

What I also learned from the book is that theses plants are epiphytes (like orchids, they like to hang on trees and absorb nutrition from the air–hence the name “air” plants) and they belong to the larger bromeliad family. Interesting.

The book also gives many fabulous suggestions for containers, for placements with other plants, and even for mounting (which I don’t think I’ll try, even after I’m sure I’m not going to kill them again, thanks so much!)

There are actually 3 different types of tillandsias, but this is a bit complicated. Some, which come from the desert regions, tend to be silvery in color and may be covered in a particular coating that helps them retain water more readily.

Bulbous air plant


Others are from more temperate regions. And then there are the bulbous types which look different from most of the others.

According to Sengo’s book, so long as the plants are receiving sufficient light, it’s really hard to over-water (within reason, of course) but they should never be left to sit in water.

And that’s the short course in air plant survival!

2 thoughts on “My Newest House Plant Obsession–Air Plants!

  1. The Chatsworth Lady March 20, 2015 / 4:42 pm

    Oh heavens… if I became obsessed after killing more than one of everything, I wouldn’t have any more room left in either house OR garden for anything else, LOL. (well, maybe not quite that bad 😉

  2. gardendaze March 20, 2015 / 6:19 pm

    Luckily I have “rolling ” obsessions or I agree with you. I think I just have a short attention span.

    And maybe it’s worse in bad winters like this. On a day like today when it’s snowing again, it’s a good thing I’m not going shopping for plants!

    Thanks for reading and commenting.


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