Garden Tips - February 2017 - Deborah Carney


I don’t know about you, but I don’t seem to have much luck growing house plants especially in the winter.  Either my house is too dry or too cool or I’m away and forget to water the plants. Take your pick.  Because of this, I’ve resorted to the unthinkable for a gardener.  I bought a very pretty, but “fake”, arrangement of roses in a very “fake” vase with very “fake” water in that very “fake” vase!   But whoa! Wait a second…  I am a gardener; I have a bad back and calloused hands to prove it!  I mow my own grass, prune my own bushes, plant my own gardens, and spread my own bark mulch. Why can’t I grow some simple, every-day, run-of-the-mill, garden variety house plants in my house in the winter?

Well, I’ve just discovered the solution.  Enter…the “Air Plant,” scientifically known as Tillandsia, a member of the bromeliad family of Epiphytes.  Epiphytes mean simply that these plants use other structures to support them.  Epiphytes usually attach themselves to other plant structures but do not need that plant to survive nor do they harm the plant in any way.  They just appreciate the little space that they occupy.  Tillandsias do not need soil to get nutrients, everything they need they get from the circulating air/humidity and sun.   Ah….my idea of an easy-care, low-maintenance, curiously cute conversation piece.  These little pigmy plants make quite a statement with their ‘spiky’ leaves of brilliant pinks and reds pointing sharply upward or curling over like an exotic sea urchin laying on a bed of river rocks.

I purchased my cute little Tillandsia Ionantha and Tillandsia Abdita at a greenhouse while looking for a little winter color to brighten my kitchen window.

I was instantly infatuated with a really cool greenhouse display of hanging clear glass globes with Talliandsia’s nesting within.  Suspended from the ceiling, these Tillandsia’s presented a dramatic look.  Adorable, I wanted them all; however, at $12.99 each, two seemed like enough for now.

These hanging curiosities from Central America are versatile enough to move around the house as the seasons change and the heat and sun light change.  Simply place these little gems in a pretty dish or bowl along with some shiny stones or bits of drift wood for a different look.  Weekly misting once or twice keeps this Air Plant happy.  If the leaves look crispy and curl inward, soak the plant in tepid water for 1-2 hours once a week.  Lots of bright, indirect sun for a few hours a day will result in better color and growth winter or summer.  Air Plants will do very well indoors with an average house temperature of 60-70 degrees.  Expect the blooms to appear late winter and again mid-summer and last for days to months.  Mine are in full bloom right now.  The hot pink mini blooms dangle from the clear glass globe filling my kitchen with funny little gems of color.  They make me happy.  Try these Air Plants.  They are super easy-care, pretty and they will hopefully make you happy too.         

Debbie (February 2017 Horticultural Newsletter)

Ref: University of Florida, Gardening Solutions.
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2017