Amazing Air Plants: The Wonders of Tillandsias

In doing a bit of research for my month-long journey into the wacky world of odd and wonderful plants, I came across a fascinating genus of leafy friends that need no soil. Nope, no dirt at all. These little guys get their nutrition from other plants or they slurp up nutrients straight from the air. (What kind of wackadoodle magic is that, y’all? Can you imagine taking a few deep breaths and being like, “Yep, I’m full now.”)


Check out these amazing little plants that don't need any soil at all...just delicious air and an occasional soak in the "pool." :) | Nerd in the Brain


Well, in my quest for knowledge, I found that you can actually grow these spiffy specimens at home…easily! Well, you know what my next step was…


Yeah, I totally ordered some. (I actually found a great looking set of Tillandsias on Amazon.*)


The Preparation


When the Tillandsia-laden box arrived, there was a bit of work to be done, but nothing strenuous or difficult, I promise. 😉 After a long, tiring journey through the mail, the little plants needed a nice, refreshing soak. They all went straight into the cooling, calming waters of Lake Cake Pan for several hours:


Tillandsias Soaking | Nerd in the Brain


After their dip in the waters, they spent some time on the warm, dry Paper Towel Beach…they needed to be nice and dry to avoid rot and fungus and whatnot. (Because who wants rot and fungus and whatnot? I know I sure don’t.)


Tillandsias Drying | Nerd in the Brain


Proper Care & Maintenance


Once these plants have had a proper soaking and drying off, they’re super-easy to care for. (Not that the first bit wasn’t also super-easy.)


You just find a nice spot with indirect sunlight, arrange them in a way that pleases you, and, for the most part, leave them the heck alone. Depending on the weather circumstances where you live (really, depending on the humidity in your house), the Tillandsias will need a nice soak and dry off every 7 to 14 days. (Pretty much the same as when they first arrive, but they don’t need to soak as long.) The set of plants I bought also came with a fertilizer spray to be used once per month. That’s it. That’s the entire care and maintenance of Tillandsias. Not bad for having such a nifty plant around, eh?


Tillandsias | Nerd in the Brain


How They Eat


As I mentioned above, Tillandsias really and truly get their nourishment from their surroundings…even the molecules and dust in the air. These lovely plants will also pull nutrients from anything yummy they happen to be touching…dead leaves, dead insects, raindrops…whatever’s handy. (No, they won’t suck the life out of you if you hold them.) 😉 Since Tillandsias don’t have roots (or, if they do, the roots are used for staying in place, not slurping up food), they pull their nutrients straight through their leaves with some help from trichomes. Neat!


How They Grow


Tillandsias grow everywhere from mountain tops to desert sands…but mostly in places where it’s warm, warm, warm (including the Southern U.S.). Most species are epiphytes and/or aerophytes. Epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants, but have no parasitic relationship with the “host” plant…they’re not sucking the life out of the plants they grow on. (Which I think is really quite nice.) Aerophytes grow right on the ground, but have no roots in the soil. They can be blown about on the whims of the winds.


How They Reproduce


Some Tillandsias reproduce in the “traditional” plant way. Many species do flower, and then there’s that whole sexy pollination thing. Other Tillandsias just start growing baby Tillandsias straight off of themselves like some sort of alien tumor thing. These little babies are called pups and will eventually grow into full-grown Tillandsias and repeat the process. Weeeeeeird. 😉


Tillandsias Among Us


Depending on where you live, you may be encountering Tillandsias on the regular, but we do have a rather famous example here in the Southern U.S. Our friend, Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides), is a solid member of the Tillandsia genus.  Spanish Moss is a marvel unto itself (ecologically and culturally), but that’s another post for another day. (Want to know more about the wonders of Spanish Moss right now? This Wikipedia article is a good place to start. My favorite tidbit? There’s a species of jumping spider that seems to live only in the shelter of Spanish Moss.)


Spanish Moss | Picture Courtesy of Pixabay

Want to Know More?


Do you have questions about Tillandsias? If so, just pop them in the comments. I’m certainly no expert, but I don’t mind doing some more research. If you have a wonder (or a bit of knowledge in the area) going on in your brain, go ahead and share it! (For example, once I found out that Spanish Moss was a Tillandsia, I immediately began to wonder about Mistletoe. Nope, Mistletoe is not a Tillandsia…it’s a hemiparasite…but a super important one.)


*I am an Amazon affiliate. Items you order from Amazon after clicking the affiliate links in this post will result in a small commission for me at no extra cost to you. Neat!


Amazing Air Plants (Tillandsia) | Nerd in the Brain


  • anne54 June 7, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    I have just read a book that you might like ~ “Lab girl” by Hope Jahren. It is her story of how she became a scientist, and set up various laboratories at various universities, despite funding issues. She is a researcher into geobiology and is fascinated by trees. Lots of quirky stories, as well as interesting research into trees.

    • Nerd in the Brain June 15, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      Oh, that sounds like a fabulous book…I’ve just put it on hold at my library…thank you so much for the suggestion! 😀

  • LavendarLadi June 10, 2017 at 8:38 am

    I’ve always loved these plants. I sadly killed the first one I bought ;( But now that I know how to properly care for them I’m going to try again! Thank you.

    • Nerd in the Brain June 15, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      Oh, I do hope you try again! They are so very spiffy to have around! 🙂

  • kaycreate June 12, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Air plants are so lovely! I’ve never had one myself, but my best friend used to have so many hanging in her bedroom. They really are fascinating!


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