Tillandsia: Plants that live on air

Tillandsia air plant

How do they even manage to stay alive…on air? Since tillandsias get most of their water and nutrients from the surrounding air, they are often called “air plants.”

One thing that makes air plants so unique from other plants is that they don’t need soil to grow.

Also, the roots of air plants are not designed to take in water or nutrients. Rather, these roots serve as anchors to assist the plants in holding onto tree branches and rocks.

In fact, similar to orchids, air plants are epiphytes. Meaning as they grow, they tend to hold on to whatever they can find for support and stability.

Tillandsia plants

Tillandsia, which lacks the normal soil-penetrating roots of other plants, gets everything it needs to survive from its leaves instead.

This is because tillandsias are covered with trichomes, highly specialized cells with a remarkable ability to absorb water and nutrients from the environment.

This layer of trichomes also gives the air plants their silvery green colour with a white fuzzy look.

air plants

Silvery thick leaves of the Tillandsia ionantha plant.

How to care for air plants?

Caring for a tillandsia might be a bit of a learning curve for first-time plant parents since it is unlike most common houseplants.

Yet, as houseplants, they are incredibly easy and forgiving. They also enjoy being outside, but only in a warm, frost-free, tropical climate.

Though air plants are super low maintenance, please don’t treat them like a piece of decor.

Even if it’s generous enough to spend its life in a decorative pot or on a bookshelf without soil, that doesn’t mean it can thrive without access to fresh air, sunlight, and water.

Put them somewhere that has plenty of light.

Air plants do love several hours of sunbathing under bright, indirect light. 

And because their leaves can absorb moisture from the environment, they don’t need to be watered as often. To keep the air plants happy, mist-spray them from time to time.

Give your air plants a good bath in distilled water for a couple of hours every two weeks.


Tillandsias can be grown pretty much anywhere and on anything.

Once taken out of its bath, give the plant a light shake to eliminate any excess water that may have collected between the leaves.

Put your air plant upside down on a paper or towel for a few hours to let the water fully drain out.

Then, put it back in its original position. This will drastically relieve the chance of rotting.

Overwatering can cause the air plant leaves to turn brown or mushy. In the worst case, if the leaves turn black and start to shed, the plant has rotten and is beyond saving.

Incorporate the beauty of air plants into the decor

Air plants are such extraordinary sculptural works of botanical art.

The easiest option is to arrange them in various spots around the house. It is essential to choose a holding material that doesn’t retain moisture.

Driftwood is an excellent choice for decorative accents as the wood’s rustic visuals accentuate the vibrant green of air plants. Seashells, terrarium glass, little gravel pots, and pebbles also make lovely displays for air plant arrangement.

When it comes to air plants, the possibilities for decorations are endless.

air plants decorations

You can’t mess up when it comes to appreciating air plants.

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