Family Bromeliad, Genus Tillandsia

Commonly known as “Airplant or Air Plants”

Did you know:

Tillandsias grow naturally in South and Central America and southern parts of the United States. They are in the Bromeliad family, and are sometimes referred to as “air plants.” Hundreds of different varieties grow on trees, rocks, cliffs, and various types of cacti. Thin-leaf varieties grow in areas with more rain, and thick-leaf varieties in areas more subject to drought. No soil is needed to grow these unique plants. All water and nutrients are taken through the leaves. Their roots are used as wire-like anchors.

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Bromeliad – Tillandsias have a growth cycle starting with one plant growing to maturity and then BLOOMING! One to two months after the bloom has finished, new plants form around the base of the “mother” plant. They will then eventually mature and complete their blooming cycle in one to several years, depending upon the variety and growing conditions (very important!). Bromeliads – Tillandsias can be placed in ANYTHING! (,Rocks, shells, pottery, driftwood, around water fountains, reptile tanks, etc.) Bromeliad – Tillandsias are NOT toxic to animals, and they also travel and ship well.

Light requirements: Bright, indirect light, fluorescent office lighting, or frost-protected shaded patio. Generally, no direct sun is recommended. Some varieties can handle some early morning sun – this will allow them to “blush” (change colors) before they bloom!

Water: This is a very important aspect of succeeding with Bromeliads – Tillandsias! Remove plants from their containers and spray HEAVILY, or rinse them under a faucet or hose until they are dripping wet (underneath as well as on top). Remember, they grow naturally where it rains! Frequency of watering (how many times per week) will depend on: temperature variations (summer vs. winter), whether it is indoors or outdoors, and the variety (thin or thick leaves).

Generally, with the spray or rinse method, you should water indoor Bromeliads – Tillandsias 2-3 times a week, and outdoor Bromeliad – Tillandsias 4-5 times a week. In warmer and drier conditions, an overnight soaking (12-14 hours) will rehydrate them more efficiently than spraying or rinsing. If leaf edges begin to curl in, then it is best to use the soaking method.

Fertilizer: Use Bromeliad fertilizer(17-8-22) twice a month. It is GREAT for blooming and reproduction! Other water-soluble fertilizers can be used at 1/4 strength (Rapid Grow, Miracle-Gro, etc.) if Bromeliad fertilizer is not available.

Stricta Pink Cone

Tips for Tillandsias – Bromeliads


  • Shake off excess water after watering (especially in the large fleshy varieties). Turn upside-down and let the base dry before putting it back in its container.
  • Give tall, thin-leave varieties (T. Butzii, T. Juncea, etc.) an extra spray on their tips, as they dry out faster.
    Place plants in containers with natural holes, as opposed to gluing them. This will make it much easier to water them, especially when you use the soaking method. And you don’t have to wait for the whole container to dry before putting it back in its place!
  • Trim away any brown, dried or injured (bent) leaves (this will not harm the plant).
  • Leave pups (babies) on mother plant, as Tillandsia airplants are much heartier if left to form a colony (specimen).
  • But, if you wish, you may cut off bloomed-out flower when its color dries up. Trim dried *mother” plant away after new plants (“pups”) have formed. If more than one new plant has formed, they can be removed once they reach the size of the mother plant.


  • Don’t worry about roots. You can cut them off to make it easier to place them in containers (they will grow back). This also makes it easier to water them.
  • Don’t leave water sitting in the crevices of big, fleshy Bromeliads – Tillandsias. Shake them off!
  • Don’t put them in containers that hold moisture around the base (or, let them dry well before returning them to their containers).
  • Don’t throw Bromeliad – Tillandsias away if there is any green left to the plants. Soak them for 24 hours.
  • Don’t soak the flower while in bloom (prolonged periods of soaking will rot them).
  • Don’t water plants in clumps as much, as clumped Bromeliad – Tillandsias hold more moisture.
  • Don’t combine thick- and thin-leaf varieties in the same container, since their watering schedules will be different.
  • Don’t let them freeze!

Reasons Bromeliads – Tillandsias Die

  • They were not initially cared for properly (their owner was told they need little or no water).
  • Thick- and thin-leaf varieties were combined in the same container (different watering schedules).
  • They did not get enough light (they were more than 10 feet from a bright window or skylight).
  • They were placed in DIRECT SUN. Garden windows are generally too warm unless they are shaded or facing north.