Top 10 Small Air Plants

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

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

Height: Variable

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.

1 comment

  • Marion Langham

    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!
    Best wishes

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