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The best low-maintenance air plants for beginners

The best low-maintenance air plants for beginners
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My first air plant, or tillandia, came the way of a gift eight years ago when I bought my sunny pre-war apartment in Harlem, New York City. Three small samples of other-worldliness were in a transparent glass globe. I had no idea what they were or how to take care of them, or even if they were actually surviving things.

After some extensive googling, I discovered that I was the new owner of a group of Tillandsia plants, which are plants that don’t need soil to grow, just air – and that these little alien-like creatures are easy to survive and grow.

In the wild, air plants grow on other plants, often on tree bark where they suck rainwater and even bird feces through their leaves. Native to the Americas (southern, central, and southern United States), there are more than 600 different species of Tillandsia on our planet. (I like to think there is more on other planets but there is no scientific evidence for that.)

Caring for most air plants in your home simply means submerging them in water for half an hour to two hours every one to two weeks, and then – and this is an important step – getting rid of the excess water and putting it back where it belongs. You can also spray it every few days – especially if you live in a place where there is not a lot of moisture.

Tillandsia do not need direct sunlight, but prefer a bright spot in the shelter or shade of other plants. In the woods of my kitchen, my air plants hang in balls behind a huge window filled with other plants.

Tillandsia streptophylla

Large Air Plants Tillandsia Streptophylla Guatemala

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Trichomes, or tiny hairs that absorb water and minerals, make the light green leaves of streptophila completely fuzzy. Nicknamed the ‘Shirley Temple’ because its leaves also tend to grow in a spiral fashion like the little Shirley Temple’s hairstyle, this air plant does best when sprayed with mist rather than soaked (it’s one of the driest types of air plant). The plant has a hollow bulbous base that can trap water and lead to rot.

Streptophylla begins blooming by turning a reddish-pink color and then producing a bright pink flower head with tiny white buds that will eventually sprout into purple flowers: a gorgeous display of a plant that doesn’t even need dirt to live (if you ask me).

Tilandia Eranthus

Air Drunk Gnome Plants - Eranthus

Air Drunk Gnome Plants – Eranthus



I’m biased to grow that flower. The cone-shaped flower has a wonderfully bright central flower of pink and purple that appears each spring. Eranthus is a slow-growing plant with hard, prickly leaves that project upward.

This plant requires only minimal watering. I usually mist twice a week.

Tillandsia tectorum Ecuador

Thailand Stricta Green Air Factory 5

Tilandia Stricta Green Air Factory 5″

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Native to the Andes Mountains of Peru and Ecuador, Telancia tectorum grows wild in arid, sun-kissed areas alongside plants such as cacti and cacti. It is often grown on the roofs of houses. They have particularly large 3D blurry shapes that give them (to me) the appearance of a sea creature with tentacles. Some people refer to them as “fuzzy snowballs.”

These scales do not need to be immersed in water (they should never be wet for an extended period of time) and generally only need a light mist of water every one to three weeks. When blooming, it produces faded lavender flowers.

Tilandia Ayunantha

Tilandia Head for Medusa Air Station 5'-6

Tilandia Head for Medusa Air Station 5′-6″

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USD 11.05

Depending on the humidity, ayonantha can last up to two months without water and remain relatively healthy. It is considered one of the hardiest air plants and therefore a great choice for the novice air lover.

My favorite thing about ayonantha is the colors – it has deep green and silver leaves that turn red or deep pink at the tips as they begin to bloom. Then a blue or purple shoot appears with yellow flowers on top.

Air Factory Club

Air Plant Club - $10/month Starter Subscription Box

Air Plant Club – $10/month Starter Subscription Box


10.00 bucks

Once you start raising air plants, you’ll likely find yourself a little obsessed, and want to buy more. There are some companies that offer plant per month like Air

You can also harvest ‘puppies’ or air plants for babies. Most air plants produce offsets (or young ones) at their base or near their root system after blooming. Once these baby plants are about 1/3 the size of the mother plant, gently pull the pup away from the base of the mother plant. It should come for free quite easily. If you have to pull hard, it means that it is not ready to break off.

Before you know it, you’ll have enough air plants to start giving away to all your friends.

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