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Air Plant, Tillandsia lindenii, Istock, greenhouse

Air Plant Guide

Tillandsia, often known as air plants, are a popular variety of houseplant that originates in Central and South America as well as some parts of the Southeastern United States. They are called air plants for good reason – they do not need roots. Instead, air plants absorb water and nutrients through their leaves from the surrounding air. This makes them incredibly popular, as they can be used in all variety of décor. Hang them from the ceiling, attach them to a wall, or set them on a table, and they will do just fine wherever you place them without soil – provided you meet a few conditions. 

Before reading on – note that the lifespan of most tillandsia is several years, and they only bloom once in their lifecycle. 1-2 months after blooming, new plants, called pups, form around the original. These will bloom eventually, so with a bit of care, you can keep your plants going for years. 

Light Requirements

When thinking about the environmental conditions needed by houseplants, it is always helpful to consider their natural environment. Air plants often grow on trees or in moist areas with partial shade. In these conditions, they receive bright, indirect light. This means that indoors they do best in high light environments. Rooms with southern or eastern facing windows are best.

If you lack a southern or eastern facing window, others will also work, you just need to keep a few things in mind. If your plant is in a western facing window, beware of frying your air plant in the intense afternoon sun. North-facing windows get less light, so place the plant close to the window. 

Watering

In general, you can plan to water tillandsia 1-2 times a week. However, you will need to take the environmental conditions into account and adjust accordingly. Before watering, think about the answers to these questions:

  • How much light will my air plant get, and at what time of day? 
  • What is the temperature in the space where my air plant is located?
  • How humid is the space?

Air plants that get afternoon sun in a western window in your living room will need more frequent watering than air plants  in a southern facing window in your bathroom, as the sun is less hot when coming from the south, and mist from the shower provides plenty of humidity for the plant. If the air plant will be dryer space, in an area near a heater for example, it will need watering more frequently. 

Air Plant, Tillandsia ionantha, greenhouse, Istock

How to Water an Air Plant

  1. Bi-weekly under a kitchen or bathroom faucet, run lukewarm water over your tillandsia until thoroughly soaked. 
  2. Then turn upside down and shake off excess water.
  3. Return your plant to it’s display.

Some notes about watering:

  • Be careful with bulbous air plants (they have visible bulbs at the base) if too much water stays at the base of the plant, the plants will rot.
  • In between watering, you can lightly mist your air plants to keep them a healthy vibrant green as they soak up water.
  • Once or twice a month, you can spray a little bit of Tillandsia fertilizer on your air plants to keep them thriving.
  • Be careful not to overwater your air plants. When the base of the plant becomes a brown/black color or the leaves begin to fall out from the center, the plant has rotted.
  • Usually if the tips of the leaves turn crispy and brown, the plant isn’t getting enough water. Additionally, when the plant isn’t getting enough water, its naturally concave curved shape will become accentuated.

Get Creative with Air Plant Décor

Air plants grow naturally in trees, so using driftwood as a display piece for your favorite tillandsia is a wonderful way to show them off in a more natural setting.

Tillandsia, Air Plant, Istock

Since they do not need soil, you can get as creative as you want in designing art with your plants. We love this idea from Balcony Garden Web’s post, “51 Most Amazing Air Plant Display Ideas.

And of course, their is always the classic option to put them in terrariums. You can use them as a feature plant, or add them in as a decorative element with other plants. 

Not sure about how to care for your air plant or what you want to get? Call or visit one of our Merrifield locations to speak with a plant specialist to find out what suits your home environment the best!

Created something cool using air plants? We would love to see it! Share with us on Instagram or Facebook and tag @merrifieldgardencenter for a chance to be featured on our page.

Orchid

Orchid Care for Beginners

Perhaps one of the most well-known houseplants, people love orchids for their elegant beauty and long-lasting blooms. These plants have a reputation as an intimidating plant for advanced gardeners only, but with a little extra knowledge, anyone can help their orchid thrive. If you are an orchid beginner, we recommend starting with the Phalaenopsis orchid. This is one of the best orchids to grow as a houseplant since it thrives at average household temperatures, and it does very well sitting on a windowsill. These plants can bloom 2 to 3 times per year after they are established.

Orchid, Greenhouse Plant

Light

Phalaenopsis orchids need about 3 to 4 hours of either morning or late afternoon light. An eastern facing window works best, but a shaded south or west facing window work as well. If you are having trouble getting your plant to rebloom, increase the amount of light it receives by removing shade, placing it closer to the window, or supplementing its light with a grow light placed 8 to 12 inches above its foliage. You will know your plant is receiving too much light if it’s leaves become red-tinged.

Orchid Potting Medium

Water

When purchasing your plant, determine whether your orchid is planted in moss or bark. Water your orchids only when they are nearly dry, but do not allow them to dry out. As a general rule of thumb, when the plant is in bark, water every 7 to 10 days. When it is in moss, water ever 10 to 14 days. To prevent rot, water your plants in the morning so that the leaves are dry by the evening. Orchids also love humidity, so you can place them on a humidity tray or a tray of gravel partially filled with water to create a more humid atmosphere around them.

Orchid Fertilizer

Fertilizer

If your plant is growing in a bark-based media, a high nitrogen fertilizer (30-10-10) is a good option. We recommend using a blossom booster fertilizer (10-30-20), which gives a better bud count when it comes to bloom time for orchids.

Orchid on Windowsill

Temperature

Place your orchid on a windowsill for a good temperature differential between day and night. This encourages rebloom. One of the primary reasons our customers are not able to get their orchids to bloom a second time is a lack of cooler air in the evenings. While this temperature difference is great for the plants when initiating blooms, once the buds form and the plant is ready to bloom, you should move it away from the window as temperature differentials can cause already formed buds to drop.

Orchid

Flowering and Repotting

After your Phalaenopsis orchid finished blooming, cut the stem back to the third node from the base of the stalk. A new flower spike should emerge in a few months. The moss and bark materials that orchids grow in break down over time, so you should repot your orchid every 2 to 3 years in the spring, or in the fall after it finishes blooming. You will know your orchid needs repotting when the medium breaks down and begins to look like dirt, or when the roots begin to show at the top of the pot.