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Tillandsia, photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story
Tillandsia, photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story

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Zones 22-24


Air Plant


Large genus of bromeliadsnative to Texas, Mexico, andSouth America. Most are epiphytes(tree dwellers) thatdepend on rain, fog, and dewfor moisture. Plants vary greatlyin size and appearance; leavesmay be wide or narrow (evenhairlike), twisted or curled. Flowersare often shockingly bright,sometimes fragrant, and usuallyquite long lasting (weeks tomonths). Plants of many speciesdie after blooming but firstproduce offsets; over time, asingle plant becomes a clusterof plants at different stages ofmaturity and bloom.

Usually seen mounted onplaques of wood hung on walls,or on living walls, indoors orout. In Hawaii, often clusteredon tree branches. Site where aircirculation is good. Types withgreen leaves generally need regularwater and filtered light;types with gray-green to bluishfoliage need less water and toleratemore sun. Drench plantsevery few days; if leaves curl ordry up, submerge the plant inwater for several hours at atime. Once a month or so fromspring to midautumn, spray withan acidic liquid fertilizer dilutedto quarter-strength. Air plantsneed somewhat drier conditionsin winter.

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