Thursday, September 27, 2012

Watering Tillandsias the Easy Way

My Tillandsia (Air Plant) collection was easier to water when it was...smaller. Now I've got about 2 dozen of about a dozen species, and they are all growing rapidly. Misting is woefully inadequate, and was making a mess anyway, because my Tillies are indoor tillies (the sea spray outside would kill most of them). They long outgrew their little watering pan. They get pretty thirsty, and need a serious watering twice a week. But how???

Better get a bucket.

Watering Air Plants the Easy Way
Here's a juncea and filifolia, and a few others, in my trusty orange bucket out on the patio.  I fill the bucket with about 2 or 3 liters of filtered water.  To the water, I've added 7 drops of rice vinegar per liter, and a tiny pinch of bromeliad fertilizer. This fertilizer is meant to be absorbed through the bromeliads' complex leaf structures, not through its (often vestigial) roots. Each bowlful of Tillies gets about 30 minutes in the bucket, then an upside-down draining. Why upside-down? Some Tillandsias can drown if water gets trapped at the center of the plant. Others can rot if water stays trapped within the leaves. Caput medusaes are notorious for that sort of diva behavior...!

Bulbosas and butziis getting a bath.
On non-watering days, they get misted in the mornings.  I only water Tillandsias in the mornings, because they respire at night, and if they're sopping wet, they can't breathe properly. So far, this routine has worked better than any other, especially considering Tillandsias have different needs, and this seems to be the best one-size-fits-all approach. They are higher maintenance than just sticking them on a wall (where they usually die after a few months), but so worth the effort! It's wonderful to see them growing new leaves and ramets (pups).


  1. NOW I know why mine succumbed - the ocean mist, kill most other plants, but could not understand why they died! Grew up with these hanging from trees, was very cross because I could not keep it alive - I grow some tough plants, they should have been easy! LOL!

  2. It's interesting, LT, because in my county, if you just go 2 miles inland, every oak and pine is FULL of Tillandsias. Yet here on the beach, nary a one. They are definitely not tolerant of salt crystals gumming up their trichomes, which are on their (exposed) leaves. I think they just choke to death on the salt. So indoors only, and I'm running out of space! ;-)

  3. This is very helpful Marla. Thanks!! Your Tillies look great. One of my favs. is the Bulbosa. How often do they grow pups?

  4. Oh, the bulbosas! Both subspecies that I have are very slow to pup, the slowest of all my tillies, in fact. I've had mine for over a year and they have not pupped yet. They should be getting ready, though!