Have you been wanting to grow plants but do not have time to take care of them? Looking for some plants which can perfectly decorate your empty walls? Searching for tiny and lovely plants that are clean and don’t take up too much room? No worries. Air plants are the perfect answer to all the questions.
Originating from the southern United States, Central America, and South America, air plants or Tillandsia are a special kind of plants with over 600 different species. Unlike traditional plants, air plants grow without soil, relying on special leaves to absorb water and nutrients from the air. This unique feature makes air plants a popular choice with countless unique opportunities for home decorations and botanical displays.
There are so many species of airplant the array of options can be overwhelming! After countless years of growing, caring, and designing with Tillandsia Airplantman can give you the scoop of some of our favorites. The following are 10 popular species to get you started:
1. Tillandsia ionantha
Tillandsia ionantha is cute and small in size. Its leaves blush a beautiful red color when the plant is in bloom and it has purple blooms. This species is one of the most commonly grown and is a great inexpensive plant for beginners. Described by Jules Émile Planchon in 1855, tillandsia Ionantha grows both in xeric and in mesic tropical habitats. This means it is a bit of a generalist that can handle both drier and wetter environments with different levels of sun exposure. It will love plenty of indirect sunlight and can survive in a large range of temperatures (but never below 40 degrees F!). Like most Tillandsia after blooming ionantha will create pups or offsets at the base and beautiful large clumps of many individual plants will grow together. These can be broken apart or left to form larger masses.
2. Tillandsia usneoides
Tillandsia usneoides, or Spanish Moss, naturally grows upon larger trees in tropical and subtropical climates. Different from other air plants, the leaves fo Spanish Moss hang rather than sprout up. Because of its special appearance, Tillandsia usneoides is also known as “grandpas’ beard” or “spanish beard” in some places. Tillandsia usneoides has a uniquely fine texture and surprising tiny green blooms that are adorable if you can spot them. Like most airplants it prefers bright filtered light. The picture of ancient oak trees festooned with hanging spanish moss is quite evocative in nature and the design opportunities we use this plant for are quite diverse!
3. Tillandsia aeranthos Tillandsia aeranthos is one of the most popular air plant species used in the home decoration. Many air plant beginners choose it as their first attempt due to its hardiness and wide availability. It has spiky leaves and can bloom pink, purple or blue air plant flowers. There are a large number of hybrids in this species which have a range of foliage and bloom colors. Native to Southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina we use it as a durable ‘filler plant’ that puts on a stunning show when it comes into bloom. The name aeranthos comes from the Greek words “aer” for air, and the “anthos” for flower. A hummingbird favorite and easy to grow what’s not to love!
4. Tillandsia xerographica
Known as the Queen (or King) of air plants, Tillandsia xerographica has bold gray foliage and a striking form that’s both sun and drought tolerant. As it grows up, its leaves extend and gradually curl and wrap around the plant itself. Tillandsia xerographica loves sunlight and can survive in drier environment than other air plants. Thus, it is a perfect choice for those busy plant lovers who do not have time to water plants frequently. Unfortunately over collected in the wild fortunately nursery grow specimens are now more widely available.
5. Tillandsia caput-medusae
Tillandsia caput-medusae has lot’s of charisma. The name means ‘head of snakes’ in latin and you can see why from its waving arms that curl or straighten, depending on watering. Tillandsia caput-medusae is light silver green with beautiful fuzzy trichomes. These are present in all Tillandsia and allows it to regulate the flow of water into and out of its leaves. This species It prefers warm to hot temperature and loves plentiful sunlight.
6. Tillandsia stricta
Tillandsia stricta is a solid standby species we love to use at Airplantman studio. It is hearty and prolific. It has green leaves with blue, pink, or purple blooms that hummingbirds love. It can be a perfect choice for beginners because of its vigour and can survive in a variety of climates and environments. Tillandsia stricta also has many varieties with a range of forms and bloom colors.
7. Tillandsia funckiana
Tillandsia funckiana is a gorgeous species with two special traits. First, Its needle-like leaves growing in the same direction makes the whole plant like a quill of green bird. Second, when it blooms, it produces a beautiful and vibrant orange-red coloring flowers which is a relatively rare for air plants. When grown in mass or individually there is a lot of character to this species! A little more sensitive in it’s light and watering requirements we classify this one as intermediate level difficulty.
8. Tillandsia chiapensis
Tillandsia chiapensis grow on rock walls in Chiapas, Mexico. During our travels to Mexico to see Tillandsia in habitat I had the opportunity to visit this one on it’s home turf. It was breath-taking to see these incredible plants growing in colonies gripping only onto bare rock suspended high in inaccessible cliff crevices. The frosty appearance comes from its trichomes which protect it from the harsh sun. My favorite aspect though is the foliage color which is a muted pinkish/purplish hue. As a drought tolerant plant, it can grow in a wide range of climates. Both full sun and partial shade can keep this beauty growing although it prefers brighter light to bring out its rich foliage color.
9. Tillandsia fuchsii v.gracilis
Tillandsia fuchsii v. gracilis is an amazing plant with extremely fine leaf blades. This plant typically grows very symmetrically and can form what appears to be a wispy perfect sphere. It has grey to light green leaves and produces a long light pink stem that a bright purple flower blooms from. The delicacy of this species is noteworthy and we use it to create light and space in our designs. While somewhat drought tolerant the thin leaves cannot hold as much water and it can easily dry out and die without attention.
10. Tillandsia gardneri
Native to Columbia, Brazil and Venezuela, Tillandsia gardneri thrives in warm and humid climates. However, like many other airplants, Tillandsia gardneri prefer plentiful indirect sunlight and can be burned by excessive direct sunlight, particularly stronger afternoon sun. Tillandsia gardneri can produce pink and purple flowers which can last from late spring to late summer. We love the ‘casper the friendly ghost’ vibes of this plant with its unique form and ghostly whitish foliage texture.
Hope you enjoyed our introduction to 10 popular air plants species . They are all great choices to create unique and memorable displays. There are countless design options when working with air plants, here is a link to our custom work…….. If you are an air plants beginner and are worrying about how to keep your air plants healthy, we also provide this detailed air plants care guide!