AIR PLANTS or Tillandsia are the largest genus in the bromeliad family. They make great novelty, cool and birthday gifts! There are over 500 species of air plants and they are native to the southern United States, Mexico, Central and South America. Varieties are found from sea level to high mountain ranges in jungles and arid desert climates. Air plants are hardy and adaptable and tolerate a wide range of climate and require minimal care. The three most important requirements are bright, indirect sunlight, good air circulation and water. Air plants are classified as epiphytes. This means they attach themselves to a host plant, tree or rock and absorb moisture and nutrients in the air through their leaves. The absorption occurs through small scales on their leaves called Trichomes. These Trichomes are what give many Tillandsia their silver or gray appearance. There is enormous variety in size, shape, texture, bloom and color of air plants. Many of these unique plants undergo a dramatic color change as they prepare to bloom. A few provide unequaled fragrance. Since Tillandsias are epiphytes the display you choose is limited only by your imagination. Air plants are hardy and adaptable and tolerate a wide range of climate and require minimal care.
Water 1x week or less often depending on size of plant. Dip and shake smaller plants, soak larger plants then shake. Do not over water; plant bottoms will become soft and fall apart. Air plants absorb water through their leaves. Air plants reproduce by offset (pup) or by seed. Many send out pups from the base or between the leaves of the mother plant. This is one characteristic that delights Tillandsia plant enthusiasts. In some air plants it is not unusual to see 4 to 8 offsets appear before, during or after bloom. Young air plants can be separated from the mother when they are 1/3 to 1/2 the parent's size, and will mature in about a year.
Reproduction by seed is a rewarding process, however growth of a seedling can be very slow, taking years before the Tillandsia is mature. Air plant blooms are as diverse and beautiful as any in the plant world and can last from a few days to as long as a year in some of the slow growing species. Color can vary from white, orange, bright yellow, red, pink, blue, purple and many shades in between. A wide variety of air plants bloom naturally in late winter through mid-summer. Many, but not all, can be induced to bloom using a solution of plant growth regulator sprayed lightly over the entire plant. This treatment will compel the blooming cycle within 4 to 8 weeks.
Many air plants are too sensitive and can be damaged by this process or the bloom they may produce is a disappointment compared to the plant's natural blossom. If your plant loses its color after blooming, this is natural, all its energy is now going into producing pups. If your plant (especially Ionanthas) loses its color before blooming it’s not getting sufficient light, move to a lighter location.