If you are an air plant owner you’ve probably noticed that Tillandsia are quite unique from other common houseplants. As the air plants slowly grow and mature, you’ll likely see the leaves start to change color, unusual bloom stalks emerge from the center and eventually, tiny offsets start to form around the base. This often raises questions and concerns about the health of the plant such as: what’s normal and what to expect? Here we will explore each phase an air plant experiences in its lifetime and discuss care tips for the different cycles to ensure a healthy plant from the beginning to end.
Seeds vs Pups
Every air plant starts its life as either a seedling or an offset, also known as a “pup”, from the mother plant. The air plant seeds are encased in hair-like “parachutes” which travel through the wind until they attach to their new host, typically a plant, tree or rock. This is where the Tillandsia will slowly develop, often spending the first two years of its life under an inch tall! While air plant seeds tend to result in bigger and healthier specimens (like our plants!), growing an air plant from seed is a tedious and time-consuming task – check out our Sustainable Farming blog to learn more about the process. Most air plant owners are more familiar with raising air plant pups which grow and bloom much faster than seedlings because that’s how air plants reproduce in a houseplant setting.
An air plant’s growth rate is dependent on the species and the type of climate or environment it lives in. Oftentimes xeric plants, namely the great Xerographica, will have a longer and slower growth cycle than our mesic friends such as the Ionantha or Abdita. The amount of light, airflow and humidity that is provided will affect its health and how fast it will grow. Following basic Care Tips will help to raise a healthy air plant that will one day bloom and reproduce!
A mature air plant will bloom once in its lifetime and the blooms can occur quickly or take several years to appear. Many species leaves “blush” with bright, magnificent colors ranging from orange to pink to purple. The flowers that the blooms produce are equally as striking and can last several days to many months, depending on the species. The rate at which an air plant blooms is also dependent on its care and environment. If you are eagerly awaiting for your air plant to bloom and flower, check out our How to Encourage Your Air Plant to Bloom blog or maybe try fertilizing your air plant with our specially formulated Air Plant Fertilizer! Once the air plant has bloomed, the flowers and bloom stalk will eventually die off as the plant prepares to reproduce via a seed pod or pups. The spent blooms can be removed for aesthetic purposes, learn how to safely trim yours here.
Pups and Propagation
After the air plant’s blooming cycle, you will notice small pups emerging near the base of the plant, usually between the bottom leaves. Most air plants will grow between one and three pups, each with a distinct center of their own that distinguishes them from the other leaves. As the pups grow large enough to support themselves, the mother plant will often fade and die off. However, each pup will continue to survive and follow the life cycle by growing into a parent plant! Pups can be propagated once they are about one-third the size of the mother or they can be left attached to form a clump.For more information about air plants, explore our What are Air Plants and All About Air Plants blogs. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for air plant highlights and upcoming sales!