Air plants, of the genus Tillandsia, are making bold statements in the world of interior decor. Not everyone has a green thumb and these days, in a world of on-the-go, low maintenance is key.
It’s not uncommon for air plants to be referred to as the medusa plant, sea urchin plant, and jellyfish plant because of their curvy, layered leaves. If you’ve ever chopped a pineapple, you’ve met a relative of the air plant! Air plants are not edible whatsoever, but they possess many of the same qualities as the crown.
Air plants are also related to ferns, succulents, and Spanish moss!
Caring for an air plant and watching it grow can be rewarding in itself, but they also provide health benefits. Indoor plants act as an air purifier, filtering toxins and debris from the air we breathe. If that’s not enough reason to bring the green inside, what is?
The elements: air, water, and sunlight
Air plants are taking over homes and offices for all the right reasons. Not only are they great conversation starters, but these curious little companions come with modest requirements. In comparison to earthbound plants, most air plants occupy a fraction of the space, require zero soil, and the upkeep is minimal. A modest amount of the elements is all they need to grow…but they can’t be neglected.
In order to thrive, air plants need adequate oxygen flow. One surefire way to kill an air plant is containing it in the same space as moss, as moss is highly absorbent. Too much moisture or humidity without circulation can cause an air plant to rot, so it’s best to avoid overcrowding and overwatering.
Air plants can be fed in two ways. First, a gentle mist of water through a spray bottle once or twice a week is usually sufficient. The second method is submersion. When introducing an air plant to a new environment, soaking it for up to an hour will help it acclimate faster and easier. Soaking is also a good way to maintain and revive air plants – almost like getting a new haircut! If you notice your air plant’s leaves curling under, it’s dehydrated and clinging to life. To revive it, submerge it in fresh water overnight and watch it bounce back. Just be sure to dry it with a paper towel so excess water can escape.
Like for humans, direct sunlight for extended periods of time is harmful to air plants. It can cause air plants to burn, dry out, and lose color. Air plants do best in indirect, bright lighting where they won’t overheat and can retain moisture. On the other hand, air plants should never be stored in temperatures lower than 50 degrees because they cannot survive the cold.
Air plants can also grow under fluorescent bulbs. If conditions in the home or office restrict sun visibility, full spectrum artificial lights serve as a suitable alternative when placed at least 36” from the bulb.
Types of air plants
The official number of air plant species is unknown but scientists believe there are upwards of 500, many of which are hybrids. All species fall into one of two categories of air plants: mesic and xeric tillandsia.
Mesic tillandsia is the most common type because they thrive in drought-free regions. These air plants come in an array of shapes and colors.
This is the lowest maintenance of the two types. Xeric tillandsia retains moisture in its leaves to survive droughts, similar to a cactus or camel, as they are native to desert climates where the sun is harsh and water is scarce. They also grow fibers that resemble a fuzzy sweater that store water and shade leaves from the sun.
Air plant propagation
Air plants reproduce at the base of the mother plant. When the pup reaches at least half the size of the mother, the pup can be separated to grow independently. This is the most efficient way to grow an air plant because sprouting from a seed can take years and viability isn’t promised.
Air plant displays
Even though air plants extract nutrients from the air, they still possess roots. The sole purpose of air plant roots is to act as an anchor, allowing them to mount only just about anything. Some natural suggestions are cork, bark, stone–pretty much any flat surface that won’t hold water.
The ideal display for an air plant contains holes or one large opening for air circulation. Some popular air plant displays include hanging ornaments or air plant terrariums, suspension in wound wires, bundled together in a cluster, or for larger displays, a full plant wall. For more information on how you can incorporate air plants into the design of your space, contact Ambius today.
Air plant decor for your space
Air plants are undeniably the most versatile indoor plant and come in a variety of styles and sizes. Many bloom flowers, blush vibrant colors, possess bulbs or fragrances, and some even have silver fibers resembling hair. With so many air plants to choose from, perhaps the best first step is considering climate and care. Similar to how a greyhound could be a problematic apartment dog, you should avoid adopting a desert air plant to reside in Alaska. Fortunately, our design experts are here to help you make the best selections for your space. Call us at 888-701-5189 to discuss air plant display options today.