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2014 Tillandsia

Tillandsia by Jean Atkinson, Richbar Golf and Gardens

Do you wish you had a green thumb? Do all your house plants keep dying? Maybe the answer is Tillandsia ….. Air plants. Yes, even you can grow these.

Tillandsias are epiphytes, or aerophytes because they grow without soil and actually pull in moisture and nutrients that are in the air through structures called trichomes on their leaves. These plants are not parasitic but use their host only as a support. They are very funky looking, even alien-like.

Okay, they do require some care but it’s very minimal. First, they like bright light, but not direct hot sun so avoid a south facing window. To bloom and multiply they will need bright light. Moisture is important especially in our dry northern homes during the winter months. It is recommended that you submerge them in water for 2-3 hours every two weeks. You will be able to tell that the plant is drying out as the leaves will start to look unhappy and begin to curl. Do not use softened water as the salt will kill the plant. That goes for all houseplants. Un-softened tap water is okay but bottled water would be better. Rain, pond or aquarium water is the preferred choice. Misting in between soakings is recommended but not compulsory.

Fertilize them with a weak, one quarter strength soluble fertilizer such as Miracle – Gro once in the spring and again in the summer. If you are using pond or aquarium water, fertilizing is not necessary as they are getting enough nutrients.

Plants will usually bloom spring to summer and afterwards begin producing tiny new plants called ‘pups’. To remove these new plants just pull carefully away from the mother plant.

You can really get creative with these plants and the sky is the limit to what you can attach them to. Attach them to driftwood, shells, rocks, pottery etc. The current horticultural trend is to display them in hanging globes or inside specialty picture frames.

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