Air plant (Tillandsia) is the largest member of the bromeliad family, which includes the familiar pineapple. How many varieties of air plants are there? Although estimates vary, most agree there are at least 450 different types of tillandsia, not to mention countless hybrid varieties, and no two air plant varieties are exactly the same. Ready to learn about a few different types of air plants? Keep reading.
Tillandsia plant types are epiphytes, a huge group of plants with roots that anchor the plant to a host – often a tree or a rock. Epiphytes are different from parasitic plants because, unlike parasites, they take no nutrients from the host plant. Instead, they survive by absorbing nutrients from the air, from composted material on the host plant, and from the rain. Examples of well-known epiphytes include various mosses, ferns, lichens and orchids.
Tillandsia air plants range in size from less than an inch to more than 15 feet. Although the leaves are often green, they may be red, yellow, purple, or pink. Many species are fragrant.
Tillandsias propagate by producing offshoots, often known as pups.
Here are some different types of air plants.
T. aeranthos – This species is native to Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. Aeranthos is a popular air plant with scaly, silver-blue leaves with dark blue blooms emerging from dark pink bracts. It is available in several forms, including a number of hybrids.
T. xerographica – This hardy air plant is native to the semi-desert regions of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Xerographica consists of a spiral rosette that can grow to widths of 3 feet, with a similar height when in flower. The silvery-gray leaves are wide at the base, curling to narrow, tapered tips.
T. cyanea – This widely cultivated air plant displays loose rosettes of arching, dark green, triangle-shaped leaves, often with a stripe near the base. The spiky blooms are purple and vivid pink to dark blue.
T. ionantha – The ionantha species includes several air plant varieties, all compact, striking plants with plentiful, curved leaves measuring about 1 ½ inches in length. Leaves are silvery grayish-green, turning red towards the center before the plant blooms in late spring. Depending on the variety, blooms may be purple, red, blue or white.
T. purpurea – Tillandsia plant types include purpurea (which means “purple”). Purpurea is appropriately named for the bright, reddish-purple blooms, notable for their mild, cinnamon-like aroma. The leaves, which reach up to 12 in long, grow in a spiral fashion. The stiff leaves are a lovely shade of purple-tinted mauve.
Sure, these fun and trendy plants don't need soil, but they do still need a little attention. Here's what you need to know to keep them thriving.
Air plants seem almost otherworldly the way they can grow, well, just in air. Yep, no soil at all required. Plus their leaves can look like a bit like alien tentacles or like the appendages of an exotic sea creature. These fascinating little plants have become quite popular over the last few years, appearing in just about any garden center or even in the checkout line at the grocery store. And there are plenty of online nurseries specializing in air plants, particularly the more unusual types. They're a bit different to grow than most other houseplants so we've rounded up a few tips for caring for air plants and enjoying them in your home.
Air plants look as if they came from another planet, but they’re native to the Americas, ranging from the southern United States to Argentina. In the wild, they use their roots to hang on the bark of trees, feeding on rainwater and bird poop they absorb through their leaves. There are more than 600 species and varieties of air plants, also called Tillandsias.
They usually have strap-like leaves that grow in a rosette pattern with new growth coming from the center of the plant. The foliage may be silver or green, spiky or fuzzy, and some produce flowers in shades of red, pink or purple that last from a few days to a few months. Most air plants are tiny, ranging from 2" to 12" tall.
These little lovelies deserve a fabulous planter for being so wonderfully low-maintenance.
Air plants are hard to identify because of the multitude of types and because two plants of the same species can look completely different depending on climate. The same species of air plant grown in California will look completely different than one grown in Florida.
Botanical Name: Tillandsia spp.
Common Name: Air Plants
Hardiness Zones: 9 to 13
While air plants are incredibly low-mainentance, they do require three things: light, air circulation, and an occasional light mist of water.
Tillandsia needs bright, but not direct, sunlight to thrive. Keep your indoor air plants near a south, east, or west window. Outside, Tillandsias will thrive in an area of the landscape where they will receive light shade and protection from direct sun.
Once a week, water your indoor air plant with a good misting—to the point where water is running off the plant. You should allow your plant to dry out between waterings. Curled or rolled leaves indicate that your Tillandsia is dehydrated.
Tillandsia does not always bloom indoors but if yours does, expect to see flowers in late winter and mid-summer. If blooms do come they can last for days or even months. Be aware, the "mother" plant will slowly die after it blooms, but new plants will sprout from it.
Whatever surface you mount the Tillandsia on, be sure that it doesn't hold water. You can attach air plants to a surface using an adhesive like liquid nails or hot glue—just be sure to let the hot glue cool slightly, or you can tie your plant to the mount using wire.
Air plants can provide your home with a bit of greenery that's unique and easy to care for. For more information on growing Tillandsia indoors or in your landscape contact your local county Extension office.
Light exposure is something you have to take great care of when growing a Fuego and the general rule of thumb is that you place your plant somewhere warm but with indirect sunlight.
You still want to give your plant at least 2 to 3 hours of direct sunlight but you have to make sure that there’s enough moisture in the air so that it doesn’t wilt.
Even though the Fuego grows in a hot climate, there is still the danger of sunlight burning the leaves so that being said you shouldn’t keep your Fuego near a window because the glass can heat up.
As far as temperature is concerned, you want to keep it between 59°F (15°C) and 80°F (27 °C) however, you want to balance out the heat and moisture ratio as much as possible.
The Fuego can tolerate mild frost, however, but you do want to bring it inside when the temperatures start to fall.
Botanical Name: Chlorophytum comosum ‘Vittatum’
‘Vittatum’ is the most popular, evergreen, perennial spider plant variety. This ornamental plant has creamy and broad vertical stripes, slightly curved, medium green leaves. It can grow up to 1-2 feet long and wide. Grow this beautiful drought-tolerant hanging plant in well-drained soil, under light shade.
Botanical Name: Chlorophytum comosum ‘Bonnie’
Bonnie has a similar appearance to Vittatum, but the leaves have more curls. This easy-to-care plant is prized for its bright and curled, narrow leaves, that can grow up to 8-18 inches long. This makes it a perfect choice for small rooms, compact balconies, and bathrooms. It also produces beautiful, yellow-colored flowers. This fast-growing plant is also called ‘toilet plant.’
Botanical Name: Chlorophytum laxum ‘Zebra’
This variety of zebra plant is fast-growing it forms yellow edges that turn white later. You can grow zebra variety as ground cover or in hanging baskets as well. It grows well in full sun to partial shade.
Botanical Name: Chlorophytum Comosum ‘Variegatum’
Also known as Reverse Variegated, this variety is popular among gardeners. It displays curved leaves with white edges and dark green streaks in the center, which is just opposite to ‘Vittatum.’ This variety looks beautiful with unusual variegation in living rooms and offices.
Botanical Name: Chlorophytum viridescens ‘Hawaiian’
The Hawaiian spider plant is also known as Golden Glow. This fascinating plant has a small, compact size with glossy green leaves in rich tones of champagne. Grow this spider plant in moist, well-draining soil in full sun to partial shade where it can reach up to 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) long.
Botanical Name: Chlorophytum comosum ‘Bonnie Variegated’
Varigated Bonnie Spider Plant exhibits arched green leaves, with creamy white edges, making it perfect for your living room. It is also an ideal choice for hanging baskets, or you can pair it with the ZZ plant or Dracaena. As it is relatively easy to maintain, it is great for novice gardeners!