Tillandsia is a genus of around 700 species of evergreen, perennial, flowering plants in the family Bromeliaceae.

Native to the forests, mountains and deserts of Central and South America, the southern United States and the West Indies. Tillandsia species are epiphytes (also called aerophytes or air plants) – i.e. they normally grow without soil while attached to other plants.

Generally, the thinner-leafed varieties grow in rainy areas and the thick-leafed varieties in areas more subject to drought. Moisture and nutrients are gathered from the air (dust, decaying leaves and insect matter) through structures on the leaves called trichomes (modified scales and hairs).


Tillandsias can be found growing on the ground, on the branches and trunks of trees, and attached to rocky cliffs. The sole purpose of their root system is to attach to a surface to gain needed light exposure. Some Tillandsia actually have little or no root system at all. They absorb all the nutrients and water needed through their leaves. As with any other plant, duplicating their natural environment as closely as possible is the key to growing them successfully in your home.


Misnomer: Air plants do not need light or water.
This is incorrect. They require light and water like all plants. They obtain these and other elements in less traditional ways than plants growing in soil.

Further Reading:

Air Plants - The Curious World of Tillandsias by Zenaida Sengo.

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