Airplants are the common name of a variety of epiphytic species within the Tillandsia genus. Tillandsias are members of the pineapple family, also known as the bromeliad family. Airplants get their common name from their epiphytic habit – they grow on trees without soil. They receive all their water and nutrients through fuzzy gray scales on their leaves called trichomes. In nature, nutrients are provided by decaying organic matter like leaves or insects. The visible, wire-like roots are only used for anchoring themselves to the limbs and trunks of trees.
Florida has several native species of Tillandsia, which includes Spanish moss, but most of the commercially sold plants are native to Central & South America. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Tillandsia likes bright light, but not direct sunlight which can burn their leaves. A bright window in the house or a shaded patio are ideal spots for your plants. If temperatures drop below 45, be sure to bring your Tillandsia indoors, as they dislike cold weather and will die if exposed to frost.
To water, soak the plant once or twice a week, or use a spray/mist bottle to thoroughly wet it. Watering with rainwater or filtered water is best. After watering, shake out the excess so that no standing water remains in the center. Let plants dry in a well-ventilated place so they don't remain wet. Water more frequently in air conditioning, and hot weather, and less frequently in cool, cloudy weather. Also, when "planting" them, avoid tucking them into moss that stays damp, which may cause them to rot.
You can fertilize airplants once a month with a diluted water-soluble orchid or tillandsia fertilizer, following package instructions for dilution. We recommend diluted fish & seaweed emulsion, which can be applied with the misting or dunking methods. Not properly diluting your fertilizer, or fertilizing too often can kill your plant. If your plant is very dry, soak it first, then fertilize it the next day.