How to Grow Tillandsia: A Complete Guide

Tillandsia, also known as air plants, are a unique and fascinating group of plants that don’t require soil to grow. They can be a beautiful addition to your indoor or outdoor space, and with the right care, they can thrive and bring a touch of natural beauty to any environment.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the basics of growing Tillandsia, from understanding their natural habitat to providing the right light, water, and nutrients they need to flourish. So, let’s dive in and discover how to grow Tillandsia successfully!

Understanding Tillandsia in Nature

Before we delve into the specifics of growing Tillandsia, it’s important to understand their natural habitat and how they grow in nature. Tillandsias belong to the genus Tillandsia, which comprises over 650 species.

Most Tillandsias are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants, such as trees or branches. Unlike traditional plants that rely on soil for nutrients, Tillandsias use their roots primarily for anchoring themselves to their host plants. They are not parasitic and do not derive water or nutrients from their host plants.

Tillandsias can be found in various habitats, including rainforests, mountains, and even deserts, mainly in Central and South America. The specific natural habitat of a Tillandsia can provide valuable insights into its care requirements.

For example, Tillandsias with thinner leaves are often found in areas that receive a significant amount of rain, while those with thicker leaves usually come from regions with less rainfall.

Providing the Right Light for Tillandsia

Light is a crucial factor in the successful growth of Tillandsia. In their natural habitat, Tillandsias are exposed to bright filtered light since they grow as epiphytes on other plants or trees. When growing Tillandsias indoors, it’s essential to replicate these lighting conditions as closely as possible.

Ideally, place your Tillandsias within two to three feet of a window that receives bright, indirect light. East-facing windows are a great choice, as they provide gentle morning sun without the risk of burning the plants.

North-facing windows can also work well, as long as there are no significant obstructions outside, such as trees. However, be cautious with west and south-facing windows, as excessive sunlight can cause Tillandsias to burn. In such cases, filter the sun with a sheer curtain or blinds to protect your plants.

Watering Tillandsia: The Right Methods

Contrary to their name, air plants cannot survive on air alone. While they don’t grow in soil, Tillandsias still require regular watering to thrive.

However, their watering needs differ from traditional potted plants, and understanding the right methods is crucial for their health and well-being.

There are three primary methods for watering Tillandsias: soaking, running faucet, and misting.

Method 1: Soaking

Soaking is the preferred watering method for most Tillandsias. To soak your Tillandsias, fill a bowl with tepid water and place the plants in it. Let them soak for about 15-30 minutes. It’s important to ensure that the entire plant is fully submerged during this process.

For loose Tillandsias not mounted on anything, soaking once a week is typically sufficient.

However, certain species, such as Tillandsia xerographica, which comes from a semi-arid ecosystem, require less frequent watering. For such plants, soaking every other week is usually adequate.

Method 2: Running Faucet

Another way to water Tillandsias is by holding them under a running faucet until every leaf is wet. This method is particularly useful for Tillandsias mounted on a piece of grapevine or other materials.

Running water ensures that each leaf receives sufficient moisture. Depending on the specific needs of your Tillandsias, you may need to repeat this method a couple of times per week.

Method 3: Misting

Misting involves spraying water onto the leaves of the Tillandsias until they are wet and dripping. This method is similar to the running faucet technique but requires misting the plants instead.

Like the running faucet method, misting should be done a couple of times per week to ensure adequate hydration for the plants.

Regardless of the watering method you choose, it’s crucial to shake off any excess water after watering to prevent rot.

After watering, gently shake each plant to remove any lingering water, then lay them on a kitchen towel to dry. It’s important to avoid soaking the flowers, as excessive water can decrease their lifespan.

For a more detailed explanation of watering air plants, check out my blog post on how often to mist air plants.

Providing Nutrients: Air Plant Fertilizer

While not necessary for their survival, fertilizing Tillandsias can contribute to their overall health, flower production, and pup growth. To fertilize your Tillandsias, you can use a special fertilizer formulated specifically for Bromeliads, such as the Grow More Bromeliad & Tillandsia Food.

However, it’s important to note that Tillandsias do not require regular fertilization, and you can choose to fertilize them whenever you prefer.

When fertilizing Tillandsias, it’s best to add the fertilizer to the water used for soaking the plants. This allows the plants to absorb the nutrients effectively. The frequency of fertilization can vary depending on your preference and the specific needs of your Tillandsias.

On average, fertilizing once a month is a good starting point, but you can adjust the frequency based on your observations and the growth of your plants.

Temperature Considerations for Tillandsias

Tillandsias thrive within a temperature range of 50°F (10°C) to 90°F (32°C). However, it’s important to note that as temperatures increase and light intensity rises, Tillandsias will require more water to sustain their growth.

Therefore, it’s essential to monitor the moisture levels of your Tillandsias and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

Propagating Tillandsias: Pups and Their Care

One of the fascinating aspects of Tillandsias is their ability to produce pups, or offshoots, after flowering. Pups are small plants that grow at the base of the mother plant. They can be left attached to the mother plant, creating a clump, or carefully separated to grow as individual specimens.

To separate the pups, wait until they are at least one-third to one-half the size of the mother plant. Gently detach them from the mother plant, taking care not to damage the roots.

Once separated, you can grow the pups as new individual plants. This propagation method allows you to expand your Tillandsia collection or share them with friends and fellow plant enthusiasts.

Reviving Dehydrated or Rotted Tillandsias

If you notice that your Tillandsias are dried out or dehydrated, there are steps you can take to revive them. For dehydrated plants, place them in a bowl of tepid or room temperature water and let them soak for a few hours or even overnight.

During this time, the plants will absorb water and regain their hydration. After the soaking period, gently shake off any excess water and place the plants back in their growing location.

However, if your Tillandsias have rotted, there is no way to save them. It’s essential to remove any rotted plants from a group of attached Tillandsias and separate any remaining healthy ones.

Remember to shake off excess water after each watering session to prevent rotting and maintain the health of your plants.

Tillandsia Xerographica: A Unique and Beautiful Species

Among the diverse Tillandsia species, Tillandsia xerographica stands out for its unique appearance and care requirements. This species is larger than most Tillandsias and originates from more arid climates.

As a result, Tillandsia xerographica requires less frequent watering compared to other species. It’s important to observe the leaves of your Tillandsia xerographica and water it when they become more curled or show signs of dehydration.

Additionally, Tillandsia xerographica thrives in brighter light conditions compared to other Tillandsia species, making it a beautiful addition to any well-lit space.

Where to Buy Tillandsias: Exploring Different Options

If you’re looking to purchase Tillandsias, there are various options available. One convenient and popular choice is Etsy, a platform that offers a wide selection of Tillandsias from different sellers.

By browsing the Tillandsia selection on Etsy, you can find unique and beautiful air plants to add to your collection.

Creative Display Ideas for Tillandsias

One of the joys of growing Tillandsias is the opportunity to get creative with their display. Since they don’t require soil, Tillandsias can be showcased in various ways, allowing you to personalize their presentation.

You can choose from a range of Tillandsia holders, such as decorative ceramic hands, bowls, or even driftwood.

Additionally, you can mount Tillandsias on different objects, such as grapevine or other materials, to create unique and eye-catching displays. The possibilities are endless, so feel free to explore and experiment with different ways to showcase your Tillandsias.


In conclusion, growing Tillandsias can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. By understanding their natural habitat, providing the right light, water, and nutrients, and exploring creative display options, you can successfully grow and care for these unique air plants.

Remember to observe your Tillandsias closely, adjust their care based on their specific needs, and enjoy the beauty they bring to your space. Happy growing!

Additional Information: In order to understand the basics of growing air plants, let’s take a look first at where and how air plants, or Tillandsia, grow in nature.

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