While tillandsias are generally low maintenance plants, just a little care and attention will give you the best results for happy, healthy plants.
Tillandsias naturally grow on tree branches under the leafy canopy. This results in bright filtered light, which is the ideal condition for growing air plants. Most air plants do not want to be in any direct sun, nor full dark shade. A sunny indoor room is usually perfect, as well as an outdoor patio with tree or lattice cover. If your tillandsias are in a glass terrarium, be aware that the glass can amplify any sun shining into the terrarium and make it hotter.
While tillandsias don’t want or need soil to grow, they do need water! In my experience the biggest reason for air plants dying is lack of water. In general tillandsias need to be watered at least once a week, but it can be as often as every day if they are outside in a very hot, dry climate. We’ve found through personal experience and through customer feedback that many varieties, especially xerographica and streptophylla species, DO NOT like to be soaked. Long term submersion can suffocate the leaves, and potentially cause the plant to rot from the inside. Because of this it is better to thoroughly spray your tillandsias unless you sure of the species and watering preferences. In areas where the tap water is high in minerals or chlorine, using filtered or bottled water will greatly improve the health of your plants.
Since tillandsias only absorb nutrient through their leaves, a liquid fertilizer applied to the foliage is the best way to feed your plants. Fertilizer is very important for long term growth, especially if you are trying to get your plants to flower and have pups.
Flowering and Pups:
All tillandsias flower in some form or other. Many varieties have a pretty pink or purple flower at maturity, after which the main or ‘mother’ plant may slowly die off and new ‘pups’ or baby plants will grow out from the base. Depending on the species, the flowering and pup cycle can take months or even years, and for a few varieties the mother plant will stay intact, giving you an ever-growing clump of air plants. Most times the pups can be taken off of the mother plant, and be replanted somewhere else.
What to Avoid:
Tillandsias aren’t super picky, but there are a couple things to avoid to keep them healthy. Any materials with copper should be avoided, as copper contamination can kill the plants. Also never bury the base of tillandsias in any soil, sand, or very wet moss. The prolonged moisture can rot your plants. Keep your plants out of direct sun. Most species can tolerate very little, if any, direct sunlight, and will quickly shrivel up an die if exposed for too long.