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What Are Air Plants?

By Elton Dunn ; Updated September 21, 2017
Moth drinking from Spanish moss
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Exotic air plants can grow indoors mounted to pieces of wood, in glass jars or in other containers. With thick, silvery foliage or vivid flowers, air plants make a striking addition to your indoor garden. They need little care apart from regular misting. Find air plants at specialty garden stores, or order them online.


Spanish moss falling from a tree
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While air plants may be grown as houseplants, they also occur outside naturally. Air plants -- also called epiphytes -- grow in humid, hot climates like that of the southern United States and rainforest areas. Spanish moss and ball moss are two common air plants that live in live oak or cypress trees. Air plants grow in all types of trees, and may be found along the branches, trunk or leaves.


In nature, air plants grow with their roots in the air, not in water or soil. They absorb water through the heavy air in their host climates. By misting indoor air plants or soaking them in water, you provide the same effect. These plants provide homes for insects. For example, bromeliads collect water in a central leaf basin, which can shelter frogs or lizards. Flowering varieties also produce nectar that feed hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.


Bromeliads offer colorful foliage.
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Types of air plants include orchids, bromeliads, tillandsia like Spanish and ball moss, tropical cacti and other plants. Some air plants have exotic, attractive flowers while others are grown primarily for their foliage.


Outdoor air plants get all they need from nature. When growing epiphytes indoors, however, you'll need to provide all care. Mist the plants every couple of days, or try them in naturally humid environments such as bathrooms. Soaking the plant in water for one hour every week gives them adequate hydration. Air plants with soft green leaves need part shade, while those with firm silver leaves enjoy bright, filtered sun.


About the Author


A successful website writer since 1998, Elton Dunn has demonstrated experience with technology, information retrieval, usability and user experience, social media, cloud computing, and small business needs. Dunn holds a degree from UCSF and formerly worked as professional chef. Dunn has ghostwritten thousands of blog posts, newsletter articles, website copy, press releases and product descriptions. He specializes in developing informational articles on topics including food, nutrition, fitness, health and pets.