Air plants 101

CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) – Air plants require very little attention for those who don’t have a lot of time to dote on their plants, yet they bring a lot of attention to themselves when placed throughout your home. Shari Petrucci from the Western Mass Masters Gardeners Association, showed us how to grow them at home.

Caring for your Air Plants

Where’s the beach?
Air Plants are a very hardy houseplant that requires very little attention for those who dont have a lot of time to dote on their plants, yet they bring a lot of attention to themselves when placed throughout your home in their quaint little plant settings.

They always remind me of my travels to far away places of warm humid climates like rain forests, or the beach grasses that grow among the rocks and drift wood. This time of year, the turn between summer and fall, I begin to already miss the beaches of our New England coast.

Making arrangements of Air Plants and placing them at places where I sit nearby to work or relax help remind me of sunny summer days as I embrace myself for the coming winter months. There’s nothing like a little beach in the home all year long!

Tillandsia’s, commonly known as air-plants, is a genus of around 540 species of evergreen, and perenial flowering plants in the family Bromeliaceae, native to the forests, mountains and deserts of Central and South America, the southern United States and the West Indies. Tillandsia species are epiphytes, as they. they grow without soil, attaching themselves to other plants or trees. They use their roots to cling to these hosts, but are not parasitic. All of their moisture and nutrients are gathered from the air through structures on their leaves call trichomes. These trichomes are what give some plants their silvery appearance.

Place your air-plant in bright, indirect sunlight, or under florescent home or office lighting. Periods of direct sunlight are fine, but more than a few hours of hot sun will deplete the plants of their moisture and potentially burn them. Contrary to popular belief, air-plants do need water!! Submerge your plants in room temperature water for 30-60 minutes one- two times weekly. After their bath, gently shake your plants to remove any excess water from the base and leaves. You may mist your plants in-between watering if they appear too dry. If your air-plants are in a small terrarium and you are unable to remove them for watering, we recommend misting them through the opening once weekly. This method can also be used for our hanging globe terrariums, wall pockets, and apothecary terrariums. Pay close attention that your plants are getting adequate moisture, but are not sitting in water within any terrarium. Air plants will thrive best in warmer conditions, a good range is 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Fertilizing your plants is not necessary, but will promote blooming and reproduction. We recommend using a bromeliad fertilizer or any water soluble fertilizer at 1/4th – 1/8th the strength. You may fertilize once a month March through October or as needed for a boost in vitality. Tillandsias live for several years and will generally bloom only once in their lifetime. The flowers are beautifully colored, and the bloom period may last anywhere from a week to a few months depending on the variety.

Around the plants bloom time, they will produce offshoots called “pups”. These pups are generally found at the base of the plant, and may appear very small at first. Once the pip reaches about 1/3 of the mother plants size you can gently pull it apart from the parent. Each pup will then go through the same cycle!. You may also leave the pups on the mother plant, and allow a clump to form.

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