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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.

Mandevilla, Tropical, Annual

Say Hello to Summer with Tropical Plants

Tropicals instantly evoke a sense of serenity with their ability to make us dream of white sand and blue water. This summer, create your own vacation hideaway at home by adding tropical plants to your outdoor living space. If you have a tropical plant already, now is the perfect time to take it outside for the season. Here are a few plants that you can enjoy both inside and out this season.

Boston Fern

Boston Fern

If you are looking for beautiful foliage, look no further than the Boston Fern. This popular fern’s trailing, flat fronds make it an excellent addition to any hanging basket. Native to the forest floors of the tropics, these plants thrive in cool places with high humidity and indirect light. The key to keeping your fern healthy is to keep it moist, mimicking its natural environment as closely as possible. Feed your fern a diluted amount of Jack’s All Purpose fertilizer during the summer, then provide it the standard dose of fertilizer when it goes back inside for the winter. When indoors, keep it away from wood stoves or fireplaces, which dry out the air and deprive your plant of the humidity it loves.

Asparagus Fern

Asparagus Fern

The Asparagus Fern is not actually a true fern, but a member of the lily family. Its trailing foliage is perfect for containers and hanging baskets. This fern’s needle-like fronds and produce white flowers and red berries when situated in ideal conditions. Just like the Boston Fern, keep this fern moist to keep it happy and place it far away from your fireplace or wood stove during the cool months! Feed it a diluted amount of all purpose fertilizer during the summer to help its foliage show better and then the recommended amount when your fern goes back inside for the winter.

Citrus Plants

Lemon Tree

Keep a slice of tropical paradise in your home with a potted citrus plant. Fragrant flowers and delicious fruit we all love make this plant is one that will delight all year. There are many varieties of citrus fruits, though the most popular ones are lemons (Meyer and Ponderosa varieties), limes, and oranges. Bring your citrus plant outside for the summer to provide your plant with more sun and to allow for pollination. The best month to transition your plant outdoors is May, and the best time to bring it back inside is toward the end of September. Let the plant slowly acclimate to the new light and the space when transitioning indoors and out. To encourage health and beauty in your plants, fertilize every 7-10 days with a citrus fertilizer like Jack’s Citrus Feed.

Medinillas

Medinilla

Native to the Philippines, medinilla has been prized as an exotic houseplant by European nobility for hundreds of years! This tropical features dramatic, drooping pink blooms that last about 3 months, and a grape-like cluster of lavender flowers which bloom for a shorter time. When caring for your medinilla, water it well all the way down to the bottom of the pot and then let it dry ¾ of the way before watering again. Check regularly to find out how long this takes. These plants enjoy at least 4 hours of sun each day, but dislikes direct light.

Mandevillas

Mandevilla

Mandevillas with their stunning pinwheel shaped flowers provide vibrant color year round. Native to the southwestern United States and Central America, they come in many wonderful colors as well as night illuminating whites. They are easy to care for, thriving in bright, indirect or filtered sunlight. Give your plant  a balanced, high phosphorus fertilizer (20-20-20 or Osmocote) once every two weeks in the summer to boost the blooms. It is a vine, so give it a trellis to climb up as it grows!