Pity the poor tillandsia. With its affable, low-maintenance personality, your little friend tends to get ignored on a bookshelf. Its nickname—air plant—may reinforce the idea that it needs no special attention. But while it doesn't need soil, it does need to eat. Here's how to water it:
Photographs by John Merkl.
Need to know: There are hundreds of different species of tillandsia (and thanks to rampant hybridizing, it's hard to find two that look identical). But one thing they all have in common is they need water to live.
A rule of thumb: water a tillandsia once a week.
Fine tune the rule: If the air in your house is particularly dry, water more often (every five days) and in a humid environment, water every ten days.
Step 1: Fill a basin, bowl, or sink with water and dunk your air plants.
Step 2: After ten minutes, remove the plants from the water and spread them on a towel to dry.
Step 3: If the plants still seem wet, turn them upside down to shake water out of their bases.
Be particularly careful with bulbous tillandsia (you will recognize them because they have visible bulbs at their bases) because if they get waterlogged, they will rot.
Step 4: On days you don't water, you can mist tillandsia lightly. You will notice that as they soak up water, air plants will turn a more vivid color of green.
For more ideas about how to display air plants, see Hooked on Houseplants, Teen Edition.
Are you new to gardening? See more Gardening 101 tips.