Our Video Transcript: Caring for Air Plants

Hi,  “I am Elizabeth and I am Bailey with Hinterland Trading.”

“Today we are going to show you how to take care of your air plant. At the end of this video we are going to give you our contact information. If you have any other questions we will be happy to help. Air plant, air fern or Tilly are common names for Tillandsia, a genus of around 730 species of evergreen perennial flowering plants in the ­­­­bromeliad family native to the Southern United States, Central and South America, and the West Indies. Air plants thrive in many types of environments. Tillandsia are unique because the roots are only used to anchor themselves to other objects mainly trees. Botanists call this kind of plant an epiphyte. Air plants are not parasitic which means they do not live off of other plants to survive. Air plants do not require soil. They have roots but they only use them to anchor themselves to trees so they may catch nutrients from air and water through the trichomes on their leaves. These nutrients come in the form of microorganisms, decaying organic matter, and dust. Since they do not use their roots for growth, they are removed for a more pleasant appearance. If you simply follow a few basic guidelines to provide natural conditions for your air plants you will keep them happy and healthy for years.

Most air plants in the wild live under the canopies of other plants. They prefer as much filtered sunlight as they can get. An ideal location is next to a window. If you have to use artificial light, please make sure the plants are as close to the light source as possible. Air plants require a day-night cycle just like us. So when you go to bed, cut off the lights. As I mentioned earlier, air plants gather the nutrients from organic matter found in rain and dust in the air. These nutrients are removed from our tap water and make it safe for us to drink. Tap water will hydrate your plant but it will not feed it. If possible collect a bowl of rain water, bird bath water, or pond water which has a high content of organic matter. Even if you cannot see them the microorganisms are still there. Air plants prefer 50% humidity and above but that is not practical for our homes and offices. Fortunately air plants are tank plants which means they can hold on to their water for a long time. Broader leaf plants like Xerographica and Fasciculata need to be soaked once a week. Thin-leafed plants like Argentia and Oaxacana need to be soaked twice a week with a heavy misting. Ionantha and Scoposa are somewhere in the middle; a once per week soaking with a heavy misting will be just fine.

To soak partially fill a bowl with the water you have collected, place the plants upside down with the base out of the water. After two hours gently remove the plants and let the water drain on a towel for a couple of hours. When misting remove plants from any containers they may be in to avoid water collection in the container. Mist heavily until water runs off the plant. Place an area of good air circulation to dry. As the plants absorb water you will notice they turn a vibrant green. When they have taken in enough water the trichomes will close up and stop absorbing. The silver sheen of the trichomes will come back as the plant dries. This is normal. The most important thing to remember is to let the plants dry completely between watering as they are susceptible to rot if left wet too long.

Well water and softened water are high in sodium. Using water with a high salt content will eventually kill the plant. Distilled water has no nutritional value for the air plants and will actually leech nutrients from the plant. If a plant is in bloom avoid wetting the flower. Water can cause it to disintegrate. We cannot overemphasize the importance of letting the plant dry completely between watering. Air plants thrive in temperatures between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit. They will not survive overnight frost. Most air plants bloom once in a lifetime but the blooms are pretty spectacular. We have found that each air plant marches to its own beat but most bloom in the winter to spring. After an air plant blooms it will start to produce pups. As the pups grow the mother plant will die but each mother plant can produce up to 12 pups. Fertilizing is not necessary to keep the plants alive but it will spur growth and encourage bloom. We recommend lightly spraying them with an air plant specific mixture once per month when the plant is already wet. Fertilizing will fill some of the nutrients your plant may be missing but if you overdo it, it will burn your plant. We hope this video has been helpful and we cannot grow if you are not happy.”