Where Do Air Plants Grow In The Wild

Air plants are one of nature’s many wonders and by far one of the most unusual plant species. In this journal, we’ll discuss what they are, how best to take care of them, ways to exhibit them, and our top three favorites.

A Brief Overview

Tillandsia, the Latin word for air plants, are indigenous to South and Central America’s mountains, deserts, and woods, and certain varieties can even be found in the southern United States. Air plants grow on and around trees because they are epiphytic, but they are not parasitic. Instead, they absorb nutrients from the air and sporadic rainfall through their leaves. Their leaves have layers of trichomes, which are small, hair-like structures that are silver in color and help the plants easily absorb water. Unexpectedly, the tiny roots that air plants have serve to hold the plant to a surface rather than to absorb nutrition. It’s normal practice to trim the roots off of plants before bringing them indoors for a cleaner appearance.

Life Cycle

Air plants have a predictable life cycle, in contrast to many other tropical indoor plants. Years after reaching maturity, the air plant will blossom, with the majority of the blooms featuring extremely strong violets, pinks, reds, and oranges. After they have blossomed, the mother air plant will gradually start to generate offshoots known as “pups.” You can carefully remove these pups, which will grow into new, healthy air plants once they are roughly one-third the size of the mother plant. Following this stage, the mother plant will gradually start to die, leaving behind a sizable number of baby air plants, and the cycle will then begin again.


You can be sure that air plants don’t require (or even particularly appreciate) that kind of harsh, direct sunlight, despite the fact that some of them may resemble succulents, cacti, and other light-loving plants in appearance. In their natural environment, air plants grow around the shaded canopies of trees, so they prefer bright indirect light [learn more about lighting here] when placed indoors.

Contrary to popular belief, air plants do need water to survive and can’t thrive on air alone.

Once a week, immerse your air plant in water for about an hour. After giving the air plant its weekly wash, gently shake it out to get rid of any extra water that may have gotten between its leaves. Before returning your air plant to its normal position, turn it upside down for a couple of hours to let any remaining water drain from the plant. By doing this, your air plant’s risk of developing rot is significantly reduced. Your air plant will have a longer, happier life if you follow these maintenance advice.

Ways to Display

Because air plants don’t require soil (i.e., a container) to survive, one of its most intriguing characteristics is that they may be placed almost anyplace. They can be displayed in a transparent glass container with pea gravel to support them or left alone on a desk or countertop to give off a more natural appearance. There are countless options.

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This tiny T. tectorum specimen resembles a fuzzy snowball. Because of the abundance of its silvery trichomes, it can tolerate extreme heat and drought.

T. xerogrpahica: These air plants, sometimes known as the queen of the air plants, can grow to be quite large. They form a rosette and have long, silvery-green leaves that spiral around one another.

T. streptophylla: This air plant, which is bulbous and has ringlet-like leaves, curls more tightly the longer it goes without water.

I hope this post has helped you learn a little bit more about air plants. They are wonderful plants that everyone ought to use. Please feel free to ask any more questions regarding them in the section below.

Can you collect wild air plants?

Did you know that xerographica air plants were on the verge of extinction less than 25 years ago? The xerographica was so widely used in home design and is a must-have for serious air plant collectors! How was this possible to happen? Since the trade in Tillandsia (air plants) was mostly unregulated in the 1980s, it was possible to harvest xerographica and other tillandsia plants for commerce directly from the wild. The T. xerographica was thankfully listed as an endangered/protected species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which prevented the export of air plants from South America for several years.

Moving forward, growers in South America were permitted to start spreading the xerographica under the careful supervision of CITES inspectors and local governments. As a result of these farmed xerographica plants, we started to see a resurgence of xerographica plants on the market in the 2000s. Did you realize that the miniature xerographica plants we sell are actually seedlings that are 4-5 years old? After blooming, the slow-growing xerographica plants often only produce two to three offsets, and these can take years to develop.

Growers in Guatemala are sometimes forced to keep one out of every three puppies or offsets that produce according to CITES regulations in order to promote the regrowth of mother plants. Additionally, in order to sell xerographica plants, growers must acquire licenses certifying that their plants were raised in nurseries rather than being foraged from the wild.

Additionally, Harrisii plants are listed as endangered by CITES. Growers must adhere to the same rules as they do with the propagation and trading of xerographica plants because these slow-growing plants were also virtually poached to extinction in the wild.

Volunteers have started saving and moving endangered wild Florida Tillandsia species, like the T. utriculata (wild pine, huge air plant) and the T. fasciculata, in Southeast Florida (cardinal air plant). Due to their vivid red flowers, cardinal air plants are among the most sought-after plants that illegal collectors attempt to take from Florida swamplands in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Over the years, park rangers have detained a number of individuals who attempted to smuggle these and other plants out of the park, where they might eventually find up in backyard gardens and plant nurseries.

First, check sure the Tillandsia you purchase has been responsibly raised or cultivated and comes from a supplier that has all the necessary CITES permits. Ask if you’re unsure. Anyone conducting business ethically will be pleased to provide you with the necessary information. We make certain that all the plants we bring in from Guatemala adhere to these strict regulations and even have licenses proving that we are authorized to bring in protected species like the xerographica and harrisii. You may be confident that we make every effort to get plants that are grown sustainably and do not negatively affect Tillandsia populations in the wild.

In our greenhouse, we have many pups from different plants, such the ionantha, xerographica, funckiana, pseudobaileyi, aeranthos, concolor, schiedeana, and many more! We also allow plants to generate offsets after they have bloomed! We remove these “pups” whenever they are at least one-third the size of the mother plant, let them mature, and then ship them to one of you when you place an order!

Check out this article about air plant propagation to learn more about puppies!

In our greenhouse, a T. xerographica pup or offset was removed from a mother plant.

Second, refrain from harvesting Tillandsia in the wild. Don’t do it at all. Although it is cool to see an air plant or bromeliad tucked in a tree, we are aware that it might be rather enticing. However, even if it might look fantastic in your house, leave it in the wild where it belongs to grow and flourish.

Where can air plants thrive?

All air plants are native to tropical regions where freezing temperatures never occur. It’s crucial to keep them at a reasonable temperature without a sweater, right? typically from the 1960s or earlier. Keep them away from windows that are cold in the winter and air conditioner vents.

At least a few hours of bright, indirect sun each day are necessary for air plants to thrive. The optimal placement is between one and three feet from an east or west-facing window, or around two feet from a source of artificial light. They can be exposed to hotter, more direct sun for longer periods of time if you maintain them well-hydrated. Avoid areas that are poorly lit.

How do wild tillandsia plants grow?

Tillandsias are epiphytes, which means that in nature air plants grow on other plants rather than by establishing roots in the ground, clinging to tree trunks, for example. On shrubs, rocks, and bushes, air plants can grow. Other epiphytes include several fern species and orchids, which are found on tropical trees.

Where can air plants be found?

  • Don’t bury them in the ground. Ever. Because they are epiphytes, they grow atop other plants rather than in the ground.
  • You can place them in imaginative locations because they don’t require dirt. One can be set in a shallow bowl or vase with rocks or sand, one can be put in a small container with a magnet and placed on the refrigerator, or one can be tied to driftwood with a clear fishing line.
  • Don’t confine them to a terrarium. Yes, they are adorable, and Instagram is full with pictures of air plant terrariums, but air plants need to breathe. They will become overly damp in a confined vessel, which will cause them to rot or contract a fungus.

How old are air plants on average?

Perennial plants are tillandsias, also referred to as air plants. According to the source, they have a lifespan of between two and five years, which indicates that they normally survive longer than two years.

The type of air plant and the growing conditions have an impact on how long they live, though. They reside in deserts, on various surfaces, and on tree branches in their natural habitat (other surfaces they can grow on).

Air plants only experience one flowering during their existence, which marks the culmination of their development and maturity.

Depending on the species, the flowers might remain in bloom for a number of months. However, the air plant will begin to die when the blossoms start to wilt and fade. Air plants develop pups or offsets before they die to carry on the same growth cycle.

Despite the mother plant dying, you can take the pups out and raise them separately. Separating the pups from the mother is referred to as “division is a method of air plant propagation.

As an alternative, you might leave those puppies grouped together ” (also known as “tillandsia balls).

Do air plants produce offspring?

Let’s speak about having babies, namely air plant babies! Tillandsia, often known as air plants, are notoriously difficult to produce from seed, hence most Tillandsia nurseries prefer to grow air plants through propagation. In order to extend our supply of air plants and create some very robust Tillandsia specimens, we at Air Plant Design Studio rely on propagation.

This Tillandsia streptophylla pup, which we recently detached from a huge mother plant, is enormous and appears to be in good health.

An air plant will generate offsets once it has completed the blooming cycle, or “pups under ideal circumstances. The offsets develop differently depending on the Tillandsia species; some air plants produce pups near the base or root system, while others sprout them from beneath one of, but this air plant really acts as protection for the young Tillandsia pup that has sprouted beneath it.

Following blooming, air plants often produce 1 to 3 pups. Many, many more can be produced by some types.

Puppies being separated from the mother plant:

When offsets have grown to a size that is roughly one-third that of the mother plant, you can carefully remove them. With the right conditions and care, the pup will then proceed through its own lifespan, developing into a larger animal that eventually blooms and gives birth to its own offsets. While holding the mother plant, carefully pull on the pup’s base to remove it. If you must use excessive force to separate an offset that is ready to be removed, we advise leaving it intact. This offset should be able to be removed without harming mother or child.

clump formation in air plants:

The offsets will continue to develop as a mother air plant if not separated from it “It is possible for clumps to become quite spectacular. The formation will be somewhat influenced by how you keep them; for instance, by hanging clumping ionantha air plants, the pups will be given room to grow in all directions and should eventually form a spherical clump. These air plant clumps can create several blooms under the correct circumstances as the individual pups develop through maturity, bloom, and continue to produce their own pups.

promoting pup development

In most cases, air plants produce pups or offsets after blooming. At some time in their life cycle, every Tillandsia will go through this process, however certain species, like the xerographica air plant, bloom and produce pups much more slowly. Tillandsia need a lot of water, air flow, light (your air plant’s preferred level and intensity will vary according on type), and light in order to bloom and generate offsets. To hasten flowering and pup production, you can also use a fertilizer made specifically for Tillandsia (like this one), but bear in mind that fertilizer can only be used sparingly and should not take the place of adequate care or circumstances.

In our articles on the air plant blooming process and what happens after the bloom, you may find out what happens before an air plant produces pups.