Air Plants Are Great For Decor and Easy Maintenance

air-plants-interiorBesides being easy to grow, air plants lend themselves well to indoor or outdoor decor, and can be moved without any fuss. Air plants, or tillandsia, are epiphytes, which means that in nature they grow on other plants. Fortunately they are not parasitic, so have no worries about placing your air plant onto some other plant. Air plants use their roots only as anchors, taking in water and nutrients through their leaves.

On the other hand, other plants are not the only place where air plants can put down their roots. Clear plastic hanging containers are a popular place for air plants. They give any room a light, natural look and can be moved when you feel like changing the decor. Such containers are available in teardrop or spherical shapes, and a group of them makes an interesting statement. Try differently shaped hung at different lengths with different species of air plants for variety.

A terrarium offers a good place to make an arrangement of air plants. Fill your terrarium with sand for a natural look . Add some pretty rocks and place your air plants onto the tops and sides of your rocks to make a little world where you can take a micro vacation meditating. Be sure that your terrarium has some open places where air can circulate. Do not use soil or any other medium that will hold in water.

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Make modern art with the use of opaque vases or clay pots. Fill your vase or pot with styrofoam and insert a wire vertically through the center so that it sticks up. Twist the top of the wire gently around the bottom of an air plant. Leave at least an inch of wire between the container and your plant. Cover the styrofoam with gravel, moss, or acrylics. Your plant will appear to float above the container.

Or construct a living wreath for all seasons. Start with a basic wreath made of grape vine, straw, or man made material. Gently wire your air plants all around. Use other natural materials such as seeds, shells, or dried flowers to give your wreath more interest and texture. You can decorate it throughout the year with colored ribbons or raffia for varying seasons and holidays. In the spring glue on brightly-colored Easter eggs. For Fourth of July use red, white, and blue bows. In the fall wire or glue on either freshly- fallen leaves or permanent botanical leaves in autumnal colors. For the look of a country cottage use burlap ribbon. For a more urbane look use simple smooth or metallic ribbon.

If you have an epiphytic orchid mounted on driftwood or some other attractive wood, air plants look nice beside it and are compatible because both thrive under the same conditions. If you use wood be careful not to get it too wet and cause it to rot. Any non-copper surface is fine, so be creative. Make an air plant mobile using coat hangers, steel wires, or fishing line and glue your air plants onto it. You can use artificial nail glue, hot glue, Goop, or whatever is available at your favorite crafts store.

Which brings us to environment. Air plants do well in 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or about room temperature. They can do nicely outside in a mild climate or do well as house plants for home or office.

Even air plants need watering, which should be done 2 to 3 times per week. Either allow them to float for 20 to 30 minutes in a water bath or use a mister. If you use the former method, do not allow the flowers to submerge as they are delicate and can break. After their bath put your plants onto a flat surface where they will dry in about 4 hours. Air plants can live in a bathroom but still need to be watered because the water vapor from a shower only lasts in the air a short time.

Air plants are related to bromeliads, so bromeliad fertilizer can be added to your mister or water bath about once a month during the plants’ growing season, from spring through fall. If bromeliad fertilizer is unavailable, a commercial fertilizer such as Miracle Grow can be used at ¼ strength. While fertilizer is not strictly necessary it will help your air plants to grow and bloom.

Air plants need bright but indirect sunlight, so plant near a window that gets some sun but where your plants will not be burned by direct exposure. Fluorescent bulbs are also good.

Air plants occasionally need grooming just as other plants do. When a leaf or root dries out or becomes brown, gently remove it with a pair of manicure scissors, cutting on a slant for a natural esthetic look.

Air plants reproduce by two methods, by seeds and pups. Flowers produce the tiny seeds, which are usually contained in a small pod that dries and turns beige when fully ripe. Pups are smaller plants produced next to the mother plants. They can be removed and replanted elsewhere when they are about one third the size of the mother plant.

Growing air plants from seed is not difficult, but it does require patience, as the seedlngs take 2 to 3 years to show enough growth to transplant. A fine plastic mesh or a nylon stocking stretched over a frame will provide a good platform for your seeds. Place your air plant frame in a place where it will get indirect sunlight as well as circulating air. Mist your seeds every day but watch for water droplets that do not evaporate. Even a small amount of standing water will encourage algal growth that will choke your air plants. Use dilute fertilizer as above every week. When your seedlings are about an inch high it is time to transplant them to your favorite location.

Air plants come in a variety of species, many of which produce colorful flowers. In the section entitled Tillandsia we will describe the types of air plants available and how to arrange them for adding a touch of tropical color to your garden, home, or workplace.

Tillandsia From the Bromeliad Family Are Great for Small Room Decors

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Tillandsia, or air plants, are members of the bromeliad family.  Over 500 different species of tillandsia have their own unique appearance, so the idea of decorating a small space with a flowering plant offers lots of options.

Tillandsias are native to Latin America and the southern United States, and many of them have a tropical appearance. So-called Spanish moss is actually tillandsia, and can give a wonderfully Caribbean or Spanish Main look to your patio.

Tillandsia flowers are also good for color accents. Tillandsia aeranthos flowers are composed of blue petals and red petals. Tillandsia intermedia blooms in a deep pinkish purple shade. Various varieties of Tillandsia ionanthas  bloom red,orange, white, or peach. The leaves of the red-blooming varieties “blush” or turn red before the flowers bloom, similar to other  kinds of bromeliads. The Mexican variety of ionanthus has central blue flowers surrounded by blushing leaves. Tillandsia incarnata has red spikes with pink petals. Tillandsia fasciculata has long orange flowers fading into yellow and chartreuse.

Some tillandsias are grown for their fragrance as well as their visual beauty.  One of the easiest to grow is Tillandsia Mallemontii, a native of the Brazilian rain forest. It usually produces fragrant blue to purple blooms, although one rare variety has white flowers.  Tillandsia ixioides is another easy to grow species. It produces bright yellow, highly fragrant blossoms.Tillandsia crocata and Tillandsia caliginosa are also known for their fragrant yellow blooms. The king of fragrant tillandsias is probably Tillandsia duratii, with purple flowers whose fragrance will fill a lare room. Their scent has been compared to grape-flavored soft drinks or lollipops.

Nor are the blooms the only attractive thing about tillandsia. Their foliage, although usually a light green, can sometimes have unusual white stripes, as in some varieties of Tillandsia ionantha. Leaves are typically pointy, but show variations in their growth patterns. Some species have straight spikes growing out from  the  plants’ centers, while others can take on a mysterious flowing appearance, almost like something you would expect to see under the ocean. Still others grow in conical or spiral shapes.  Sizes vary as well, giving the creative gardener an opportunity to plant tiny tillandsias alongside plants several inches tall for variation and texture.

Tillandsia plants and seeds can be obtained from specialty florists, nurseries, and bromeliad societies. Californians can buy tillandsias at Bird Rock International in Carlsbad, Marilynn’s Gardens in Santa Ana, Rare Exotics in Los Angeles, Rainforest Flora in Torrance, and Dutch Vandervort Exotic Plants in Ventura. Florida has a wealth of exotic nurseries to choose from: Color Zone Tropicals, Inc. in Winter Garden, Michael’s Bromeliads in Venice, Tropiflora and Level 21 in Sarasota,  Russel’s Bromeliads and Blossom World Bromeliads in Sanford, Bullis Bromeliads in Princeton, Country Garden Nursery and Lee Moore in Miami, Twin Creeks Tropical Gardens in Malabar, Bromeliad Express in Lutz, Bromeliad Specialties Inc. in Homestead, Sunshine Ranches in Fort Lauderdale, McCrory’s Sunny Hill Nursery in Eustis, Air Plant City in Cape Canaveral, and Deroose Plants, Inc., in Apopka. Hawaiians can buy their tillandsias at Bromeliads Hawaii, LLC in Hilo, Hanalei Nursery in Makawao, or Dina’ Garden in Wahiawa. Arthur Boe Distributor is available in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Cactus Plantation in Edwards and D & M Enterprises in Bogue Chitto sell tillandsias in Mississippi. To find tillandsias in Oregon see Treeborne Gardens in Brookings or Oscar E. Allen in Salem. In Texas see Teas Nursery Company Inc. in Bellaire or Magic Mushroom in Dallas. If you live in Washington State, the place to go is for tillandsias is Quail Creek Pottery and Plants in Olympia.

Australians have a wide variety of options when it comes to buying tillandsias. Cradle Nurseries in New South Wales sells their plants by post.The Bromeliad Man, Bromeliad Garden Nursery, Pine Grove Bromeliads, and Bromeliad Garden Nursery in New South Wales sell the plants in person. Other Australian sources include: Brisbane Bromeliad Center, Bromania, Bromagic Bromeliad Nursery, Bromeliad Garden, Dragonwood Gardens Symdoc Pty Ltd, and Wildfire Garden Bromeliad Nursery, in Queensland, and Raemaur Plant Farm in Victoria.

Bromeliads Online Ltd. is available in New Zealand. Or buy tillandsias in person at Anwyl Bromeliads in Wellington.

Epiphytophile is the place for tillandsias as well as other exotic plants in Singapore.

In Thailand see Karina Airplants or SSairplants Garden in Khon Kaen.

In the United Kingdom, Croston Cactus in Lancashire sells bromeliads as well.

The Netherlands has two nurseries for tillandsia lovers, Corn Bak. B.V. in Assendelft and Bunnik Veresea’s in Kudelstaart.

South Africa’s Glenn Brealey, Valhalla Bromeliads is available in Capetown.

Bromeliad societies, including tillandsia enthusiasts, abound throughout the world and are good places to learn about and enjoy these fascinating plants. The  Bromeliad Society International has member organizations in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Michigan, and Hawaii.

The Hawaiian Bromeliad Society meets once a month on the last Saturday either at the Lyon Arboretum or on a field trip.  Speakers or topics of discussion are usually scheduled.

If you are lucky to live in the Houston area, you might want to attend the June picnic of the Houston Bromeliad  Society, which will feature a garden tour and ABC’s of growing the family.

The Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies’ Quarterly Meeting will be held on the 12th, of July this year, hosted by the Florida East Coast Bromeliad Society. On the 26th and 27th of July this year the Sacramento Bromeliad and Carnivorous Plant Society in California will hold its 44th Annual Show and Sale.The event will be held at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

In August from the 16th to the 17th, the Seminole Bromeliad and Tropical Plant Society Sale will take place  at the Garden Club of Sanford, Florida. On 11 October of this year  the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies will be having another quarterly meeting, hosted by the Florida West Coast Bromeliad Society. The Southeast Michigan Bromeliad Society holds monthly meetings for enthusiasts to exchange information, plants, and seeds. Meetings are held in homes, nurseries, and the Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

For information on how to grow tillandsia, please see the article entitled Airplants. Good luck and happy growing.