Tillandsia — Air Plants
Due to COVID-19 the garlic festivals we attend have been cancelled. This year we will be setting up in the barn at #10 Berry Road, Enderby, BC. Many people will remember it as Berry Road Farm where my grandparents and parents sold asparagus, strawberries, and raspberries.
In the middle of August, this is where we will be selling garlic, concrete-containered succulents and air plants, and much more.
Picking up online orders at the barn will save the shipping costs.
Tillandsias are part of the Bromeliad family; their common name is Air Plants. More than 500 species live in a variety of habitats throughout South and Central America, and the Southern USA. They are found in steamy jungles, hot arid deserts, cool cloud forests, at sea level, and along high mountain ridges.
The Tillandsias we sell are epiphytes — plants that live on other plants or objects, co-existing without causing harm — not parasites, which thrive at the hosts expense. Air plants use their roots for support and attachment. They get moisture and food from the trichomes on their foliage. Trichomes are the fuzzy, silvery-white hairs on the leaves. They are hollow, nail-shaped structures, attached to the plant by a stem that serve as a conduit for water and nutrients. The capture water, absorb it, swell to hold it, then transfer it to cells inside the plant. Trichomes are what give some air plants their hairy, silvery sheen. More trichomes, more silver.
Trichomes have 2 major jobs: acquire and conserve moisture, and protect the plant from too much sun. Varieties that grow in shady, humid environments have fewer trichomes so the plants are green — they don't have a fuzzy, silver appearance. Direct sunlight will scorch and damage them. Also, they have adapted to their moist environment so will need more water, more frequently when they live with us. Misting them once or twice a week is good, but they will need to be soaked once a week for about 20 minutes to keep them healthy. Because they can be susceptible to center rot, make sure to shake and hold them upside down after watering so they can dry. In the winter, depending on your heating, they may very well need more misting.
Tillandsia that have adapted to environments with more sun exposure will have more trichomes; the leaves will appear grey, silver, or white. When the leaf is wet, the cells fill with water and reflect very little light so that the leaf appears green. Once the trichomes dry out the plant regains its normal greys and silvers. These plants don't need to be watered as often. A thorough misting twice a week, with a 20 minute soaking every couple of weeks, should keep them happy. Plants with thick, silvery, hairy leaves, like Tillandsia Xerographica, can tolerate some direct sunlight.
All air plants can handle a long soak if they are going to be, or have been, neglected for a while — like a 2-3 week holiday. Submerge smoother plants for 12 hours, and fuzzier plants for 6.
Filtered sunlight through a south or east facing window is the ideal light for most Tillandsias. They all need a bright environvent to thrive. LED or fluorescent lighting can be used; but do not use hot lights, such as Halogen, because the heat can damage them.
Most Tillandsias tolerate a wide range of temperatures. They should not be exposed to freezing or temperatures above 35ºC. Typical household temperatures are fine.
Since Tillandsias get most of their nutrients through water, they don't need much fertilizer. Applying it once a month can stimulate growth and flowering, but using too much can kill them. Orchid, bromeliad, or general purpose fertilizers, can be applied as foliar sprays or during soaking. The application rate should be no more than ¼ teaspoon per gallon of water; or ¼ the strength recommended on the fertilizer container (whichever is less). Fertilizers should always be used sparingly, and the plant should be monitored to check its response. Use only during the growing seasons, never in the winter.
Tillandsias bloom once in their lifetime. Different species produce different blooms with colours ranging from delicate pinks and fiery reds, to bright purples and yellows. The bloom marks the start of the plant's reproductive cycle. Once blooming is finished, tiny offsets called pups appear as new growth on the side of the plant. On average, 1-3 pups will develop; but some plants develop more. The pups can be removed once they are about ⅓ to ½ the size of the mother. They can be left on the plant to create a clumping effect.
- Not watering enough (air plant doesn't mean air alone)
- Too little light or too much direct sunlight
- Too much fertilizer
- Covering the plant's base with soil or moss that keeps it too wet