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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


This large genus of bromeliads is native to Texas, Mexico, and South America. Most are epiphytes (tree dwellers) that depend on rain, fog, and dew for moisture. Plants vary greatly in size and appearance; leaves may be wide or narrow (even hairlike), twisted or curled. Flowers are often shockingly bright, sometimes fragrant, and usually quite long lasting (weeks to months). Plants of many species die after blooming but first produce offsets; over time, a single plant becomes a cluster of plants at different stages of maturity and bloom.

Usually seen mounted on plaques of wood hung on walls, or on living walls, indoors or out. In Hawaii, is often clustered on tree branches. Site where air circulation is good. Types with green leaves generally need regular water and filtered light; types with gray-green to bluish foliage need less water and tolerate more sun. Drench plants every few days; if leaves curl or dry up, submerge the plant in water for several hours at a time. Once a month or so from spring to midautumn, spray with an acidic liquid fertilizer diluted to quarter-strength. Air plants need somewhat drier conditions in winter.

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