Any time I wind up killing more than one of anything, I become obsessed. So when my tillandsia ball and another ball of mixed species of tillandsias suddenly up and died on me this winter, that was it–I was hooked. Clearly, I had to know what I was doing wrong and how to fix it.
Now in my defense, these two events happened months apart and I’m fairly sure I know exactly what happened in each case. I have since confirmed it by reading Zenaida Sengo’s excellent book, Tillandsias: The Curious World of Air Plants.
Sorry there’s no photo, but I read it, as I read most things these days, on a device and not in paper.
I also talked to an air plant vendor at the Flower and Garden Show at the Convention Center a few weeks ago, specifically about my mixed ball of tillandsias, which I’d had less than a year. The first one I’d had over five years and it literally bloomed itself to death, I think. So I’m not too concerned about that one.
His analysis was that the plants had dried out (and indeed, that pretty much seemed to be the case for at least one of the plants) because of my watering practices. So I’ve changed those up a bit–longer soakings–and I’m giving the plants a bit more light, although light in my house isn’t usually too much of an issue, particularly now that winter is over! The container of air plants shown above is one I purchased from him recently.
What I also learned from the book is that theses plants are epiphytes (like orchids, they like to hang on trees and absorb nutrition from the air–hence the name “air” plants) and they belong to the larger bromeliad family. Interesting.
The book also gives many fabulous suggestions for containers, for placements with other plants, and even for mounting (which I don’t think I’ll try, even after I’m sure I’m not going to kill them again, thanks so much!)
There are actually 3 different types of tillandsias, but this is a bit complicated. Some, which come from the desert regions, tend to be silvery in color and may be covered in a particular coating that helps them retain water more readily.
Others are from more temperate regions. And then there are the bulbous types which look different from most of the others.
According to Sengo’s book, so long as the plants are receiving sufficient light, it’s really hard to over-water (within reason, of course) but they should never be left to sit in water.
And that’s the short course in air plant survival!