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How to Propagate Tillandsia

By Deborah Waltenburg ; Updated September 21, 2017
Spanish moss is a well-known example of tillandsia.
ibis in cypress image by Stacey Lynn Payne from Fotolia.com

Tillandsia, an aerophyte member of the Bromeliaceae family, grows in a nontraditional manner, by attaching to a host rather than being rooted in soil or water. Bromeliads are epiphytic rather than parasitic, rarely feeding off the host. They can survive in this manner because they absorb moisture and nutrients from the air, through trichomes. Tillandsia makes its home in the deserts, mountains and forests of Mexico, South America, Central America and the American southwest. In frost-free areas, it will grow outdoors, year round, on trees, fences or stakes. In colder regions, tillandsia can be grown indoors, suspended from racks, other plants or wall hangings.

Use a very sharp knife or pruning shears to cleanly cut off one or several of the offshoots (called pups) from the main plant (mother), when they reach at least 1/3 the size of the mother.

Use wire or fishing line to secure the tillandsia offshoot to its new location. This provides the pup extra support while it gets established.

Mist the pup with water to give it a boost, and then allow it to start growing on its own. If the pup is not mounted to a host, you can water it by completely submerging the plant in water for up to 12 hours, every two weeks. If it is attached to a host, use a spray bottle to mist the plant once a week.

Place the tillandsia pup in a location that offers full sun during winter months and filtered sunlight during the rest of the year. The location should also provide full air circulation so that the shoot can obtain needed nutrients from its immediate environment.

Fertilize tillandsia pups with a liquid fertilizer, diluted to 1/4 strength, once a month during the summer.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning shears or sharp knife
  • Host location (log, plant, shell, etc.)
  • Wire or fishing line


  • Tillandsia can be permanently mounted to a surface using hot glue. Apply the glue, allow it to cool for at least 20 seconds, and then press the base of the pup into the glue. Do not, however, use petroleum or epoxy-based adhesives, as the chemicals will damage the plant.


  • Never allow tillandsia to sit or soak in water for more than 24 hours, as this will effectively drown the plant by blocking its ability to absorb oxygen.

About the Author


Based in Ohio, Deborah Waltenburg has been writing online since 2004, focusing on personal finance, personal and commercial insurance, travel and tourism, home improvement and gardening. Her work has appeared on numerous blogs, industry websites and media websites, including "USA Today."