What is an epiphyte?

". . . a plant that grows upon another plant (such as a tree) non-parasitically or sometimes upon some other object (such as a building or a telegraph wire), derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain and sometimes from debris accumulating around it, and is found in the temperate zone (as many mosses, liverworts, lichens and algae) and in the tropics (as many ferns, cacti, orchids, and bromeliads) — called also air plants."[1]

From wiki

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"True" Air Plants , the Tillandsias

Tillandsias are the truest air plants available, only sometimes needing a good spray of water and seldom very diluted fertilizer, Those fake "air ferns" you sometimes see are actually dyed& dead creatures from the sea related to corals and jellyfish. Tillandsias are bromiliads,This t.bergerii is my own favorite specimen,here shown in bloom over the winter indoors, you just take a single tillandsia and wire it to upside down and take good care of it, which means completely neglecting it except to spray it down once in a while and voila! a few seasons later you have a basketball sized clump of living plant suspended from a wire in mid air,no soil included, probably one of the cleanest plants ever,it rarely sheds either. These live through modified root cells that cover the surface of the leaves,allowing absorption of water and nutrients.

And here is a stock photo of a regularly seen tilandsia planter,
often times thay come as one specimen on a magnet for a fridge
as pretty as it looks,ideally you would pull them off and hang them
some place bright and humid so their but ends wont be smothered by the
hot glue usually used,which rots them,because their but ends still grow
anchor roots to hold them in place.

Two very common forms everyone knows of Tillandsia are
spanish moss and ball moss, all of them bloom,
if you've ever been to the deep south
of the u.s you may have seen either clinging to phone poles,
fences,trees,and anywhere else they can gain foothold.
spanish moss(stock photo)

Ball moss(stock photo)

Get yourself some tillandsias next time your out at the store
and happen to see some and follow the hanging instructions,
they are a true conversation piece worth ignoring!!


  1. I have all three of these and need to be more aware and gather them when I see them blown onto the property. They have their own unusual beauty.


  2. I have often heard there are certain spanish moss forms that give off a honeysuckle scent when they bloom, All spanish moss is tillandsia and will bloom in fact,many have reddish brown small flowers that may go unnoticed .

  3. Hey JJ. Found you from Blotanical, welcome, Tillansias have always been a favorite of mine, in fact all epiphytes are. There are about several Tillandsias native to the FL.Keys. Hmmm. T. flexuosa, balbaisiana,fasciculata.

  4. I too found you listed on Blotanical. Hope we'll see you around there a lot.

    Have been thinking about getting a tillsandia for a while - must do it.

  5. Fascinated by the epiphytes and saw a lot of them last week in Florida!
    Hope you enjoy Blotanical!

  6. Very very interesting. I will have to look for these. Sounds like my kind of plant, little care. They are so beautiful also. Thanks for educating me.

  7. Delectable images of these wonderful plants! Cheers... Alice
    aka Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel

  8. any advice on growing spanish moss inside? i had big plans to slowly encrust two 7 foot fig trees in my apt with epiphytes, but the huge mass of spanish moss i started with gradually died off completely despite frequent spritzing.

  9. It's pretty finicky,like most Tillandsia,and I've never seen it grown outside of a greenhouse or the tropics outdoors, it needs lots of fresh moist air
    and good circulation, even temperatures
    and frequent rain , smoke from cooking or cigarettes will surely kill it as well as many other tillandsias, as will a dry draft from a vent or stale air,a bathroom window
    away from the kitchen where someone showers at least once a day might work, if your determined you could try running a humidifier!