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Air plants for your terrarium

by Timber Press on February 9, 2015

in Gardening

Air Plants

These pineapple relatives are known as air plants because they do not root into soil. Even though they look similar, there are many kinds, with different floral and foliar shapes and colors, and sometimes, even slightly different requirements. Learning the proper names of any air plant you add to your terrarium will help you care for it so that it doesn’t just survive but actually thrives. In general, however, air plants are adaptable and basic care instructions will keep them healthy.

The best air plants for terrariums are tillandsias. They can be placed just about anywhere indoors for a month or so without harm. But to keep a tillandsia healthy over the long term, you need to provide fresh air, bright natural light, and humidity or moisture. An ideal situation for a tillandsia is to be suspended so it receives maximum bright yet indirect sunlight, air circulation, humidity (such as in a bathroom or sometimes steamy kitchen), and fertilization. Some species, particularly those with a silvery cast to the foliage, can tolerate direct sun and some drought, as long as they are positioned in a humid area or properly soaked from time to time.

To water: submerge tillandsias every 1 to 2 weeks for an hour or up to 8 hours or so (overnight). Misting is helpful in very dry conditions but cannot make up for regular soaking. Some tillandsias are especially sensitive to hard water, chemicals, or pollution in water. Distilled, bottled, or rainwater is sometimes recommended when misting or soaking.

Fertilize by misting recently soaked plants with a dilute solution of high nitrogen fertilizer such as 30-10-10. Choose a fertilizer with a non-urea–based nitrogen, as urea cannot be absorbed by air plants (urea-free formulas are often available through orchid retailers). You can also add fertilizer directly to the soaking water.


“Simple growing tips and chic design know-how in an easy-to-follow, lovely-to-read format. Creating your own terrarium will definitely be next on your crafty to-do list.”—Dwell

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