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For The Garden

Air Plants

Author: Shawndrea Corbin
Issue: April, 2013, Page 50
This glass terrarium is from the Shane Powers Hanging Glass Bubble Collection at West Elm. The vessel is ideal for air plants, as it offers protection and allows complete exposure to light sources.


Love is in the air for these ethereal bits of greenery known as Tillandsia. Commonly referred to as air plants, they fall into the bromeliad family, which has more than 3,000 plant species and includes such horticultural wonders as the pineapple, Spanish moss and desert-dwelling succulents.

Air plants grow without soil, absorbing water and nutrients through their leaves. Because tillandsia plants are low maintenance and soil free, they lend themselves to rather unconventional, quirky vessels. See an array of these popular Dr. Seusslike specimens and the containers they thrive in on the pages ahead.

The Shane Powers Hanging Glass Bubble Collection from West Elm adds a new twist to the “hanging” garden. The glass planters are suspended from twine and are pocked with openings for the playful plants to peek through.

Tillandsia plants also work well in whimsical containers such as this up-cycled light bulb from the Air Plant Design Studio. The Tillandsia funckiana air plant within grows about 4 to 6 inches long and sprouts “pups” that can be transplanted and nurtured separately.
This Tillandsia ionantha ‘Peanut’ is from the Air Plant Design Studio, and is known for its deep-red bloom cycle.

This tropical-themed air plant terrarium kit from the Air Plant Design Studio includes hemp string for hanging. The bushy Tillandsia tenuifolia  (left) is a common accent for more colorful and detailed plants. Tillandsia butzii (right) has a dark-green base with light and dark spots sprinkled throughout.
This sea urchin shell container from the Air Plant Design Studio holds a Tillandsia ionantha ‘Fuego’, which is native to Mexico and Central America. During its bloom cycle, the plant turns deep red and sprouts white, purple and blue flowers.

The Tillandsia argentea has a compact base surrounded by tentaclelike arms. Available through the Air Plant Design Studio, this plant matures to reveal a long, slender bloom from its center that, in turn, produces a flower from its tip.
Photos - Clock-wise from top left: These recycled glass pear- and apple-shaped terrariums from VivaTerra come with sand. Each vessel holds four air plants that are grouped for visual interest. • Tillandsia funckiana grows in a twisted fashion, and, when in bloom, sprouts yellow flowers. • The Dirt Couture Farmtonic from Terrain dispenses nutrients to promote plant growth. • This glass bulb mister from Terrain offers a stylish way to hydrate humidity-loving air plants.

Light—Do not place air plants in direct sunlight; instead, set within 3 to 5 feet of a window or artificial light source.

Water—Remove plants from their container and submerge briefly in water one to three times a week. Mist plants between deeper waterings, preferably in the morning, to create humidity.

Air—Tillandsia plants require good air circulation. After watering, allow plants to dry completely before returning them to their vessels, as prolonged moisture exposure can cause rotting.

Temperature—Ideal temperatures range from 50 to 90 degrees F. Bring air plants indoors if temperatures reach freezing.
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