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Air Plants

Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,901
My nine year son wants some air plants.. so I have been doing some research into their care and needs (since most of that will fall to me).  My only experience is the mostly dead or dying things at the shops glued to magnets or held in a little wire thing.  Does anyone actually grow them?  Are you successful with them?  Are they difficult?  
Utah, USA.

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  • My daughter has a couple of small ones in an open top glass container and all she does is mist them daily. There was a guy on a recent Gardener's World programme who had his living space full of them, wonderful long specimens like you see in the rainforest and lots of different types and he said misting was the most important thing for their care. Sound pretty easy to me, as long as you don't forget :)
  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 7,544
    I've got quite a few now, I lose count of how many as they keep multiplying all the time. I kept a couple as a kid but got back into them a few years ago when my local garden centre had a box full of interesting ones going cheap. I posted a couple of pics over on the houseplant gallery .
    There are hundreds of varieties with some being much more hardy than others but most of the common ones you see for sale are fairly bomb-proof. The basic care though is to water at least weekly with rain water, feed monthly during the growing season with a very weak urea-free fertiliser and give them plenty of light and air movement but not too much hot sun. I like to mist most of mine daily and then every Sunday they get soaked in a bucket of rain water for an hour or so and that's when I fertilise them too. Dry them upside-down after a soak to let the water run out from the crown. I've never had any rot problems but if they stay too wet for too long that's about the biggest risk for them. If they're stuck to an ornamental branch or something it can make them harder to soak and if they're in a container make sure they can be taken out to be misted and not put back in until they're dry again.
    If you look at the plants they have a silvery coating to the leaves which is the water absorbing trichomes. The more silver they have the more bright light they prefer, but the silver is like sunscreen for them so when they're wet they can get scorched easily by the sun so never mist them when the sun is shining on them. Some plants have really pronounced hairs and are from arid places where they grow on cacti. They need a lot more sun and hardly any water so can be good for some situations.
    If you're happy to just enjoy them as plants then they're great but if you want to get them to flower and reproduce then you need a bit more patience. With no roots they have limited energy resources so it can take years to get them to flower and then the flower can take months to form and months again for seed to ripen. Once they have flowered they usually start to make pups which again can take a while to put some size on. Having said that I bought three plants from Wilko last Xmas and they've turned into ten or more plants already. The one on the right below though is a few years old and has just finished flowering. The bud started to show back in the spring.

    A great library has something in it to offend everybody.
  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,901
    Thanks both for your experiences.  I had a look at some online speciality sellers.. and Ama%@n.. they'll have to be healthier than the garden center ones.  Rainwater is in short supply here, but I already have distilled water for his pitcher plant.. and dechlorination liquid for his lucky bamboo.. so between the two we should be all set for basic care.  I also have orchid food, which I think is suitable for air plants.  
    Utah, USA.
  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 7,544
    I use orchid food for mine. I just have to guess the dilution rate though as it needs to be lower than for orchids I think. Lots of US people speak highly of Air Plant Hub as a vendor. Rain Forest Flora seem good too. Check out the Youtube video tour of their nursery, it's amazing.

    A great library has something in it to offend everybody.
  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,901
    edited October 2020
    @wild edges thanks for the suggested suppliers, I hadn't come across those ones yet.  

    I usually just soak my orchids in a sink of water twice a month for about 15 minutes, and a feed of diluted food once a month.  So it sounds like air plants are an easy addition.  

    How do you mist them and not get everything around them soaked?  Do you take them down daily and lay them in the sink or on the counter to spray them?  
    Utah, USA.
  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 7,544
    My mister gives out a very fine spray and I only give them a light mist so it dries quickly. The Spanish moss loves a good mist every day though so I normally hold plants in front of that and it catches most of the over-spray.
    You could just get some plants that prefer less water though and they'd probably be fine fitting in with your orchids' watering routine. Ones like these don't need much misting at all. https://www.craftyplants.co.uk/shop/reptile-selection/tillandsia-airplants-for-arid-vivarium-hot-and-dry-xeric-habitat/airplants-for-arid-xeric-hot-and-dry-vivariums-3-pack/
    A great library has something in it to offend everybody.
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