Air plant...hmm? Does that mean they live off of only air? Are air plants just set-it-and-forget-it plants? Are they even living? These are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about tillandsia at Air Plant Supply Co.
The simple answer is...no, they need more than air to survive and yes, they are very much living. Although air plants are considerably lower maintenance than most house plants, they still need light, water and nutrients!
Tillandsia get their nickname "air plant" because they are an epiphyte and live without soil or "in the air". Epiphytes are plants that attach themselves with roots to other plants for shelter and support but are not parasitic. These types of plants have evolved over time to live without soil so they can have better odds of survival! The forest floor is thick with competing plant life so being able to live above the ground has allowed these plants to survive and even thrive far away from danger. Being closer to the canopy of trees also allows air plants to absorb more indirect sunlight that is essential for energy production.
So, if air plants don’t grow in soil how do they get nutrients? Air plants have specialized cells called trichomes which cover their leaves and absorb water, light and air. The amount of trichomes on an air plant varies on the climate the species originates from – check out our informative blog "What are Hydric, Mesic and Xeric Air Plants?" to learn more about plant's native climates. Species from very moist, humid environments will have less trichomes than species from rocky desert climates, such as Tillandsia Xerographica and Tillandsia Harrisii. These trichomes are what the plant uses to pull moisture and the nutrients needed for its sustenance from the air and are the reason air plants can survive without soil! So cool, right?
Want to learn more about the genus, Tillandsia? Read our blog "All About Air Plants" for more info!