Tillandsias are often called “air plants” because they grow as epiphytes on trees and other plants without needing soil. They belong to the same plant family as bromeliads and pineapples. Some species of tillandsias produce flowers that look like orchids. They’re native to Central and South America, so they are frost tender. But you can grow tillandsias as houseplants in all climates, provided they receive bright natural or artificial light 12 hours every day. Making them bloom is easy, so consider adding a tillandsia to your collection of houseplants.
Grow your tillandsia on a rock, in a seashell or other container. Simply tie it on with nursery tape and do not add soil. Keep it in an area that receives bright filtered light. If you don’t have sufficient natural light, you can hang a fluorescent shop light above your plant to give it the light it requires.
Provide your tillandsia with the temperatures it prefers—keep the nighttime temperature at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but not lower than 50 degrees. Daytime temperatures should not exceed 90 degrees.
Give your plant adequate humidity. If your air is dry, soak your plant in water for up to three hours every other week. You can raise the humidity by spraying your plant with a fine mist of water once or twice a week. If you add a small amount of orchid fertilizer to your mister bottle, this will keep the humidity up and give the plant the nutrients it needs to flower.
Apply a low nitrogen plant food to encourage blooming if you can’t wait for your tillandsia to bloom on its own. Orchid fertilizers are acceptable for use with tillandsias—just make sure the first number is low, such as an N-P-K ratio of 0-10-10. To use fertilizer, fill a bucket or wash basin with water, measure the correct amount of fertilizer into it (according to label instructions) and then soak your plant two to three times each week.
Use a fertilizer designed for bromeliads if you wish. The N-P-K ratio of this type of fertilizer is usually 17-8-22: applying it twice each month is recommended for blooming and the creation of new plants, called “pups.” Fertilize beginning in March and continue through September. Allow the plant to rest during the winter.