Fancy Air Plants And Creative Ways to Display Them

Outdoor and Gardening
Decoration and Design
Gardening
By Dikran Seferian August 24, 2021

With the vast variety of plants known to us, you may find that there are many different and rather curious manners in which some of them grow. Each of these plants also provides various ways to incorporate them into your living space. While a lot of plants require soil to grow, certain types can actually grow without it. One particular family of plants that have adapted to grow without soil is the tillandsia variety, otherwise known as air plants. The remarkable features of the tillandsia plants make them a delight to have at home; not only do they boost the aesthetic value of a room, they also improve the air quality

If you are looking for a unique touch of madness, consider air layering these lovely oddities of nature into your home. Being the anomalies that they are, air plants are perfect for people who are interested in adding something eccentric and different to their household greenery. Getting familiar with the nature and needs of tillandsia will give you insight on how to bring the best out of them.

What Are Air Plants?

Getting to Know Air Plants In all Their Aerial Glory

Getting to Know Air Plants In all Their Aerial Glory

Air Plants are biologically known as tillandsia, which is a member of the bromeliad family. They are classified as epiphytes, meaning they don’t need soil to grow. Most types of tillandsia have very few roots or none at all. The ones that do have roots actually use them to latch onto a host. This characteristic could make them seem like parasitic plants, but don’t worry, they are not. Tillandsia actually receives their nutrition from moisture and fiber particles in the air. This specialty, in addition to their fascinating shapes, is what makes them unique, bringing forth a plethora of ideas on how you can display them. 

Tillandsia is one of the most diverse types of plants; nearly 500 species exist! They are mostly found in Central and South America, as well as the lower parts of North America. The variety of tillandsia is not only in the species but also in the environments in which they thrive. You can find air plants in the jungle, on mountaintops, and even in the desert. Due to the ability of some air plants to live far from sources of water, they have been aptly named after a Swedish botanist by the name of Elias Tillands, who disliked water.

Although more than 500 types of tillandsia exist, a few common ones stand out in terms of popularity as indoor plants. In the wild, tillandsia sizes can vary from as tiny as two inches to a whopping seven feet. However, the varieties that are sold as indoor plants typically don't grow much bigger than five inches. 

Tillandsia Ionantha

If You're Looking for a Low Maintenance Plant that Helps Clean the Air, Choose the Ionantha

If You're Looking for a Low Maintenance Plant that Helps Clean the Air, Choose the Ionantha

With its "roots" in Central America and Mexico, the ionantha is currently one of the most widespread of the air plant varieties. It is also one of the easiest to take care of. The tillandsia ionantha usually emits purple shoots with white or yellow flowers.

Tillandsia Streptophylla

Dubbed the Shirley Temple, the streptophylla’s curly leaves are what makes it a common choice. Air plants of this variety are also known to thrive in dry conditions. She will feel at home anywhere in a house situated in an arid climate.

Tillandsia Xerographica

This slightly larger specimen of the tillandsia variety is a favorite among enthusiasts of air plants. Moreover, due its size, the tillandsia xerographica is even known to be used as a wedding bouquet in itself. If you have a window that invites piercing sunlight at certain times of the day, it might be an ideal place to hang your xerographica to help mitigate that glare.

Some of the Most Popular Air Plant Varieties Perfect for Home Decor and Purification

Some of the Most Popular Air Plant Varieties Perfect for Home Decor and Purification

Tillandsia Aeranthos

One remarkable feature of the tillandsia aeranthos is its stiff, upward-growing leaves. A blooming air plant of this type will give pink and purple flowers — a perfect addition for a home office that could use more color.

Tillandsia Harrisii

A perfect choice for a novice air plant enthusiast would be the tillandsia harrisii. This species of air plants thrive anywhere from moderate humidity to dry atmospheres.

Air Plants that Won't Judge the Climate You Live In

Air Plants that Won't Judge the Climate You Live In

Other Varieties

A host of other tillandsia species include the t. bulbosa with its tentacle-like leaves, t. juncea, t. polystachia, and t. cyanea. While the list can go on, you should also brush up on air plant maintenance if you’re thinking of populating your home with them. 

Taking Care of Your Air Plants

The Essential Tips for Parenting Air Plants

The Essential Tips for Parenting Air Plants

Maintaining tillandsia plants can be rather simple and straightforward.

  • When you first bring in your new tillandsia, you need to soak it in water for a good 30 minutes before placing it anywhere. After the little bathtime is over, gently shake your air plant to get rid of excess water; if the foliage is damp, it might have difficulty breathing.
  • If the atmosphere is dry, you may have to soak them in a bowl of water for a maximum of two to three hours every two weeks.
  • In humid atmospheres, merely spraying the air plants with water at least twice a week, in addition to an occasional bath, will be enough to perk these guys up.
  • Air plants normally need bright filtered light; and the higher the levels of indoor humidity, the more light you can provide your tillandsia with.

Despite the wide range of types the tillandsia species offer, the maintenance requirements are more or less the same. However, some types, such as the ones with silvery green leaves, do tolerate more sunlight than others, and can even be kept in a balcony garden or a patio. 

As a rule of thumb, air plants can be divided into two main types ─ mesic and xeric. Mesic, meaning middle, refers to the types of air plants that thrive in moderately humid environments, such as jungles. Air plants of this variety are the ones you’d need to water more often.

Xeric, on the other hand, refers to the variety of air plants that prefer dryer environments. Tillandsia of this variety are typically found in deserts and don’t require as much watering. A simple way to differentiate between the two types is by the coloring of the leaves; mesic air plants tend to have dark green leaves whereas the leaves of the xeric air plants are more silvery.

Providing your aerial plants with proper care will be more rewarding than you'd think; a healthy tillandsia will purify the air in your room, removing toxins that might be drifting around. 

Displaying Your Air Plants

As for exhibiting your tillandsia, here is where you can truly unleash your creativity because air plants can be attached just about anywhere.

The Mythical Sea Creature

One brilliant idea is to replicate the look of an alien-like sea critter by displaying your tillandsia in conch shells. For its tentacle-like foliage, consider tillandsia bulbosa to maximize the semblance.

Fun Ways to Display Air Plants In Your House

Fun Ways to Display Air Plants In Your House

The Air Bubble

Another creative option involves nestling your tillandsia in suspended round terrariums — sort of like a mini-ecosystem inside a bubble. You can decorate the air plant terrarium with miniature guests and aquarium gravel.

Terrarium Bubbles to Turn Air Plants Into Whimsical Decor

Terrarium Bubbles to Turn Air Plants Into Whimsical Decor

The Caged Bird

You can also put your tillandsia in tiny cages placed on a shelf or levitating from a height. Don’t expect it to sing, though.

The Perfect Weekend Project with DIY Holder Ideas for Levitating Plants

The Perfect Weekend Project with DIY Holder Ideas for Levitating Plants

The Flying Jellyfish

Ever seen a jellyfish floating in mid-air? You can make your very own by hanging your tillandsia from inside sea urchin shells to recreate the semblance of a jellyfish. Both the bulbosa and juncea varieties, among a few others, can be suitable for this fun idea.

Captain Bulbosa Is One Of Many Air Plants You Can Create the Floating Tentacles With

Captain Bulbosa Is One Of Many Air Plants You Can Create the Floating Tentacles With

The Swing

A more rustic yet playful idea would be to place your air plant in a wooden tray hung by a robe - almost like a swing. A more exotic alternative to the wooden tray would be an open coconut shell.

Decorating Your Home With Air Plants Is A Great Way to Bring Your Biophilia Game a Notch

Decorating Your Home With Air Plants Is A Great Way to Bring Your Biophilia Game a Notch

The Makeshift Flower

You could pretend your tillandsia is a flower by giving it a stem that you can easily forge with steel wire. Simply place the air plant on a loop twisted towards the tip of the steel stem. An ideal place to erect your makeshift flower would be in a container of succulents. Consider tillandsia ionantha for this design for its colorful foliage.

Suspended Tillandsia and the Jade Plant Are A Great Pairing for Making an Air Plant Flower Illusion

Suspended Tillandsia and the Jade Plant Are A Great Pairing for Making an Air Plant Flower Illusion

The Cubist

A more elegantly minimalist idea would be to place your air plant inside a Picasso-esque hexagonal florarium. Consider adding a layer of decorative pebbles for added effect. For this display, you could go for the upward growing tillandsia aeranthos.

Upward Growing Air Plants That Are Perfect for a Minimalist Florarium

Upward Growing Air Plants That Are Perfect for a Minimalist Florarium

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian