Air Plants have gained popularity in recent years with the trend to use sculptural plants, the advent of water restrictions and the modern living style of space-sensitive apartments and units. Commonly grown tillandsias require minimal care or minimal space and are well suited to busy people.
Tillandsia is the largest genus in the bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae), with the silver-grey foliage types generally being tolerant of periods of dry weather. Some silver species from Brazil however need constant moisture. The specialised leaf modifications, called ‘trichome scales,’ assist the plant to absorb moisture directly from the air.
Tillandsia ionantha is one of the easiest of the silver leaved species for most people to grow and does particularly well in South East Queensland. It is an epiphyte, naturally living on a tree rather than in the soil.
This species has much variation in terms of leaf colouration, especially when grown in good light. This plant has a rosette of dense silvery leaves that gradually taper towards the tip.
As the plant prepares to flower, most of the foliage turns a rich red, although some varieties are red at all times. The individual flowers that appear from the rosette of leaves are purple in colour.
Best growing conditions are
-full sun in the mornings with light shade during and afternoon
-attaching plants to a support such as a branch, cork or other surfaces
-until established onto the support (fresh roots visible),misting every few days
-only irrigate if rain has not occurred for more than a week. While they can survive on fortnightly waterings, they need more frequent watering if you want the plant to look good and to grow in size.
Outdoor growing in the landscape
While some collectors grow these plants in a protected shadehouses, many people grow them on branches of trees or pieces of driftwood in suitable areas of the garden (bright light, but shade from intense sun).