There is a houseplant for everybody; even those who don’t have the greenest of thumbs or a whole lot of time or space. Versatile and easy to grow, air plants (Tillandsia) are gaining in popularity in homes around the world.
What Are They?
They’re called air plants because they don’t need soil or very much water to grow. Talk about minimal attention! All they need is the sun and a misting from a spray bottle now and then.
Also contributing to the name is the fact that Tillandsia is an epiphyte, a type of plant that lives high on tropical trees where it can soak up all the nutrients, sunlight, and rainwater it needs.
They are native to the southern U.S., Mexico, and both Central and South America, and have specialized leaves with trichomes (leaf hairs) that help it absorb water and minerals.
The hairs also repel insects and prevent water loss, which is why air plants don’t need very much care or moisture at all.
There are more than 650 types of air plants. Varieties are exotic-looking and come in multiple shapes, colors, and sizes, although they are generally quite compact.
They can be displayed in glass terrariums that either sit on a windowsill or dangle elegantly from the ceiling, making them an excellent addition to small spaces.
Air plants can also be left to sit on windowsills or counters by themselves, in which case, a simple misting of water a couple of times a week won’t do.
In her book, Living Decor: Plants, Potting and DIY Projects, Maria Colletti recommends soaking loose Tillandsia in a bowl of water for a couple of hours, shaking any excess moisture off after their bath. She warns that if left to sit in even just a small amount of liquid, air plants will rot.
A Growing Trend
Bringing the outdoors in is one of 2019’s hottest gardening trends. According to Garden Research, Pinterest searches for indoor plants is up 90%, with terrariums, cactus plants, and tropical plants getting the most interest.
Millennials are partly responsible for the sudden boom, and over the last few years, account for 31% of all houseplant sales.
These are just many of the reasons why the upcoming RHS Chelsea Flower show is dedicating an entire section to Tillandsia. Organizers say it’s the ultimate plant for millennials or newbie gardeners, as very little TLC is needed to keep them beautiful.
Their rise in popularity means you can typically find air plants in many local greenhouses and nurseries, but there are also several online boutiques that specialize in them and ship year-long with complete care instructions.
Anyone can jump on the houseplant bandwagon. Air plants, after all, are virtually unkillable.