Growing Air Plants Indoors - U of I Extension

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Growing Air Plants Indoors

This article was originally published on November 16, 2012 and expired on March 16, 2013. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

Air plants may be one of the most low-maintenance indoor plants, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"With just the occasional misting or soaking, these interesting plants can thrive indoors without using any soil at all," explained Candice Miller. Air plants (Tillandsia sp.) are a member of the Bromeliad family and are epiphytic, meaning that they do not live in soil but survive by clinging to a tree or other supports, such as rocks.

"Due to their epiphytic nature, air plants can be mounted on a board, branch, shell, or various other surfaces or simply placed in a container with rocks or stones," she said. "This mounting can be done with glue or wire. Just be sure to mount on a solid substrate that does not retain water and don't cover the base of the plant with moss or it may rot."

This versatility is perhaps the best feature of air plants because it allows for some very unique displays and uses that are not possible with other indoor plants.

Epiphytes absorb water and nutrients from the air through the tiny silver scales that cover the plant. Plants should be handled as little as possible to avoid accidentally rubbing off the scales.

To obtain the moisture they need, air plants need frequent (every 2 to 3 days) misting with water. Another method is to immerse the entire plant in room-temperature water for half an hour every 7 to 10 days. Air plants can also be grown in a kitchen or bathroom window, where the humidity from washing dishes or taking showers will supply them with water. They should also be misted occasionally with very dilute liquid fertilizer.

Air plants grow best in a bright window that faces south, west, or east, but they should not be in direct sunlight. Indoor fluorescent lighting may be used as supplemental lighting.

"Producing new air plants is also simple," said Miller. "Air plants reproduce by putting out offsets, or pups, from the base of the mother plant. When the pups are half the size of the mother, they can be divided and mounted on their own.

"Overall, the interesting forms and shapes of air plants and the ease of care make them an excellent choice for growing indoors this winter," she concluded. "If you've never ventured into growing air plants, now is the perfect time to try."

Source: Candice Hart, Extension Educator, Horticulture,

Pull date: March 16, 2013