No Potting Soil Needed for Air Plants

February 19, 2017 lawanda Newspaper Columns

If you want an easy-to-care for houseplant without the mess of potting soil, one of the 650 species of air plants, called Tillandsia, are for you. 

        Air plants have slender, strappy leaves resembling pineapple tops, but of a finer nature.  Most have spectacular tubular or funnel-shaped flowers lasting from several days to several months.  Tiny silver scale-like discs cover the leaves and absorb moisture and nutrients from the air.   The roots’ sole function is to anchor the plant to rocks, trees, shrubs or soil.

        Locate air plants in a bright, but not sunny, spot where there is good air circulation.

        From late spring to mid-autumn, air plants should be misted every other morning until water drips from the leaves.  Mist once a week in winter.  Do not use distilled or softened water.  Do use filtered water or bottled water.  If you are on a city water supply, let tap water sit for 24 hours to allow chlorine to dissipate before misting.

        After misting, the plant should dry in one to three hours.  At least an hour is needed for moisture to be absorbed, but any longer than three hours you risk rot.  If the plant dries too fast, mist again.  If it dries too slowly, move it to a location where air circulation is better.

        Every seven to ten days, soak the plant in a bowl filled with clean, tepid water for 30 minutes.  Afterward, turn the plant upside down and give it a good shake to remove excess water.

        Fertilize monthly in spring and summer using orchid or bromeliad fertilizer, or houseplant fertilizer at ¼-strength listed on the package.  The fertilizer can be applied when you mist.  If you eschew chemical fertilizers, you can use pond or aquarium water to fertilize air plants during the weekly soaking.

        If the leaves curl up or roll, the plant is not being misted often enough.  Too much fertilizer will cause leaves to turn brown and brittle.  Not enough fertilizer results in slow growth, as does inadequate light.

        Air plants flower once and eventually die, but not before producing 2-8 baby air plants called “pups.”  When the pups are 1/3 to ½ the size of the mother plant, they can be removed.  Hold both the mother and the pup by their bases and gently twist the pup downward.

        Air plants are sometimes displayed in hanging or table-top glass globes.  They can also be tucked into a decorative bowl filled with stones, in a seashell, a basket, or pottery.  They can be tied onto driftwood or a branch using monofilament fishing line, twist ties or string, or even glued in place with construction glue or hot glue.  Do not use copper wire or Super Glue, do not attach to pressure treated wood and do not cover the roots with moss or soil.  However you decide to display your air plant, remember that you need to water it and that it must be able to dry out in a few hours.

Houseplants


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered by http://wordpress.org/ and http://www.hqpremiumthemes.com/