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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Tillandsia (Air Plant) growing in light bulb shaped terrarium.

Air Plants Grow Well in Terrariums


On a recent trip to Ft. Myers, Florida I visited the Edison & Ford Winter Estates where I toured their homes, gardens, laboratories, and museum. The plant collections there are fascinating, especially all the rubber trees they tested as possible sources for tire materials.

Obviously, Edison is most famous for inventing the light bulb, so I took advantage of that by purchasing a small terrarium-type hanging planter shaped like a light bulb. Inside is an air plant sitting in sphagnum moss. It hangs above my kitchen window and I love looking at it every day.

Air plants, also known as Tillandsia, are interesting plants in the Bromeliad family. All bromeliads are epiphytes, which mean that they use something else for support. Therefore, in nature the plants use their root systems to grow harmlessly on trees and rocks. Instead of using their roots to get water and nutrients from soil, they acquire them from the air and rain through their leaves.

To keep air plants healthy and happy, simply provide them with three ingredients - sun, water, and air circulation.

First, light is needed in the form of filtered, not direct, sunlight through a south, east, or west window. During the summer you can hang them outside in a tree or other protected location.

Second, the key to growing Tillandsia is proper watering. I like to mist mine every few days to keep the sphagnum moss substrate moist, yet let the plant dry out slightly between watering. If the leaves curl or roll, they are too dry. To revive them, submerge the plant in water overnight and shake away any excess water before returning it to its display location.

Third, good air circulation helps the plant dry out some between watering and prevents diseases.

Air plants grow well displayed in terrariums, which are clear glass or plastic containers filled with small plants. Often terrariums are tightly closed, but my light-bulb shaped container has one side completely open to help with air circulation.

To learn more about terrariums, attend Extension Horticulture Educator, Candice Miller's webinar "Unique Terrariums for Indoor Spaces."During this webinar, Candice will discuss the basics of terrariums such as plant choices, proper planting, tips on plant care, and proper location to ensure success of the terrarium. The program is offered on March 8 at 1:30 p.m. and repeated on March 10 at 6:30 p.m. Three viewing options are available.

  1. All sessions are available for home viewing.
  2. Tuesday's 1:30 pm session will be shown in the Peoria and Havana Extension offices.
  3. Recorded videos of these sessions can be viewed following the program.

For more information or to preregister, go to http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt/.



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