Aerophyte – “air plant”

Air plants get their name due to that fact they are generally found hanging in the air. Air plants are a nickname for Tillandsia which is a genus of around 650 species.  Tillandsia are in the Bromeliad family.  To be an Aerophyte means the root system is very minimal and is used to anchor the plant base in shifting or loose desert sand/substrate or to attach to another plant or tree.  They can be found in a wide range of environments, from humid rainforests to dry and arid deserts. The bulk of tillandsia are found in Central America, South America, and Mexico but they are also native to parts of the Southern United States like Florida.

Although called air plants, they do need water to survive but will die if planted in soil. They are easy to care for and can be displayed in so many ways (shelves, terrariums, driftwood, etc).  Just how to feed and water your airplants will vary widely.  The secret is to get the watering right. Dampness is the enemy.  Leaf rot and fungal diseases can be a problem if the plant is too damp.  The links at the end of this article will provide a lot of information.

Caring for an air plant depends on a lot of factors, with some of the more important ones being what type of tillandsia “air plant” and what type of environment you are in.  If you live in an area with a lot of humidity, you may find that the greener more “mesic” type air plants will do well.  While on the other hand if you live in a place like Arizona, with dry hot air you will have better luck keeping “xeric” tillandsia like Xerographica and Duratii.  Aerophytes are able to pull moisture and nutrients from the air with dense scales on their leaves called “trichomes”.

Aerophytes are tropical and cannot withstand a freeze. They must come inside for the winter.

Air plants like temperatures ranging between the 50s and 90s.  They thrive with temperature fluctuations. Give them a 10-degree temperature drop that mimics cool nights and they flourish. They need bright indirect light. Southern or Eastern exposure the best. Air plants may flower but bloom only once in their lifetime and then die. Propagate by harvesting the pups (from the base of the plant) for baby air plants just before an air plant blooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

Aerophyte care tips!

Air Plant

Air Plant Care: How To Care For Air Plants, Aeriums And Tillandsia Mounts

How to Grow and Care for Air Plants

No soil? No problem with air plants

“What is an Air Plant”

title photo credit:  https://dunedinbotanicgarden.co.nz/collections/garden-life-article/adaptation-allows-life-without-soil

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *