Tillandsia, succulent-like leaves… with no roots at all!

Tillandisa, the air plant

One interesting member of the Bromeliaceae family is tillandsia. This original plant has absolutely no roots at all, and it’s very ornamental.

Key facts to remember

Name – Tillandsia
FamilyBromeliaceae
Type – indoor plant, epiphyte perennial

Height
– 12 to 20 inches (30 to 50 cm)
Exposure – light, no direct sun

foliage
– evergreen Flowering – depends on the variety

A plant without roots, definitely the reason this plant goes by the air plant nickname.

Planting Tillandsia

In the wild, tillandsia grows on treesIn the wild, tillandsia grows where no other plants can. It’s found hanging off rock cliffs and tall trees, or prickly cactus… and even along electric poles and phone lines!

So your tillandsia won’t be very interested in whatever soil mix you have to offer.

Planting tillandsia isn't a question of soil-mixTillandsia leaves are able to extract moisture from the air, and rain trickling down from higher up provides whatever trace elements it needs to grow and bloom.

It’s thus perfectly fine to just plop your tillandsia on a piece of wood, or something more mineral like a slab of volcanic rock.

Tillandsia in a pot:

In a pot, you'll only need to add gravel for tillandsiaSome tillandsia species also like growing in pots.

  • The same substrate you’d use for orchids is perfect for potted tillandsia.

Propagating tillandsia:

The ideal season to propagate tillandsia is either spring or summer.

  • Separate small offshoots (at least half an inch or 1 cm long) from the base of the plant.

After separating these basal shoots in spring, let the wound cure for 1 or 2 days, and then plant in a mix that contains equal parts of leaf compost, crushed bark and peat.

Caring for and watering tillandsia

Tillandsia care is relatively easy, especially once you’ve caught on how to water it.

Note that tillandsia resists temperatures that reach 85°F or 30°C, but will die if it gets any colder than 40°F or 5°C.

Keep in mind during this entire watering section that tillandsia hates calcium deposits, and always prefers watering with either rainwater or bottled water.

Watering tillandsia:

Watering, for tillandsia, is different than for other plants: the goal is more to mist water on its leaves, than to actually water it.

Watering tillandsia is a bit difficult if your plantscaping is too complexSpray water, preferably non-hard, on its leaves 2 or 3 times a week, sometimes more often if the weather is very hot.

Once a week, in addition, soak the tillandsia in water for a few minutes.

  • Best do this in water that doesn’t have much calcium carbonate in it (soft water).
  • Drip dry the plants well before putting it back on its stand.

Adding fertilizer and flowering:

  • Flower on a tillandsia plantOnce a month, dip the plant in water with a twice-diluted orchid plant fertilizer: this will increase your tillandsia’s blooming.
  • It’s also possible to give the plant fertilizer by spraying it over.

Tillandsia diseases

Diseases that infect tillandsia are either water-related or pestsMost often, you’ll encounter all the usual indoor plant disease culprits: red spider mitescale insects, aphids and even powdery mildew

  • If the color of the leaves turns pale, it is probably due to a lack of fertilizer.
  • If the inside leaves turn yellow or brown, it is probably due to too much watering.
  • Too much direct sun may cause sunburns on the leaves: they turn brown in places.

Smart tip

Don’t use any “leaf shiner” products on leaves, because those products tend to block up pores and the plant can’t extract moisture from the air anymore.


Read also:

> Did you know indoor plants could remove pollution from the air?

> 3 pollution-clearing plants to choose from


Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
Pixabay: cristty, Luisella Planeta Leoni, Jürgen, Jeon Sang-O, Quan Manu, Ally J.