Want to improve your home’s indoor air quality while adding more oomph to your interior design? Add air plants, the real kind. There are many types of air plants – even those which thrives without sunlight. Getting the majority of their nutrients from the air, tillandsia or commonly referred generally as air plants require less of your time and attention making it a perfect plant for indoor container gardening. You can create a terrarium, hanging planter or a ceramic self-watering pot to house these gorgeous house plants.
You may also anchor it on another plant or a driftwood or a window sill or wherever/whichever catches your fancy, and it will still thrive. Like orchids and lichens as well as mosses and ferns, this plant genus does not suck out nutrients from their host. But what tillandsia to pick?
Types of Air Plants
Belonging to the bromeliad family, the simple yet adorable tillandsia comes in around 650 types or varieties. There are also countless hybrids to give you more choices. Take these popular varieties for starters:
Tillandsia Aeranthos. Native to Latin American countries Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, this type comes with gorgeous silver-blue scaly leaves and dark blue flower seeping out of its deep pink bracts. Vibrant and appealing, it can grow up to 6 inches in height and 9 inches in width. This Drunken Gnome below is one variety of Tillandsia Aeranthos.
Tillandsia Xenographica. Another Latin American native, this type particularly thrives in the arid areas of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. It’s an attractive plant great for indoor gardening for its unique looks. From the silver-gray leaves that clung like a spider on the base then, slowly curling into tapered tips to its spiral rosette flower, this makes an attractive centerpiece in terrarium containers. Check out this variety from Garden in the City below.
Tillandsia Cyanea. A Native in Ecuador’s rainforest, this bromeliad air plant is popularly known as Pink Quill plant. Characterized by thinly recurved leaves in stemless rosettes, paddle-shaped spikes, and deep blue (almost violet) flowers. Take a good look at this one.
Tillandsia Ionantha. One of the most popular air plants, it includes quite a lot of varieties and hybrids. Though often ensconced on driftwood, some are cut to thrive in a miniature hanging terrarium. Characterized mostly with silvery-green leaves that tend to go deeper in color as it extends turning into red and pink in color as it prepares to bloom. Flowers can either be red, blue, purple or white. This Ionantha Fuego below is a good choice for beginner indoor gardening.
Tillandsia Purpurea. Deliciously aromatic, this air plant type is perfect for living rooms as well as bedrooms. Its attractive reddish purple flower emits an appealing cinnamon-like scent which relaxes the mind. Even the stiff leaves which come in purple-tinted mauve hue adds more appeal to this air plant type.
Tillandsia fuchsii var. Garcilis. This air plant was originally referred to as Tillandsia argentea. Extremely thin gray-green leaves coming out of pincushion like bulbous base makes it easy to identify. Tillandsia fuchsii var. garcilis is a small, delicate plant but can withstand brighter lights than many other air plants. It symmetrically grows up to only about five to six inches and occupies about one to two inches in width. Due to its extremely thin blade like leaves, misting is not the best option to water the plant. Instead give the plant a bath by placing fuchsii in the water bowl at least for an hour, every week.
Tillandsia funkiana These funky, narrow air plants bend, wind and curl into odd shapes, sometimes even spiraling around themselves. This is a tiny plant, growing only about two inches long. Tillandsia funkiana is a great choice for a terrarium as it’s slender and can fit in almost any container. As with so many air plants, the leaves will turn red, as it gets ready to flower. It blooms with bright orange red flowers.
Tillandsia gardneri It looks are similar to a small yucca, having pale grayish leaves that taper to a point. It’s comparatively a bigger size air plant that can grow up to 9 to 12 inches in height. It grows well in moderate light with good air circulation and humidity levels. So it’s a good choice if you can’t provide the bright light and warm temperatures most air plants prefer. It’s very forgiving as it does not need much watering, but it still needs plenty of moisture which enters it through the scale like leaves.
Tillandsia lonatha ‘Fuego’. These are tiny little air plants, but are great for show-off because they can flush bright red or orange tones on receiving direct sunlight., ‘Fuego’ is a cultivar bred so it keeps on blushing, long after blooming. The leaves retain their bright color for months. However, it’s a very small air plant growing to only about one inch. It could be a starting point for your air plant collection as they fill out quite quickly and can be easily cared for provided they are misted regularly.
Tillandsia maxima. If you are looking for an air plant that makes a real impact, then Tillandsia maxima are worth a look. Also known as ‘Huamelula‘ it is the loveliest variety from ionantha forms with coral-red leaves and purple flowers. This air plant can handle comparatively stronger sun than most other air plants and produces multiple flowers simultaneously. It is considered relatively large for an air plant, as it grows up to five to six inches in height with a spread of three to four inches.
Tillandsia kolbii. Tillandsia kolbii looks like a bunch of celery having a slight curvature to the leaves. It has been created by crossing T. ionantha with T. Scaposa. It is a small plant and grows up to only two to three inches, but it is good enough to make a statement with a soft, gray fuzz on its leaves, especially when they blush pink before blooming. It prefers less light and enjoys a humid environment.
Tillandsia brachycaulos: The vibrant green leaves of Tillandsia brachycaulos grows outward from a central growing point and the plant turns red as it gets ready to bloom. But don’t get fooled as at times you may find plants with leaves that have been dyed red, to give the appearance of flowering. It’s a fairly small plant, growing to about three inches only with a four-inch spread. It requires good light, but avoid the full sun in the summer afternoon. It’s best to keep the plant very close to a window indoors in winter and preferably outside in mild shade in the summer.
Tillandsia bulbosa – This air plant gets its name from its bulbous roots, but it is the contorted, tendril like green narrow leaves that make it even more interesting. These tendrils like leaves are often described as looking like tentacles and the plants do give a sea monster-like appearance. The leaves change it’s color to purple or bright red, just before it is ready to bloom purple flowers. It prefers hot to warm temperature and humidity and can be easily taken care of in such environments. One interesting fact about Tillandsia bulbosa is that it forms a symbiotic relationship with ants if grown outdoors. The somewhat hollow bulbs are used by the ants to make their home inside and the plant, in turn, feeds off the waste that is left behind by the ants.
Tillandsia cacticola. This plant is hard to find as it does not produce many offsets. However. it is greatly sought after for its lovely lavender flower. The species gets its name from its habit of growing on cacti. It has a silvery or whitish-green rosette of leaves that grows out to almost about 10 cm, out of which juts a long stem that holds the white flower with purple tip petals at about eight to nine inches above the plant.
Tillandsia capitata ‘Peach’. The thick leaves of Tillandsia capitata ‘ are surprisingly soft to the touch. They form a fountain like an appearance as the soft foliage grows from the center. The peach coloring makes a striking contrast to the purple flower. The largest specimens of this plant grow out to be eight inches tall, although two- to three-inch plants are common. They have strong but very fine hair like roots that grow to anchor the plant to its mount. They are perfect for large terrariums or as a hanging air plant.
Tillandsia circinata The thick whitish-green leaves give Tillandsia circinata a very different appearance, looking almost like a bulb of fennel. The leaves grow linear shape and have grey fuzz called trichomes. The flower blooms to either yellow or purple and can grow to six to eight inches in length, although they are only about one inch across at their base.
Tillandsia loliacea. If miniature air plants attract, you will fall in love with Tillandsia. The plant itself does not grow much larger than an inch and a half in height but when it comes to its flowers, the flower stalk stretches up another two to three inches to display it’s equally tiny yellow flowers. These tiny air plants look charming perched on wood as well as clustered in terrariums, where they can soak up the excess moisture.
Tillandsia didisticha. It’s quite a large plant for a Tillandsia, that grows upwards to up to one-foot height, at maturity. The base of the plant forms slender, gray-green, pointed leaves. Out of which comes the stiff flower stalk with pinkish bracts and small white flowers. It thrives well in indirect light. Spray r dunk it at least twice a week for good health.
Tillandsia dyeriana. It’s a very attractive, striking air plant with its bright orange inflorescence. The flowers of this plant are white, but they are dominated by the exuberance of its bracts. Unlike other air plants, this one prefers to grow in pots, where it can have adequate moisture. Remember to provide this species with lots of humidity. If grown in pots, it can get quite big (up to 12 to 18 inches in height).
Tillandsia fasciculata. This air plant has been given several common names, including quill-leaf air plants, giant air plant cardinal air plants, and wild pineapple as it is one of the most commonly grown air plants with hundreds of variations and hybrids. It gives red and green inflorescence that stays attractive for weeks. Compared to other Tillandsia, this species grows to be quite large and can be as tall as three feet.
Tillandsia flabellata Instead of having a rosette of slender leaves like many other air plants, flabellata grows tall to be vase-shaped, with an array of flowers sometimes described as a candelabra. This is a big plant, growing up to 10 to 12 inches tall, which blooms multiple red flower spikes.
Tillandsia recurvata This species is often called as ball moss. It gives a nest shape appearance, with a mass of slender, arching gray-green leaves and a tall lavender flower spike. The leaves can grow up to two to six inches in length. This plant has the very peculiar habit of allowing its seeds to germinate while they are still in the seed pod. Though it does not produce spectacular color blooms like it’s cousins this hardy air plant produces lavender colored tiny flowers.
Caring for Air Plants
Generally, there is not much to do about cultivating any of these types of air plants. Tillandsia varieties can thrive even in humid environments with low sunlight. They, however, need a certain amount of moisture to keep them from dying a slow painful death. Supplement them with artificial light at least 12hrs a day or place them in areas where natural light comes in. Submerge them in a bowl of water when the plant looks arid. Spray some liquid fertilizer like this Jack’s Orchid Liquid 8oz Grow 7-5-6 & Orchid Bloom. When cared for accordingly, these air plants will not only add happiness to your indoor abode but also improve its air quality.