At our February garden club meeting we were treated to a talk and hands-on workshop on Tillandsia. These little guys are popularly known as “air plants.” I’d heard the term before but somehow they didn’t seem like serious plants to me. They brought to mind the little animals parents are talked into buying on the boardwalk. Just as hermit crabs and goldfish are real animals with specific needs, so are Tillandsia real plants that need specific care.
It’s a genus of around 650 species of evergreen, perennial flowering plants in the family Bromeliaceae. They are native to the forests, mountains and deserts of northern Mexico and south-eastern United States. They range through Central America and the Caribbean to mid- Argentina. We can’t grow them outside, but they can be lovely houseplants and summer porch additions to planters and wreaths.
Catherine Winkler, owner of Roots Landscaping (Great Gardens Start at the Roots) brought samples and showed us how to plant and care for our “air plants.”
In Catherine’s opinion, theTillandsia family is underused by gardeners. As their name indicates, they do not grow in soil. They have minimal roots that anchor them to their growing surface. They are not poisonous to little mouths. Think toddlers and puppies. They are super clean, requiring a water spritz two or three times a week. This mimics the showers they would get in their native habitat. Outside, on the Eastern Shore, the summer humidity would take care of their water needs. The broader their leaves, the less water required. The more yellow in their leaf color, the more light they require.
I’m looking forward to the workshop Catherine promised this summer on creating a TIllandsia wreath on a grapevine base.
Roots is a full service landscape and garden center in Selbyville, Delaware.