Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tillandsia Care Part One- No Dirt, Please!

I had a lot of fun this weekend at our local nursery. The garden staff really know their stuff, and take good care of a huge array of tropical, subtropical, and desert plants. They have a large section devoted to Tillandsias, and customers are starting to cotton to them. But most of us have no idea what to do with an air plant. I didn't either until a couple of years ago.

What do most people do with air plants (Tillandsias) when they get them home? Stick 'em in a pot of dirt.

Years ago, I brought a nice Tilly home, stuck it in a pot of dirt, watered it every day (because it was from the tropics) and watched it rot. Never again! This weekend I was speaking with a small group about Tillandsia care, and thought it was a good time to do a series on the basics. We all want our Tillies to grow and thrive, and it's not always obvious what to do to make that happen. There's not a lot on the Web, either.

Tillies Not In Dirt
These Tillandsias are in homemade pots, but there's no dirt involved, and I don't water them in the pots. They get watered in a bucket, then drained, then stuck back in the pots. The pots can have some orchid mix, or some rocks, in the bottom, and there should be air around the base of the plant so they don't rot. That's all you need. Here's a closeup of a Tillandsia caput medusae in its dish:

T. caput medusae
Plenty of air circulation keeps the base of the plant healthy. They have little roots, but those are only for gripping tree trunks, telephone wires, and small children (OK, not the latter). And some have no roots at all, like this T. argentea fineleaf:

T. argentea fineleaf

All water and nutrition is absorbed through the trichomes on the leaves, but more about that later. For right now, Tillandsias belong in a dish, or a glass globe, or hanging off of something. It's fun to figure out what to do with each one.

The next Tillie post will be about light, then there will be one on water and nutrition. Enjoy your Tillies!

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