Air plants (Tillandsia spp.) are quirky little plants that are easy to fit into any interior. For the most part they’re very low maintenance, but there are a few tricks to air plant care, and one key step that will nearly ensure their survival.
Air plants generally grow high in the forest canopy in the wild. They are epiphytes, meaning they rely on another plant for physical support and they draw moisture and nutrients from the air and rainfall, rather than soil. They also tend to be xerophytes, meaning they tolerate dry periods. They prefer bright but indirect light.
The trickiest part of air plant care for many is the timing of watering. Frequency of watering will vary depending on the amount and intensity of light, the air temperature and humidity and whether the plant is enclosed in a terrarium or growing out in the open. To prevent rot, err on the side of under-watering your air plants to start; brown leaf tips or a more pronounced curve to the leaves will indicate more frequent watering is needed.
To water, submerge the air plant for 10 to 20 minutes and then set it upside down on a towel or dish-drying rack for several hours so that excess water will drain away, rather than collecting between the leaves and prompting rot. This drainage period is the key to air plant care; skip this step and your air plant will likely remain too soggy at its center and begin to fall apart.
Image of Tillandsia xerographica via Flickr by salchuiwt License: Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0 Generic