Air plants just about the coolest and most versatile indoor plants you can adopt. The Tillandsia species doesn’t require soil to grow as they absorb water through their leaves. Even more fun, is that they come in a ton of different sizes and shapes, from tiny delicate cones to huge thick tentacles.
Often when people refer to air plants, they don’t know which variety of Tillandsia they have, despite the fact that different varieties often have different care needs. Even in stores it is common to find a display of Tillandsia in varying size, color, and shape with no labels to differentiate them–they are all simply sold under the banner of “assorted air plants.” There are a great many air plant varieties out there, and this guide will give you an introduction to some common ones as well as some bonus info on each one.
- How to Care for Air Plants
- Getting to Know the Air Plant Varieties
- More on Air Plants:
- 40 Stunning Photos Featuring Varieties and Types of Air Plants
- Tillandsia Bulbosa
- Tillandsia Seleriana
- Tillandsia Ionantha
- Tillandsia Tenuifolia
- Tillandsia Fasciculata
- Tillandsia Harrisii
- Tillandsia Abdita
- Tillandsia Juncea
- Tillandsia Cocoensis
- Tillandsia Xerographica
- Air Plant Variety Packs
- Tillandsia Ionantha:
- Tillandsia Usneoides:
- Tillandsia Caput-Medusae:
- Andreana Air Plant:
- Tillandsia Xerographica:
- Tillandsia Maxima:
- Tillandsia Cyanea:
- Tillandsia Aeranthos:
- Tillandsia Blubosa:
- Tillandsia Capitata:
- Tillandsia Cotton Candy:
- Tillandsia Didisticha:
- Tillandsia Fuchsii:
- Tillandsia Funckiana:
- Tillandsia Gardneri:
- Tillandsia Stricta:
- Tillandsia Chiapensis:
- What Are Air Plants?
- How to Water Air Plants
- 18 Popular Types of Air Plants
- Creative Air Plant Displays
- Tillandsia Air Plants
- Caring for Air Plants Summary
- Air Plant Problems
- Community Comments
- Air Plant Care Overview
- 5 Types of Air Plants
- How to Care for an Air Plant
- Common Air Plant Questions and Concerns
- Top 10 Small Air Plants
- 1. Tillandsia Ionantha Mexican
- 2. Tillandsia Ionantha Rubra
- 3. Tillandsia Ionantha Scaposa
- 4. Tillandsia Ionantha Guatemalan
- 5. Tillandsia Ionantha Fuego
- 6. Tillandsia Argentea Thin
- 7. Tillandsia Funkiana
- 8. Tillandsia Tenuifolia
- 9. Tillandsia Filifolia
- 10. Tillandsia Butzii
- 3 Responses
- Types Of Tillandsia – How Many Varieties Of Air Plants Are
- Types of Tillandsia
- Air Plant Varieties
How to Care for Air Plants
Before you get more in-depth into each variety, be sure you know the basics of air plants. They are simple to care for but have unique needs. If you are new to air plants, have one that is sickly, or have had them die on you in the past, read these articles first:
- How to Keep Air Plants Healthy and Alive (They Might Even Bloom!)
- How to Properly Water Air Plants
- How to Revive a Sick Air Plant
Getting to Know the Air Plant Varieties
This list will help you choose your next air plant, identify the ones you already have, and learn some special care required for specific varieties. The numbers beside each air plant in the images corresponds to the numbering of the list.
1. T. stricta ‘Black Tip’ is a small-to-medium sized dark green air plant with vertical, pointed leaves that deepen in color at the ends. Special Notes: this is considered one of the easiest air plants to grow, so it’s great for beginners.
2. T. ionantha v. rubra is a small, ball-shaped air plant with bright green leaves that deepen to a crimson color in the center of the plant. It is heavily covered in trichomes, giving it a fuzzy appearance.
3. T. ionantha ‘Conehead’ is large and shaped like a spiky pinecone. The foliage blushes bright red when flowering, and it produces a beautiful purple flower spike. The leaves grow more upright than many other air plants, giving it its characteristic compact cone shape.
4. T. ionantha v. scaposa has straight, upward growing foliage that forms a tight bundle shape. Its leaves are pale green and can look almost white sometimes. When in bloom, the inner leaves turn red and it produces a bright purple flower bract. Special Notes: the leaves are more fragile on this Tillandsia than others, so be gentle when you handle it. T. ionantha v. scaposa likes frequent watering and cool temperatures.
5. T. magnusiana has thin, silver leaves that branch out into a wild mane. Its flower is purple and grows on a red spike sent up form the middle of the plant. Special Notes: this air plant prefers cool temperatures and lots of air circulation.
6. T. ionantha Fuego comes in large and small varieties. It has a rounded, stubby base with spiky upward-reaching silvery green leaves that turn fiery red when in bloom. Special Notes: easy to grow and propagate in various different conditions, these are good air plants for beginners to try their hand at.
7. T. tectorum (AKA Snowball) is a fluffy, white air plant with hair on their leaves called trichomes that give it the attractive snowball effect. It comes from Peru where it prefers a drier climate. Snowball won’t do as well in a hot, humid climate so this is a perfect indoor air plant. T. tectorum is rare, and therefore quite a bit more expensive than some other varieties. Special Notes: give T. tectorum lots of air circulation and let it dry well between watering. Only bathe this air plant and save the misting for humidity-loving varieties.
8. T. stricta ‘Stiff Purple’ has sprawling, spidery, green leaves with a purplish hue and makes thick, cylinder shaped pastel pink flowers. Special Notes: T. stricta does best in a humid environment with good air circulation. If you live in a warm climate, you can even keep them outside.
9. T. argentea are very small with a mass of thin, wispy, hair-like foliage. The flower is bright red and protrudes straight out of the middle of the plant. Special Notes: T. argentea’s tiny size makes it perfect for keeping inside terrariums or other small containers.
10. T. harrisii has pale glaucous leaves that are thin, sharp, and curl downward. They grow to about three to five inches tall and three inches wide. Blooms are red and purple. Special Notes: in their native Guatemala, these plants grow in bright, full sunlight on rocks, so keep them somewhere bright in your home.
11. T. brachycaulos v. abdita is medium sized with very soft green leaves that turn a bright red when it begins to flower. T. brachycaulos v. abdita produces colorful flowers in purple, yellow, and pink.
12. T. xerographica (AKA the King of Tillandsias) is a very large (up to three feet in diameter!) rosette-shaped air plant with silvery-blue leaves. T. xerographica is native to dry forests of Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Special Notes: When this air plant flowers, it produces a huge red and bright green flower spike that will last for months.
13. T. plagiotrophica has glaucous green foliage that grows in a stunning starburst shape and gets to be four to six inches tall. When in bloom, it produces a pure white flower in the center of its foliage. Special Notes: Native to San Salvador and Guatemala, T. plagiotrophica likes cooler temperatures and good air circulation. Place it in a well-ventilated area for best results.
14. T. streptophylla (AKA Shirley Temple) has pale green foliage with a slight purple tinge. Its broad leaves curl downward and sometimes turn into ringlets, hence its common name of “Shirley Temple.” Special Notes: Shirley Temple air plants prefer dry environments, so water them less frequently than other Tillandsia and skip misting them, as they don’t like to be too humid. Instead, give them an occasional bath.
15. T. flabellata rubra is a large air plant that has wide green leaves with ruby-red tips and bright crimson flower spikes. It usually grows to be about six to nine inches long, but can get up to eighteen inches in length. Special Notes: can be grown in soil in a pot or without soil like other air plants.
16. T. capitata ‘Peach’ is a medium-sized air plant with silvery foliage that changes to a peach color when it blooms. They have a symmetrical conical rosette shape. Special Notes: T. capitata ‘Peach’ is native to humid parts of South and Central America, so they like to be misted as well as bathed.
17. T. baileyi (AKA Bailey’s Ball Moss) is native to Mexico and the southern United States, where it grows in trees. These air plants are long (six to eight inches) and thin with tentacle-like rounded bright green leaves reaching upward and outward. When in bloom, the foliage turns a deep shade of purple. Special Notes: this Tillandsia sends out pups easily, so if you want an air plant that will reproduce, this one is a good choice.
18. T. circinata is medium sized (six to eight inches tall with a one-inch base) with silver-green leaves that eventually curl all the way around into circles. Their blooms are vibrant yellow or purple. Special Notes: T. circinata are very durable, easy-to-care for plants and do well in areas with low light.
19. T. pruinosa (AKA Fuzzywuzzy) is a very small air plant that has trichomes all over it, giving it its characteristic “fuzzy” appearance. The cylindrical leaves twist in different directions but generally grow upwards and are dark green with a silvery tinge. Produces purple flowers on a bright pink stem. Special Notes: prefers cooler temperatures and areas with fresh, moving air.
20. T. butzii has a rounded, speckled base with thin, curly foliage that shoots upward and is green to yellowish in color. It reaches five to seven inches tall and up to four inches wide. Special Notes: This air plant likes cool, humid climates and frequent waterings, so bathe and mist it regularly.
What kind of Tillandsia do you have? Let us know in the comments!
More on Air Plants:
- How to Keep Air Plants Alive and Healthy (They Might Even Bloom!)
- How to Properly Water Air Plants
- How to Revive a Sick Air Plant
- Crafting with Air Plants and Wire
- Air Plants in Seashells
- Plant Geeks Be Warned: This Living Jewelry Will Feed Your Obsession
40 Stunning Photos Featuring Varieties and Types of Air Plants
We at Decoist spend a lot of time admiring air plants, celebrating ways to display them, and learning about how to care for them. Today we thought it was time to delve into their unique features with a post that explores the many different types of air plants available! After all, if you enjoy collecting them, adding some diversity to your stash will certainly bring new design possibilities. Plus, it’s fun to be able to identify specific varieties and learn about what makes them special. All of the air plants below are Tillandsias, which absorb their nutrients through their leaves (rather than the roots). Ready for a closer look at some specific Tillandsia species?…
Air plants from Etsy shop Greenwich Cottage
With its thick, wiry leaves and bulbous base, Tillandsia Bulbosa makes a sculptural statement! Today we’ll highlight two types of Bulbosa.
Tillandsia bulbosa air plant from Etsy shop NewDreamWorld
Bulbosa Guatemala has a distinct form, with reaching arms that give it the appearance of a mysterious sea creature or an alien plant! A sea urchin is a popular display “container” for this interesting variety.
Bulbosa Guatemala from Etsy shop Air Plant Design Center
Bulbosa Belize will grow larger than Bulbosa Guatemala, spanning a width and height of up to 10 inches. With arms that reach more upward than outward, Bulbosa Guatemala is as stately as it is sculptural.
Bulbosa Belize from Air Plant Design Studio
Don’t think Tillandsia Bulbosa will remain green forever! When it’s flowering time, the upper leaves turn red, and purple flowers appear.
Tillandsia Bulbosa from Etsy shop Jordan’s Jungle
Another air plant species with a sculptural form, Tillandsia Seleriana is known for its fuzzy exterior. Upward-reaching leaves make it a natural fit for modern containers.
Tillandsia Seleriana from Etsy shop Spyloh
You can even purchase a pack of 12 large Tillandsia Seleriana from The Air Plant Shop. The more, the merrier, right?!
Tillandsia Seleriana from Etsy shop The Air Plant Shop
Ionantha is one of the most beautiful, hardy and popular Tillandsia varieties, and the photos below show just how radiant Ionantha can be. Common characteristics (such as spiky leaves that blush as the plant grows) unite the different selections. Read on to learn more about this colorful air plant…
Tillandsia Ionantha package from Etsy shop Bloom Plants
Ionantha Guatemala is known for its spiky leaves, as well as its vibrant red center. Beginning its life as an all-over green plant, it develops light red or pinkish coloring as time goes on.
Ionantha Guatemala in its green state Ionantha Guatemala air plant with a red center
Note the purple spikes that appear as the bloom cycle progresses, as well as the yellow flowers at the tips. Ionantha Guatemala is one of the most colorful types of air plants, making it very popular with design lovers!
Ionantha Guatemala from Etsy shop Air Plant Design Center
Other Ionantha Varieties
There are many other varieties of Ionantha air plants, and they all have similar characteristics. Here are a few of our favorites, starting with Ionantha Fuego…
Ionantha Fuego air plant from NewDreamWorld
The red-orange color of Ionantha Mexican gives its leaves a true vibrancy. Below we see selections from The Air Plant Shop:
Ionantha Mexican air plants from The Air Plant Shop
The Ionantha Rubra plant also blushes as it grows, then produces purple blooms. Don’t be surprised if it forms small pups that you can eventually separate from the parent plant!
Ionantha Rubra from Wholesale Tillandsias
If you prefer a big dose of pink when it comes to air plant blooms, check out Tillandsia Tenuifolia, which boasts hot pink spikes and flowers ranging from white to purple as it blossoms.
Tillandsia Tenuifolia from Etsy shop Plant Odditioes
Tillandsia Tenuifolia is thick and sturdy, and it has a true tropical look. Below we see a selection from Etsy shop Jordan’s Jungle. Anyone else getting the urge to create an arrangement using driftwood and pebbles?…
Tillandsia Tenuifolia from Etsy shop Jordan’s Jungle
Also known as the giant air plant, Tillandsia Fasciculata commands attention with its striking form and large scale. Keep reading to learn more about our favorite varieties…
Tillandsia Fasciculata from Cactus Jungle
If you’re a fan of color and you love grand statements, Fasciculata Tricolor just might be for you. As a whole, Fasciculata are larger than many air plant selections, making them excellent statement pieces.
Fasciculata Tricolor air plant from Etsy Shop Air Plant Design Center
Not only does Fasciculata Tricolor feature strong, spiky green leaves, it boasts a large yellow and orange bloom that’s hard not to love. The look is lush and tropical.
Tillandsia Fasciculata Tricolor from PlantaBrutt
As with all of the air plants featured today, Tillandsia Fasciculata is not in bloom at all times. In fact, it is often shipped in its non-blooming state, which is still pretty amazing in our book! Below we see a selection from Air Plant Supply Co.:
Fasciculata Tricolor air plant from Air Plant Supply Co.
Tillandsia Fasciculata is often sold in hybrid form. We’re guessing the plant’s large size makes it ideal for hybrid status! Below we see Tillandsia Fasciculata crossed with Tillandsia Ionantha, offered through Etsy shop Plant Oddities:
Tillandsia Fasciculata x Ionantha from Etsy shop Plant Oddities
Last but not least, here’s the Tillandsia Fasciculata crossed with Tillandsia Streptophylla, available via Etsy shop CTS Airplants. Look at those curly leaves!
Air plant hybrid from Etsy shop CTS Airplants
Light green leaves make Tillandsia Harrisii a subtle selection…until red and violet blooms appear! Named after American botanist Bill Harris, this plant can be purchased in a variety of sizes through retailers such as Air Plant Supply Co.:
Harrisii air plants from Air Plant Supply Co.
Here’s a large version of Tillandsia Harrisii, which you can order from Mountain Crest Gardens. Imagine this stunner as the focal point of a table centerpiece:
Large Tillandsia Harrisii from Mountain Crest Gardens
In fact, Tillandsia Harrisii is ideal for terrariums and other display containers, as shown below in an arrangement from Air Plant Studio:
Harrisii air plant in a terrarium centerpiece
A bold red hue makes Tillandsia Abdita one of the most colorful species of air plants. Typically green, this Tillandsia turns red as it blooms. For this reason, it’s a fun plant to display, as shown by this murex shell arrangement from Air Plant Studio:
Tillandsia Abdita from Etsy shop Air Plant Studio
In fact, its outreaching spread of red leaves makes it a popular choice for hanging planters and other modern and minimalist air plant containers. This hanging planter/air plant duo can be purchased from Etsy shop Cor:
Abdita air plant from Etsy shop Cor Pottery
And of course, because of its vibrant hue, Tillandsia Abdita is often included in “variety packs” of air plants, as it adds colorful diversity to a curated bunch. Can you spot the Abdita in this collection from Etsy shop Air Plant Design Center?
Collection of air plants from Etsy shop Air Plant Design Center
Can you spot the wispy air plant in the collection above? The one with the long, thin leaves? You’re looking at Tillandsia Juncea, which is distinct in its slender yet strong presence. Below we get a closer look at a few tall selections from Etsy shop Pipe Dreams Decor:
Tillandsia Juncea from Etsy shop Pipe Dreams Decor
This air plant species is a true standout, making it perfect for adding variety to a collection of air plants, particularly if more height is needed.
Tillandsia Juncea from Etsy shop Plant Oddities
Spiky leaves and distinct white blooms are two standout features of Tillandsia Cocoensis, which isn’t as widely sold as some of the other selections featured today. Exotic and unique, this air plant makes a big impact, even at a small size. Tillandsia Cocoensis air plants from Etsy shop Hello Tilly (shown below) are $5 apiece:
Tillandsia Cocoensis from Etsy shop Hello Tilly
Tillandsia Cocoensis are unique in their beautiful white blooms. Below we see a selection from Etsy shop Plant Oddities:
Tillandsia Cocoensis from Etsy shop Plant Oddities
This large Tillandsia variety is perfect for creating centerpieces! We’ve spotted many of them in arrangements featuring driftwood and sand, as the size of Tillandsia Xerographica makes it perfect for modern design statements.
Tillandsia Xerographica from COVE
Often more expensive due to its size, the plant can reach up to three feet in diameter. Long, silvery green leaves are a trademark feature.
Large Tillandsia Xerographica plants
The large nature of this air plant also makes it ideal for hybrids! For example, the hybrid below (from Etsy shop Spylo) is created by crossing Tillandsia Xerographica with the lush Brachycaulos. The result: a sculptural Tillandsia that comes in a variety of green shades, sometimes with pink spots.
Tillandsia Xerographica hybrid
You can even purchase the pups of the Tillandsia Xerographica, as shown here by this batch from Etsy shop Marluna Designs. Get them while they’re young for $4 apiece!
Tillandsia Xerographica pups from Etsy shop Marluna Designs
Air Plant Variety Packs
If you’re beginning to collect air plants and you’re wanting to enjoy a variety of species, consider ordering the plants in a group. Many retailers offer special deals that bundle interesting selections and ship them to your door. This air plant collection can be ordered through Air Plant Supply Co.:
Air plant collection from Air Plant Supply Co.
This sea urchin and air plant variety pack from Etsy shop Lovely Terrariums combines stunning air plant varieties with a beloved display technique. Each order includes Tillandsia Harrisii, Tillandsia Caput-Medusae and Tillandsia Ionantha Rubra. Sea urchins included!
Air plant sea urchin pack from Etsy shop Lovely Terrariums
Perfect for party favors, The Air Plant Shop’s Wholesale Air Plant Pack features 33 plants (and six varieties), including multiple exotic species:
Air plant collection from The Air Plant Shop
Now that you know more about air plant species, tell us about your favorites by leaving a comment below! Will you be adding a collection of air plants to your home this season?…
Air plants in a brick wall
Air plants belong to the epiphytes kingdom. These plants have roots that connect them with the host. The host can be a rock or a tree. Air plants don’t take nutrition from their host. As compared to other plants, air plants receive water and nutrients required from the air. That is the reason why they call them air plants. There are as many as 450 types of air plants.
Each plant has its requirement of light, water, and fertilizers. These air plants are small, and people use them to decorate their homes. In this article, we’ll discuss the best and common types of air plants.
The following are the different kinds of air plants. Mostly they are types of tillandsia.
Tillandsia Ionantha is one of the types of air plants. People also refer to tillandsia Ionantha as a sky plant. Tillandsia Ionantha can grow in a tropical environment. Which means that tillandsia Ionantha is a bromeliad plant. You can identify this species of air plant with the help of a short stem. Tillandsia Ionantha has a short stem, which makes them easy to identify. This type of air plant (tillandsia Ionantha) blooms bright colour flowers. Generally, they bloom flowers at the end of their life span.
Tillandsia Usneoides is another type of air plant. People also call tillandsia Usneoides as Spanish moss. You can quickly identify Tillandsia usneoides. As compared to other air plants, their leaves hand instead of going up. You can also find tillandsia Usneoides in the environment. They hang from trees, and they have a delightful smell.
Tillandsia Caput-Medusae is yet another kind of air plant. People also name them as head of Medusa. They are different types of air plants because of their shape. You can identify tillandsia caput-medusae because they have a snake-like shape. These air plants look like strands of hair. At the beginning of summer, these air plants also bloom flowers. The colour of the flowers is blue.
Andreana Air Plant:
It is another beautiful kind of air plant. Tillandsia Andreana species comes from Columbia. You quickly identify Andreana because of its leaves. The leaves of tillandsia Andreana grow in all directions. This air plant grows three to four inches in size. It can also bloom flower from its center.
Xerographica is another type of tillandsia air plant. Tillandsia Xerographica originated from Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador. As compared to other air plants, this type of tillandsia doesn’t require much water. It also produces yellow and red flowers. You can identify this air plant with its spherical shape.
Originated from Mexico, tillandsia maxima are another type of air plant. As compared to other air plants, this type can handle more direct sunlight. Their leaves change their colour before the flower blooms out of it. They produce a vibrant purple colour flower. These plants also can grow many flowers at a time.
Tillandsia cyanea is another types of air plants. People also call cyanea as the pink quill. As compared to other air plants, you can grow them into the soil. Tillandsia cyanea has bright pink quills. They also bloom purple and blue flowers.
Tillandsia aeranthos is one of the most popular homes and office air plants. You can identify tillandsia aeranthos with their long spikes. This species of air plant can grow in bright places away from direct sunlight. Aeranthos generate purple and blue flowers.
Blubosa is another type of air plant. They come from Central America. The best conditions for the survival of blubosa are humidity. The grow and survive in humid conditions. You can identify them with their bulb-like shape. If you want to grow blubosa in a dry place, you’ll have to water it every other day.
Tillandsia capitata is yet another type of tillandsia air plant. This type of air plant is originated from Cuba, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. As compared to other plants, capitata can survive direct sunlight. It also needs humidity for growth. Before flower blooms, leaves of capitata become peach in colour. It blooms purple flowers.
Tillandsia Cotton Candy:
Tillandsia cotton candy is yet another type of tillandsia. People also refer it to as tillandsia Houston. Cotton candy is a mixture of two different species. Tillandsia stricta and recurvifolia combine to reproduce cotton candy. Cotton candy type flowers bloom out of tillandsia cotton candy. That is the reason why they call it tillandsia cotton candy.
Didisticha is another kind of tillandsia. As compared to other air plants, it grows larger. With the perfect condition, this plant can grow up to 1 foot long. The origin of Didisticha is South America. With its pink and green leaves, they are easy to identify. Tillandsia Didisticha blooms white flowers.
Tillandsia fuchsii is yet another sort of air plant. It was also known as Tillandsia argentea. You can identify fuchsii with its green leaves. It also has a pink stem, which is long. The long stem of fuchsii produces a purple flower.
Funckiana is another type of tillandsia. It is one of the unique types of an air plants. Leaves of Funckiana grow in the shape of quills. It is easy to identify because of its shape and its spikes. They mold in different shapes according to the environment. Before they bloom, their leaves become yellow. They produce a neon-orange flower.
The origin of gardneri is Venezuela, Brazil, and Columbia. This species of air plants survive in a hot, humid environment. Keep them away from direct sunlight. They also produce pink flowers, and those flowers have a life span. Flower of gardneri survives from late spring to summer.
Tillandsia originates from South America. It is another type of tillandsia. As compared to other tillandsia’s, stricta can survive any climate. They can grow on a tree and can survive in dunes as well. There are different varieties of stricta. Stricta pink bronze and midnight are the most popular types.
Chiapensis is another type of air plants and its native to Mexico. As compared to other species of tillandsia, it can survive any climatic condition. It’s another great quality is that it can also survive the direct sun. You can also grow it in partial shade. This type of tillandsia can grow up to five inches. Chiapensis blooms red and pink flowers.
Looking for an easy-to-care-for plant to add to your home? If you have trouble keeping plants alive or are just looking for a new decor element for your home, air plants are your answer.
What Are Air Plants?
Air plants, or tillandsias, are unique plants. They are identified by their tiny size and lack of visible roots. Air plants rely on a combination of air and water to grow, but aren’t as dependent on water as traditional plants. Also, unlike traditional plants, air plants are epiphytes. This means that they don’t require soil to grow. This trait has made them popular as indoor plants, gifts and home decor.
In their natural state, air plants grow by attaching themselves to trees or shrubs. They originate from the warm climates of the southern United States, Central America and South America. As tropical plants, some air plants bloom neon colored flowers for a few months out of the year.
How to Water Air Plants
Although air plants don’t rely on water as much as traditional blooming plants do, they still need to be watered about once a week. Air plants absorb nutrients from water through their leaves instead of roots. To water, mist your plant so that it’s completely saturated with water. Every two to three weeks, fill a container with water and soak your air plants for 30 minutes.
18 Popular Types of Air Plants
To get a better idea of what air plants look like and their unique features, browse through 18 popular types of air plants below.
Tillandsia ionantha, also known as the sky plant, is a bromeliad plant. This means that it grows in a tropical climate and has a short stem. Sky plants often bloom bright flowers toward the end of their life.
Tillandsia usneoides, or Spanish moss, differs from other air plants in that the leaves hang rather than sprout up. In its natural environment, spanish moss can be found draped over tree branches and emitting a fragrant scent.
Tillandsia caput-medusae is also referenced as the head of Medusa due to its distinct shape. Its snake-like leaves spread horizontally like strands of hair. Tillandsia caput-medusae produces red or blue flowers in early summer.
Tillandsia andreana is a species that originates from Columbia. Its leaves shoot out from all sides, growing to be three to four inches tall. Tillandsia andreana produces tubular flowers that bloom from the center of the plant.
Tillandsia xerographica originates from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala. It has a spherical shape and doesn’t need as much water as other varieties (so when it comes to watering, you should mist rather than soak it). Tillandsia xerographica slowly produce a spike that turns into a red or yellow flower.
Tillandsia maxima originate from Oaxaca, Mexico and therefore can handle more sun than other varieties. Its moss green leaves turn a coral color before blooming a brilliant purple flower. They are able to produce multiple flowers at the same time.
Tillandsia cyanea, also known as the pink quill plant, are treasured due to their bright pink quills and vibrant purple-blue flowers. Although this variety is still an epiphyte (which means it absorbs nutrients through leaves), it can also be grown in soil.
Tillandsia aeranthos have long spiky leaves and thrive in bright, indirect sunlight. They produce pink and blue flowers, which makes them popular house or office plants. Tillandsia aeranthos can grow to be up to nine inches in height.
Tillandsia bulbosa is named after its bulb-like appearance. It originates from Central America and thrives in humid conditions. If you live in a dry location, your plant will need to be misted every other day to thrive.
Tillandsia capitata peach is native to Mexico, Cuba, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. This air plant thrives in humid conditions and can tolerate full sun. The leaves turn a peach color right before a purple flower blooms.
Tillandsia cotton candy, also known as Tillandsia houston, is a hybrid air plant. It is a mix of tillandsia stricta and tillandsia recurvifolia. Tillandsia cotton candy forms pink, cotton candy colored blooms.
Tillandsia didisticha originates from South America and is known to grow larger than most air plants. It can reach up to a foot tall in its prime. It has muted green and pink leaves that produce a white flower.
Tillandsia fuchsii v. gracilis was formerly known as tillandsia argentea. It has light green leaves and produces a long pink stem that a bright purple flower blooms from. In their natural state, Tillandsia fuchsii grow in clumps.
Tillandsia funckiana are unique air plants because their leaves grow like quills, all spiking in the same direction. They also curl in a distinct shape, adjusting based on their environment. When they are ready to bloom, the leaves will turn yellow and a neon orange flower will form.
Tillandsia gardneri are native to Columbia, Brazil and Venezuela. Although they thrive in warm, humid climates, they should not be in direct sunlight. Tillandsia gardneri bloom pink flowers that last from late spring to late summer.
Tillandsia ionantha, also referred to as fuego, has a distinct red color that makes it stand out. The leaves have an ombre pattern that start with moss green and transition into a vibrant red-pink color. These colors make up for its small size, growing to be about one inch tall.
Tillandsia stricta, native to many countries in South America, is able to survive in many climates. It can grow in trees as well as on sand dunes. There are many stricta varieties, popular ones including stricta pink bronze (pink flower) and stricta midnight (dark, almost black coloring).
Tillandsia chiapensis, native to Chiapas, Mexico, is able to grow in a variety of climates. It will thrive in full sun as well as partial shade. The tillandsia chiapensis grows up to five inches wide and produces pink and red blooms.
Creative Air Plant Displays
A fun way to display air plants is by including them as decor in your home. From hanging air plants to geometrically-designed displays, there is a style for any home.
Photo credits: The Lovely Drawer | Idle Hands Awake | Small + Friendly | Avery Klein
Ready to include air plants into your home decor? Shop our air plant and succulent collection and enhance the style of your, or a loved one’s, space.
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Tillandsia Air Plants
Avoid fertilizers that contain boron, copper or zinc
The only catch is to avoid fertilizers that contain boron, copper or zinc as all three metals are toxic to the majority of Tillandsias, including Air Plant’s.
The feed can then be applied to the leaves in the mister spray or in the container of water if you’re dunking / soaking your plant.
When it comes to temperature requirements these plant’s are happy providing it ranges somewhere between 10°C (50°F) up to 30°C (86°F). Some varieties can deal with colder temperatures but it’s not ideal as it drastically increases the chances of rotting.
The wonderful trait of of not having any sort of extensive root system means this is one of the very few houseplants that will never need repotting. Ever.
The Air Plant can be propagated by the seed it might produce at the end of its life, but this normally only works if you have multiple Air Plants in flower at once so they can pollinate one another. Additionally it needs specific requirements for germination to occur and also for the plants to survive into adulthood. If you’re still keen to give it a go the RHS has a good guide.
Instead it’s much easier if you skip all that and wait for the flower spike to die off. Around this time offsets or “pups” will form around the base of the mother plant. You can leave them to form an attractive clump, or instead when they’re almost a third of the size of the mother plant you can gently separate them and treat them as individual plants.
Speed of Growth
Offsets grow quite quickly to start with, but then everything slows down and this continues for the rest of the plant’s life. Don’t expect fast growth no matter what you do for your Tillandsia.
Height / Spread
The diversity available means the height and spread can differ a fair bit between plants. However Air Plants in the main are not large houseplants and they probably won’t grow much bigger than what you have when you first buy them.
The flowering of any Tillandsia like the one in the photo below by Cactanna is often bittersweet. On one hand it shows you’ve raised and cared for it correctly and to a good standard. On the other hand it also marks the end of the plants life.
It takes many years, but Air Plants only flower once and when they do, the Mother Plant starts to lose it’s vigor and will deteriorate before dying off.
During this die off period it will spend all it’s energy producing as many “pups” or offsets as it can. Once grown to a fair size, they can be separated from the mother plant or left to form an attractive clump.
It all depends on the variety you have, but the blooms themselves can be very short lived only lasting a day or so, or they can stick around for a month or more. Regardless they’re often striking, sometimes alien looking but somehow still pleasing to the eye.
Are Air Plants Poisonous?
The good news is that Air Plant’s aren’t poisonous to people or the majority of pets like cats and dogs. The bad news is that due to their unusual look they can attract playful and curious pets.
Don’t let your pets play with them as their dainty size can mean they’re easily damaged by teeth or claws.
You can grow these plants pretty much anywhere and in anything. However be sure any container you place it in has a free flow of air, i.e. not in sealed bottles.
Additionally if mounting or if you want to hold it in place using wire, make sure you avoid superglue and wire containing copper. Both can do serious damage or even kill your Air Plant.
Caring for Air Plants Summary
Average Light Levels An adaptable houseplant that can do equally well in moderately lit or brightly lit spaces. Avoid placing in deep shade for prolonged periods.
Moderate Watering Water well either by misting a few times a week, or dunking the entire plant in a bowl of water.
Temperature They need temperatures between 10°C (50°F) up to 30°C (86°F).
Feeding Feed once every two or three months all year round for a healthy looking plant. Add the feed to the mister or bowl of water.
Air Plant Problems
How do I make my Air Plant flower?
By this I assume you’re concerned that your Air Plant isn’t flowering. Firstly I would mention that once an Air Plant blooms it dies, so while very beautiful and a rare sight to see, it’s not like a normal flowering plant which repeat blooms.
To get your Air Plant to flower there is no magic trick, it’s just a case of providing correct care and waiting until it’s ready.
My Air Plant’s not growing
Unless the plant is very young, little to no growth is usual and not a cause for alarm. In fact I’d go as far as saying this isn’t actually a problem and if your plant is healthy just go with it and enjoy your little houseplant.
Large sections of the leaves which have gone brown (and not just the tips) are a sign of various damage or poor handling over time. The leaves are pretty small anyway so some damage from handling the plant is really common as shown in the picture below.
You can snip the brown bits off. If you have an Air Plant which has larger leaves than the one in the picture then make sure you cut in angles rather than straight across so what’s left of the leaf blends in with the others.
Brown Leaf Tips
The brown tip problem is also shown in the picture above. As you can see it’s only the very ends that have gone brown rather than large sections of the leaves. In this instance the brown tips are a sign of either frequent underwatering, prolonged low humidity or a combination of both. Improve the situation and again you can snip the brown tips off to fix the appearance.
Leaves curling over
When the leaves curl drastically or shrivel up, it’s telling you that it needs water and urgently. Curling leaves is the last ditch attempt for the Air Plant to try and prevent water loss by reducing the leaf surface area to moisture stealing draughts and light.
To fix this, water well and consider a long soak in a bowl of water to rehydrate the plant. The leaves should have fully opened again within a few days.
What’s the Difference between green and grey Tillandsias
There isn’t really a huge difference. Although the greener species have less trichomes (tiny structures on the leaves that help the plant capture and absorb moisture and nutrients) than the greyer Air Plants.
In terms of care requirement needs, the greener types will likely need more frequent watering and do much better in shadier spots and terrariums. Where as the greyer types will benefit more from higher humidity locations and brighter areas in the home.
What should I do about the roots on my Air Plant?
The majority of Tillandsia species are epiphytes, which simply means they grow on the surface of another plant. In order to help remain attached they do tend to grow superficial supporting roots to help them “cling on”.
When Air Plants are grown indoors as houseplants the roots serve very little purpose, so they can be trimmed or removed if undesired. Equally however there is no harm in leaving the roots alone. Personally I’ve not found that any of the Air Plants I’ve owned to produce many, or any roots so have not had to trim / remove them.
My plant’s gone brown and mushy?
Both symptoms are a very clear sign your plant’s rotted. Watering too frequently, doing it late in the evening when the temperatures are cooler, or exposure to very cold temperatures are all going to result in a very real possibility of your plant being killed.
About the Author
Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.
Also on Ourhouseplants.com
Credit for the collection of 4 Tillandsia – Article / Gallery – Beautiful Tillandsia
Credit for the collection of 5 Tillandsia – Article / Gallery – Amazon
Credit for the Air Plants having a water bath – Article / Gallery and for the Flowering Air Plant – Article / Gallery – Cactanna
Credit for the Air Plants having a soak in orange bowl – Gallery – A Bird’s Life
Credit for Tillandsia tectorum in the blue bowl – Article / Gallery – James Ho
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Air plants (Tillandsia) have become hugely popular. In recent years, these unique plants have made their way into homes as a decor staple. Just as their name suggests, they can live with their roots in the air, no soil required. People love them for their versatility because you can get very creative with displays when your plant is not rooted in the soil.
We put together this ultimate Tillandsia care guide so you know how to best take care of them. In this guide, you will find air plant care tips and requirements, types of air plants as well as frequently asked questions. Use the menu below to find the air plant care information you’re looking for:
- Air Plant Overview
- Types of Air Plants
- How to Care for an Air Plant
- Air Plant FAQs
Air Plant Care Overview
Air plants (Tillandsia) are incredibly unique and come in 450 different varieties. They are classified under the bromeliad family which covers a wide variety of 3,475 mainly tropical plant species — this means that air plants are related to pineapples! They live in different regions that range from the top of Argentina to the southern US. The two main types of air plants are xeric and mesic. Xeric Tillandsia live in desert climates and can survive with less water and more sun than their tropical counterparts (mesic Tillandsia).
Air plants latch their roots to trees, rocks and other plants and collect water that accumulates on their base. For example, in a tropical habitat, they live in the trees collecting water from humidity and water that pools in the trees’ branches. Due to their acclimation to the rainforest and warm desert weather, they prefer temperatures in the range of 50–90° F (10–32° C). Mesic Tillandsia prefer humid air while xeric Tillandsia prefer arid air. If you don’t live in an area that boasts their preferred conditions, no need to worry — there are ways to replicate that environment and air plants are fairly resilient.
They come in a large variety of sizes and colors. Air plant varieties range in size from two inches to seven feet. The varieties that are frequently found in stores are typically two to five inches in size. There are varieties that bloom flowers but this usually signals that the plant is near the end of its life cycle. Before air plants die they release pups (baby air plants) that grow up to be just like the original. See the propagation section to learn other ways to grow more air plants from the original seedling.
5 Types of Air Plants
In addition to their variance in size, they come in a vast variety of color combinations. You can find pastel green plants and other bright types that feature fiery reds, pinks and purples. As mentioned above there are two main air plant categories, xeric and mesic. Xeric air plants are characterized by muted silver and green color tones and a fuzzy texture. Mesic air plants have a smoother texture and brighter colors. Read on to learn about some of the most popular types of air plants.
Tillandsia cyanea (Pink Quill)
The pink quill air plant is named for its distinct bright pink feather-like bloom. Another thing that makes the pink quill plant unique is that it can grow in soil and does just as well being grown in either soil or in the air. The pretty pink quill will occasionally have flowers bloom on it, although the flowers only last a couple of days and the quill can only support about two flowers at a time.
Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss)
Spanish moss looks quite different from the other air plant varieties with its long stringy texture. In its natural environment, the plant drapes over tree branches, creating a gorgeous ethereal effect. Spanish moss isn’t Spanish. It got its nickname from French explorers who thought it looked like a Spanish Conquistador’s beard.
The bulbosa’s lanky bracts create a stark contrast to the large bulbous roots. If grown outdoors, this plant develops a symbiotic relationship with ants. The ants find shelter in the bulbs and the plant feeds on the ant’s waste. As an added bonus, this variety does well in low-light conditions. A downside of Tillandsia bulbosoa is that water can get trapped in the base easily and lead to root rot if it’s not dried properly after being watered.
Tillandsia aeranthos bergeri
This variety blooms every spring, revealing gorgeous pink and purple flowers. Tillandsia aeranthos bergeri grows pups very quickly, faster than other varieties, so it’s a great option for someone who loves to propagate their plants. It’s also a bigger air plant variety compared to other Tillandsia houseplant varieties, they can grow to about six to nine inches tall.
Tillandsia ionantha (fuego)
Fuego air plants are small but mighty at two inches tall. What they lack in height is made up for in color — these plants have stunning bright red and orange hues to them. They hail from Mexico and South America in humid warm forests, so they love when their caretakers can mimic this environment.
How to Care for an Air Plant
Air plant care may vary based on the species but for the most part, they have similar care requirements. Take special note of whether your air plant is xeric (desert-dwelling) or mesic (tropical-dwelling) as this will affect their care requirements. Read on to learn more about light, water, temperature preferences, toxicity, pests, problems, repotting and propagation.
How much light does an air plant need?: Air plants prefer bright, indirect light. They should be placed near a natural light source that receives light for most of the day. If the area you live in has higher humidity, the plant can take more light without getting too dried out. If you have a xeric air plant, it will be more tolerant of direct or bright sun.
Air plants can survive under an artificial light source. If you choose this option, your plants will need at least 12 hours of fluorescent light and be no further than three feet from the light.
How to water air plants: The amount of water that air plants need depends on the conditions they live in. Drier, hotter environments will result in the plant needing to be watered more often — more humid, cooler climates will require less. Mesic air plants typically need to be watered every week and xeric air plants every two weeks. The basic watering guidelines are as follows:
- Soak your air plant’s roots in room temperature water for 10–15 minutes.
- Flip them upside down (root side up) on a towel in sunlight and let them dry completely (usually for one to three hours).
ProTip: If your air plant hasn’t fully dried in three hours, then move it to a brighter area to make sure it dries. It could get root rot if stays wet longer than three hours.
- Place your plant back and mist it one to two times a week (optional).
What temperature do air plants prefer?: Air plants prefer temperatures between 50–90° F (10–32° C). Luckily, they can still survive in temperatures outside of that range. They will be happiest in humid air which is why they thrive in sunny bathrooms where they can absorb the shower’s humidity. Some people try to replicate a humid environment by misting their air plants a couple of times a week.
Are air plants toxic?: Air plants are not toxic to humans, cats or dogs, so don’t worry if your furbabies get into your air plant collection. The plants may take a beating, though, so trim off any nibbled or broken leaves and continue care per usual.
Common air plant pests: Two pests that can affect air plants are scale insects and mealybugs. Scale insects attach themselves to the bottoms of leaves and feed off of the plant. These pests present as little scale-like bumps on the leaves. Mealybugs are tiny white bugs that also feed off of the plant. If your plant’s leaves turn yellow or fall off, check for a pest infestation.
If you suspect that your plant has an infestation, the most important thing to do is quarantine the plant. This will keep your healthy plants safe from the spread of the infestation. Consult a gardening expert to figure out the best treatment for your specific plant type and particular infestation case.
Common air plant problems: The problem that plagues air plants the most is root rot. This is caused by overwatering the plant or leaving it soaking in water for too long. Root rot presents as brown or blackened roots that are usually squishy to the touch. To avoid root rot, make sure to not overwater your plant. It helps to keep track of the watering schedule with plant care tracking sheets.
How to propagate an air plant: The best way to propagate an air plant is by using the plant’s pups. The pups are mini replicas of the parent plant that can be found at the base of the plant. All you need to do is use a sharp implement to remove the pup from the parent — be careful to not damage the pup when you remove it. Care for the pup like you would any other air plant and it will develop into a full-grown air plant.
“Repotting” air plants: Air plants are the easiest plants to move because they aren’t rooted in soil. When “repotting” your air plant just be careful not to bend and break its leaves or roots. Other than that just move your air plant to its new home and care for it as usual.
Common Air Plant Questions and Concerns
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions that air plant owners and prospective owners have about their plants. If you have any additional air plant queries, leave them for us in the comment section below!
Do Air Plants Purify Air?
Air plants remove carbon dioxide and some trace chemical pollutants but they aren’t as effective as other plants that purify the air. But some studies suggest that they can be effective in removing mercury and other toxins from the air.
Do Air Plants Grow Bigger?
If your air plant is a pup (baby air plant) then it will grow to full size depending on its species. As stated above, air plants range in size from two inches to seven feet so research your variety to find out more about how big it will grow. If you buy an air plant at a market it’s likely full grown.
Do Tillandsia Die After Flowering?
Unfortunately, when most air plant varieties bloom it means they are older in age and will soon die. On the bright side, before they die, air plants shed little pups that will grow to be the plant parent’s size.
Why Do My Air Plants Keep Dying?
Overwatering is the most common cause that kills air plants. If they are overwatered they can easily get root rot which will kill them. To avoid root rot, make sure your air plants dry within three hours after watering. The next most common cause is under-watering which the plant can usually recover from. See our tips below to revive an under-watered plant.
How Do You Revive an Air Plant?
If you’ve lightly under-watered your plant (your plant’s tips are turning brown or getting a slightly dry texture), give your plant an extra soak and resume a normal watering schedule. To revive a brown or very dry plant, follow the steps below:
- Submerge the plant in lukewarm water.
- Make sure the plant stays submerged by lightly weighing it down.
- Move the container of water and plant to an area with bright light and a temperature range of 65–75°F (18–23°C).
- Soak the plant for 12 hours.
- Remove the plant and lightly shake off the excess water.
- Let it air dry completely on a towel.
- Use sterile scissors to trim off any dry leaves (1/4th inch from the base).
- If it still shows signs of wilting three days after it was soaked, repeat the steps again, except only soak the plant for three to four hours this time around.
Air plants are great additions to your plant collection and they also make great gifts for a plant-loving friend. The smallest ones can be used in adorable air plant jewelry. Air plants are also perfect for unique decor displays and creative crafts, like air plant string art or DIY terrariums. Do you have a creative idea of how to use your air plant? Let us know in the comments below!
Are you an air plant beginner? Wondering what air plants you should start your collection with? Well, the good thing about air plants is that they pretty hardy and forgiving, and most are relatively easy to take care of, so really any air plant that you choose will be likely be easier to take care of than many other plants you might have tried your hand at.
First, what is an air plant? An air plant (Tillandsia) is an epiphyte which means that they grow in and among trees and rocks and get their nutrients and water from the air by using their trichomes (little fuzzy hairs) to absorb these nutrients. There are over 500 varieties and they are very versatile which makes them a favorite among plant collectors! And because they don’t require soil, they can be displayed in endless ways and in spaces that normally wouldn’t lend themselves to potted plants.
Below we have compiled a list of our top 5 beginner air plants and some information on their care. Of course, the air plant that is right for you will depend largely on your environment. As always, if you have any questions, email us [email protected] and we’re always happy to help you select the right Tillandsia for your space.
#1. Tillandsia ionantha air plant: These are generally smaller air plants that require minimal care. The best part? You can choose from a variety of types: Ionantha mexican, Ionantha guatemala, Ionantha Rubra, Ionantha fuego, and
Ionantha vanhyningii are a few of our favorites. (Learn more about these little guys in our blog post all about ionanthas!). These guys love plentiful indirect sunlight, and will even eventually bloom a beautiful purple flower. These little guys are also big propagators, so you’ll soon have little baby air plants withe proper care – or leave them attached to form a clump! Learn more about air plant propagation. The other great thing about these little guys is that they are relatively inexpensive so you can select a few of them for a pretty air plant display that won’t break the bank.
#2. Tillandsia aeranthos air plant (and aeranthos hybrid): The Tillandsia aeranthos is one of the more common air plants. It is the perfect size for terrariums and is fun to use in decorating. Aeranthos air plants are a very hardy variety with stiff leaves and are perfect for beginning air plant enthusiasts and veteran Tillandsia collectors alike. These medium sized air plants will blush a light purple and bloom bright pink blooms. There are also many hybrids of this popular air plant, and we recommend the aeranthos stricta hybrid for its beautiful shape, and easy care. Read more about the T. aeranthos air plant.
#3. Tillandsia stricta air plant: Another hardy stiff leaved variety, these are a favorite of air plant collectors. They can thrive on a variety of surfaces, so you can place them on wood, rocks, seashells, ceramics and anything else you can think of! One of the more popular air plants, these medium air plants make a statement without requiring crazy amounts of care! They bloom a beautiful pink bloom and will eventually grow offsets from the base. Read more about the Tillandsia stricta air plant.
#4. Tillandsia xerographica air plant: Known as the Queen of the Air Plants, the stately xerographica is definitely a favorite among both air plant collectors and novices, as well as in event design and staging. These plants are very hardy and are considered “xeric” plants meaning that they thrive in drier conditions and love more sunlight (these are one of the few Tillandsia that can handle a bit of direct sun). Perfect for those busy air plant lovers or those who *gasp* forget to water their plants for a week or so, these guys will generally be ok with a slight lack of water. The amount of water they get and way they are displayed will affect their overall shape. Less water will cause the T. xerographica’s leaves to be more tightly curled, whereas more frequent waterings will cause the leaves to loosen a bit for a fuller shape. These can be hung and left to grow and often create a stunning cascading display with their leaves. Read more about the xerographica air plant.
#5. Tillandsia harrisii air plant: The T. harrisii air plant is another more xeric variety which will be a bit more tolerant to less frequent waterings. These air plants will still want a soak every week or so (depending on your environment) but can be a bit more forgiving if you miss a week. Characterized by their wide silver leaves, these striking air plants are beautiful displayed on their own or with a selection of other Tillandsia. Due to their abundance of trichomes, they will be able to handle a bit more sunlight than some of the deeper green air plant species and will want plentiful, bright indirect sunlight. Shop the Tillandsia harrisii here.
Another great option if you’re just starting your air plant collection is our Air Plant Starter Kit, which comes with a variety of beautiful Tillandsia (air plants) and an Air Plant Fertilizer to encourage growth and blooming.
Ready to start building your air plant collection? What are you waiting for? Shop air plants now or select from one of our terrarium kits that has all you need to create a beautiful air plant display.
And be sure to read all about air plant care to determine the right plants for your environment.
No two air plants look identical. And most varieties aren’t labeled at the plant store. So how do you tell them apart?
It’s a tougher job than you might think. These aerophytes, which are native to the warm climates of Central America and Mexico, have been cross-bred to create countless hybrids over the years.
“You are never really going to see two air plants that are identical,” says Ryan Lesseig, co-owner with his wife Meriel of Tampa, FL-based Air Plant Design Studio. “The reason is that air plants were very popular back in the ’70s, and what happened was people focused on breeding new types, so now you have a lot of crosses.”
In fact, says Lesseig, two plants of the same species may look completely different, depending on factors such as climate. “The same type will look different in Florida and in California,” he said.
Lesseig, who raises and sells online about 50 varieties of air plants, was able to ID some of mine. For others, he can identify a cousin or two:
Above: Photograph by John Merkl for Gardenista.
1. Tillandsia bulbosa
But which bulbosa? Its smaller companion (Shown Upper Left) is a Butzii, says Lesseig, adding that No. 1 looks “like a cross between a butzii and a Caput Medusae.” A Butzii and a Caput Medusae are $4.99 apiece at Air Plant Design Studio.
The trick to making any bulbous variety of air plant happy is to shake the droplets out of its bulb after watering so it doesn’t rot.
Lesseig at first said he was stumped by this air plant; later he emailed me that “it looks like a Velutina.” What do you think? Does it look like this 4-Inch Tillandsia Velutina ($2.95 from CTS Airplants via Etsy)?
With its stiff, dagger leaves, “that one looks like a Brachycaulos x Abdita,” says Lesseig. It’s a hybrid of the brachycaulos species native to Mexico and Central America.
Easy one to ID, says Lesseig: “It’s an Ionantha Guatamala.” It is $3.25 at Air Plant Design Studio.
The Ionantha varieties are particularly popular because they’re hardy and low-maintenance. (After a year in my care, mine still look perfectly healthy and happy despite benign neglect.)
Native to the dry climates of Mexico and Central America, Streptophylla is easy to ID because as it gets bigger, its leaves start to curl into ringlets. Says Lesseig, “Those brown-tipped leaves start to appear as it gets older.”
Misting will help keep the leaves green.
Hard to tell for sure, but…”looks like a Concolor,” says Lesseig. (Compare it to this 3-4 Inch Tillandsia Concolor, available from CTS Airplants via Etsy.)
Wondering how to keep an air plant happy? See Gardening 101: How to Water an Air Plant.
Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for air plants with our Air Plant: A Field Guide.
Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various houseplants with our Houseplants: A Field Guide.
Interested in other tropical plants for your garden or indoor space? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various tropical plants with our Tropical Plants: A Field Guide.
Top 10 Small Air Plants
Air Plants (Tillandsias) come in all shapes and sizes. Their varying size is one of their most unique attributes. Here at our greenhouse we have seen Ionantha Mexican that would fit on your thumbnail, Xerographicas as large as beach balls, and everything in between. For those who are seeking the smaller plants, this is the list for you. The following small air plants are perfect for small globe terrariums, teardrop terrariums, and other tiny holders. Find all of them on our Small Air Plants page.
It’s important to note that all air plants start small, either by a pup (off-set at the base of a mother plant that occurs after blooming) or from a seedling. However, the plants highlighted below are likely to stay small and compact throughout their lives. And of course, there are very few air plants that would be considered too large for the home environment. When we use size descriptions on our website, like “small” or “large” these are all relative to the species themselves. A large Ionantha Rubra is still going to be smaller than a Small Xerographica, as an example.
The Ionanthas are a special type of Tillandsia and probably one of the first air plants that you will encounter in your search for small plants. The Tillandsia Ionanthas are generally 1-3 inch tall plants with spiky leaves. They are prolific pup producers and will start creating clumps if left to naturally multiply. They are found naturally in the Mexico, Central, and South America. The variation that exists between the different Ionanthas is mainly due to elevation, climate, and conditions in their various native region.
1. Tillandsia Ionantha Mexican
Height: 1-2 Inches
The hardiest of all of the Ionanthas. Ionantha Mexican produce brilliant red and orange blooms and they form into tight clusters when they start to pup. Even if you forget about them for a week or two, Ionantha Mexican almost always bounce back with a good soaking.
2. Tillandsia Ionantha Rubra
Height: 1-2 Inches
This Ionantha is perhaps the most graceful. Our Ionantha Rubra often sport very symmetrical rosettes with gracefully curving leaves. They blush shades of light pink and produce purple, crocus-like flowers.
3. Tillandsia Ionantha Scaposa
Height: 1-3 Inches
Scaposas are a nice mint green color. Their leafing structure is much more vertical than the other Ionanthas. We love using these in our wine cork magnets.
4. Tillandsia Ionantha Guatemalan
Height: 1-3 Inches
The Guatemalans can sometimes look a little unkept but they are generally a hardy species with more rigid, pointed leaves than the Ionantha Rubras or Ionantha Mexicans.
5. Tillandsia Ionantha Fuego
Height: About 1 Inch
“Fuego” means fire in Spanish. This Ionantha blushes bright red and its color can last for several weeks. Our Ionantha Fuego look great in teardrop terrariums and small displays. Our Fuegos are often sent with a red tinge.
Left to Right: Ion. Guatemalan, Ion. Rubra, Ion. Mexican, Ion. Scaposa, Argentea Thin, Funkiana, Ionantha Fuego
6. Tillandsia Argentea Thin
Height: 2-3 Inches
The first non-ionantha on the list! Argentea thin plants have mint green needle-point foliage. They look especially beautiful in round globes where their unique structure can be admired from all angles.
7. Tillandsia Funkiana
Height: 3-5 Inches
These spiky guys like to twist and turn in all directions. Mostly grassy green in color with a woody base, the Funkiana plants develop a bright red bud and flower when in bloom.
8. Tillandsia Tenuifolia
Height: 2-3 Inches
Tenuifolia is a bronze-leaved species native to Central America. We use this plant to judge when we need to water our air plants. When in need of water, Tenuifolia curl their leaves to protect against moisture loss. As soon as they are hydrated, the leaves flatten out again.
9. Tillandsia Filifolia
Height: 2-4 Inches
Filifolia is essentially a more green version of the Argentea Thin and they are occasionally mistaken for each other. Filifolia produce long, thin, forest green leaves and look great in terrariums.
10. Tillandsia Butzii
The butzii rounds out this top 10 list more for it’s narrow width than it’s short height. Butzii have a small round base, about a half inch across, and long, narrow arms that range anywhere from 2 to 10 inches tall. This variation allows them to be used in both containers and larger displays depending on their growth stage.
October 17, 2018
I so enjoyed your site.
I wonder if you can help me name my Tillandsias. II was given a collection, some are named others are not. Looking at yours I think even the named ones I have maybe incorrectly named!
April 28, 2017
Hi , I love the look of all of these plants but could I be advised of any air plants which give torquoise blue flowers or spiky leaves? Thanks
April 28, 2017
Hi , I love the look of all of these plants but could I be advised of any air plants which give torquoise blue flowers or spiky leaves? Thanks
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Types Of Tillandsia – How Many Varieties Of Air Plants Are
Air plant (Tillandsia) is the largest member of the bromeliad family, which includes the familiar pineapple. How many varieties of air plants are there? Although estimates vary, most agree there are at least 450 different types of tillandsia, not to mention countless hybrid varieties, and no two air plant varieties are exactly the same. Ready to learn about a few different types of air plants? Keep reading.
Types of Tillandsia
Tillandsia plant types are epiphytes, a huge group of plants with roots that anchor the plant to a host – often a tree or a rock. Epiphytes are different from parasitic plants because, unlike parasites, they take no nutrients from the host plant. Instead, they survive by absorbing nutrients from the air, from composted material on the host plant, and from the rain. Examples of well-known epiphytes include various mosses, ferns, lichens and orchids.
Tillandsia air plants
range in size from less than an inch to more than 15 feet. Although the leaves are often green, they may be red, yellow, purple, or pink. Many species are fragrant.
Tillandsias propagate by producing offshoots, often known as pups.
Air Plant Varieties
Here are some different types of air plants.
T. aeranthos – This species is native to Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. Aeranthos is a popular air plant with scaly, silver-blue leaves with dark blue blooms emerging from dark pink bracts. It is available in several forms, including a number of hybrids.
T. xerographica – This hardy air plant is native to the semi-desert regions of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Xerographica consists of a spiral rosette that can grow to widths of 3 feet, with a similar height when in flower. The silvery-gray leaves are wide at the base, curling to narrow, tapered tips.
T. cyanea – This widely cultivated air plant displays loose rosettes of arching, dark green, triangle-shaped leaves, often with a stripe near the base. The spiky blooms are purple and vivid pink to dark blue.
T. ionantha – The ionantha species includes several air plant varieties, all compact, striking plants with plentiful, curved leaves measuring about 1 ½ inches in length. Leaves are silvery grayish-green, turning red towards the center before the plant blooms in late spring. Depending on the variety, blooms may be purple, red, blue or white.
T. purpurea – Tillandsia plant types include purpurea (which means “purple”). Purpurea is appropriately named for the bright, reddish-purple blooms, notable for their mild, cinnamon-like aroma. The leaves, which reach up to 12 in long, grow in a spiral fashion. The stiff leaves are a lovely shade of purple-tinted mauve.