Air Plants - Tillandsia

This section contains basic information about Tillandsias and the reasons airplants die. Including the basic growth cycle & flowering of Air Plants.

What are Tillandsia?


Tillandsia Bulbosa (giant red form)  Belize
Bulbosa (giant red form)  Belize

What are Air Plants?

Tillandsia are part of the Bromeliad family, the Genus name is Tillandsia which is also the common name, these are further broken down into species name, most people just call them Air plants. There are over 550 species of Tillandsia (plus many hybrids), that grow in the Mexico, South and Central Americas. They grow naturally only in the New World, with the exception of only one species. There are only 16 species that are native of Florida.

Tillandsias take all their water and nutrients through the leaf system, none or very minimal amounts are absorbed by the root system. This root system is used as wire like anchors to hold onto trees, rocks etc. Since the root system is not important to the plant this can be removed without harm, to make make your plant easier to mount. The roots may or may not grow back, either way is doesn't matter to the welfare of your plant.

Growth Cycle

Bromeliad Tillandsia have a life cycle of one plant growing to maturity and blooming. Before, during or after blooming (depending on the species) your plant will start producing young (PUPS), most plants will produce between 2 - 8 pups which in turn will mature, generally within a year and in turn bloom and produce pups. So this year you have one plant, next year maybe 6, the next year 36 and so on. Your plant will actually look better next year than this year as it starts to clump and produce more blooms. The bad news is that each plant will only flower once in its lifetime, but you should have blooms each year as the pups mature, and in turn flower. Flowers can last from several days to many months, depending on the species, most Tillandsia bloom naturally in late winter through mid-summer.

General Info

Tillandsias DO have to be watered, they live 'in' air, not 'on' air.

Tillandsias are NOT toxic to animals, although this does not mean your pet won't eat them, but they will survive the experience, your plant might not.

Tillandsias are NOT parasitic, they do not harm the host tree.

Trim away brown, bent or damaged leaves, this will not hurt the plant.


Main reasons Tillandsias die

They were not initially cared for properly (their owner was told they need little or no water).

They did not get enough light (they were more than 10 feet from a bright window or skylight).

They were placed in DIRECT SUN. Garden windows are generally too warm unless they are shaded or facing north.

They were not watered thoroughly and frequently. Bulby and fleshy Tillandsias can rot! Drain them thoroughly and water less frequently.

Tillandsias growing outdoors need more watering than indoor Tillandsias, as the sun and wind dry them out more quickly.

PLEASE read the air plants care section on watering - this is one of the most important aspects of growing Tillandsias successfully.


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Tillandsia Ionantha