Tillandsia FAQs

1.   What is Tillandsia?
2.   Do I have to water my airplants?
3.   Can I soak my Tillandsias in water?
4.   Is it a must to fertilise my Tillandsias?
5.   My Tillandsia has no roots, is it alive?
6.   I see roots growing, should I plant my Tillandsia in soil to accelerate growth?
7.   Can Tillandsias be kept indoors?
8.   Why does the leaf tips of my airplant turn brown?
9.   Why does the leaf tips of my airplant turn black?
10.  What do I do with the flower stalk after my Tillandsias have flowered?
11.  The leaves at the base of my airplant have turned brown, what do I do?

 

Q1: What is Tillandsia?

Tillandsia, commonly known as Airplant, is the largest genus of the pineapple family (Bromeliaceae) comprising over 500 species. Tillandsias are often epiphytic, meaning that they grow on - but do not harm - other bigger plants. They do not need soil to grow; absorb water and nutrients through their leaves.

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Q2: Do I have to water my airplants?

Of course you have to water your airplants! The word 'Airplants' means that these plants do not need soil to grow and that they are not 'soil plants' or 'water plants'. But like normal plants, they need water. Water the plants 2 to 3 times a week by spraying them till they are dripping wet, and place them at a location where there is good air circulation for them to dry. They do not like to be kept moist all the time, they must be allowed to dry between watering.

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Q3: Can I soak my Tillandsias in water?

Yes. Tillandsias can be soaked in water for up to 6 hours once every 2 week. The soaking will thoroughly hydrate the leaves. After soaking, pick up the plant and turn it upside-down to allow excess water to flow out, then place the plant at a location with good air circulation (by an open window, balcony or patio) for it to dry properly. If need, use a portable fan to gently blow dry the plant. Extra care must be given to the bulbous & ‘furry’ species as excess water trapped between the leaves can cause rotting. If you're not sure, do not soak bulbous & 'furry' plants.

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Q4 : Is it a must to fertilise my Tillandsias?

Tillandsias can grow without fertiliser but a regular fertilisation program will help the plant grow faster, larger, produce flowers and have more pups. Fertilise the plants once or twice a month with a very dilute (at 1/4 strength) liquid fertilizer, spray the plant or submerge it in the diluted fertiliser solution. The fertiliser used should have a very low copper content - Tillandsias do not like a lot of copper.

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Q5: My Tillandsia has no roots, is it alive?

Tillandsia are living plants that absorb water and nutrients through foliar hairs called thricomes on their leaves. Hence, the absence of roots will not affect plant growth. In their natural habitat, the roots of these plants are for anchorage, the roots help attach the plants to the tree, stone or shrub that they are growing on. If you see roots growing on your plant and think that it is unsightly, you can cut off the roots, it will not hurt the plant.

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Q6: I see roots growing, should I plant my Tillandsia in soil to accelerate growth?

DO NOT PLANT YOUR TILLANDSIA IN SOIL. They like good air circulation and disliked being kept moist or wet all the time. Planted in soil, they will eventually rot. Although there are Tillandsias that can be grown in soil, 95% of the plants we have are those that do not need soil to grow.

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Q7: Can Tillandsias be kept indoors?

Tillandsias need bright filtered sunlight to grow well. When kept indoors, they should be placed as near the window as possible. If that is not possible, use artificial light (florescent light, 'daylight' bulbs) to shine on them for 8-14 hours a day, its best to place the light between 15cm - 30cm away from the plants. If artificial light is not an option and you would still like to display your plant indoors, plant rotation is the answer. Get 3 specimens and rotate them once every 2-3 weeks. That means, display one plant indoor, the other 2 should be placed near the window where they get sunlight to make food and grow. After 2-3 weeks, move the plant indoor out near the window and replace it with another plant.

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Q8: Why does the leaf tips of my airplant turn brown?

The reason could be because the environment is too hot and dry. Give the leaf tips an extra spray or two to prevent it from turning brown. Once it has turned brown, nothing can be done to reverse the process, leaving the leaf tips as it is will not hurt the plant, but if you find it unsightly, you can always snip off the tips.

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Q9: Why does the leaf tips of my airplant turn black?

When Tillandsias turn black, it indicates rotting in progress, usually it rots in the middle of the plant. Gently pull out the leaf that has turned black and look at the base of that particular leaf, if it is also black, the plant is rotting. Continue pulling the leaves from the center till you see the base of the leaf that you just pulled out is no longer black, then check the center part of the plant to see if it is cleared of all rotting materials (by now, here should be a hole in the middle of the plant). If yes, let the plant 'wound' dry for a day or two, if no more rotting occurs, care for the plant as per normal and it may produce a few pups before saying goodbye to you!

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Q10: What do I do with the flower stalk after my Tillandsias have flowered?

When the plant reach the end of its flowering cycle, you can snip off the flower stalk. Or you may keep it as it is and see if any animals pollinators have done their job and you may just get a seed pod or two in a few months time!

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Q11: The leaves at the base of my airplant have turned brown, what do I do?

The leaves at the base of the plant are the oldest leaves, you can remove these leaves by firmly pulling them off the plant.

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