Definitive Guide To 5 Types of Air Plants

Have you seen those plants that look like they are growing from nothing? With no soil anywhere near them and no visible roots, they are a sight-for-sore eyes as they dangle in the air from wire baskets, hooks and chandelier-like containers! You may have spotted some with furry, silver leaves or others with glossy leaves, while some present the most vibrant colored flowers.

These tiny, floating, evergreen perennials are known as air plants.

Air plants go by the scientific name Tillandsia, and there are over 650 varieties of this species! They are originally found hanging on for dear life in the tropical climates of South and Central America as well as southern parts of the United States.

Tillandsias have the unique feature of being epiphytes– which means they do not require soil but more rely on water and air to grow. This attribute has Tillandsias attaching themselves to trees, shrubs, rocks, fences and telephone posts, but they do not feed off the host.

These amazing, un-demanding plants are brilliant for decorating small spaces and look adorable peeking out of sea shells, against a piece of drift wood, suspended on wire baskets and vases or semi-enclosed in glass baubles.

If you are looking for a plant that looks more like a pet without the hassle of cleaning up after it, here are a variety of 5 types of air plants to add a kick of personality to your home or office.

And before you learn about them, sign up for a FREE 30-day trial of Amazon’s Prime Membership! Get that FREE 2-day shipping on all your new air plant necessities! Click here to learn more and sign up today. Think of this as a thank you gift from Succulent City for keeping up with our articles.

5 Types of Air Plants
5 Types of Air Plants @carmenmcnall

Tillandsia Caput-Medusae

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a plant that is referred to as the goddess of Greek mythology, Medusa? Absolutely yes! If the name alone does not peak your interest, you will be blown away by its thick, wide silvery-green leaves that curl as they grow, giving the impression of the snakes on Medusa’s head reaching out to you.

This gorgeous, evergreen air plant is a South American native, sprouting heavily in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Its leaves appear grey-blue in color and are arranged like rosettes. The twisting leaves grow from a bulbous base, can get to 25 cm long and have fine, grey hairs all around them.

T. Caput-Medusae pulls out all the floral stops as it blooms from spring to the beginning of summer. It produces delicate purple flowers that are about 3.2 cm long from a pale pink bract. Pups grow from the bottom of the plant after flowering and these can either be left to form a clump, or can be propagated when they reach 1/3 the size of the ‘mother plant’.

A fun fact about the T. Caput-Medusae is it can be mounted sideways or upside down and it will still grow straight in the direction they are in. These beauties do not abide by the laws of gravity like many other plants do. So you can hanging them in a planter like this one, or like this one and have no issues!

When looking for a truly unique looking statement plant, look no further than T. Caput Medusa. We promise that, unlike the myth, you won’t turn into stone when you stare at it!

5 Types of Air Plants
Tillandsia Caput-Medusae @flowerheartseverywhere

Tillandsia Cyanea – Pink Quill Plant

The Tillandsia Cyanea is an indigenous resident of the rainforests of Ecuador, boasting large, bright pink bracts arranged in the shape of a paddle, that gives it the name Pink Quill plant. Its Latin name, Cyanea, means ‘blue,’ and refers to the blue-purple hue of the flowers. The leaves are long and green.

Peeping out of the sides of the fan-like quill are blue-purple-violet flowers, appearing at most 2 at a time and last for only a couple of days. The plant blooms during spring and autumn. The quill itself, which is technically the inflorescence of the plant, can stand tall for as long as 4 months, bringing a burst of color wherever it’s positioned.

This epiphytic perennial is unique because unlike most air plants, the Pink Quill can grow in soil, so you can plant it in a cool planter like this one! It has tough, dark green, grass-like leaves and can develop to be 20 inches (50 cm) high by 20 inches (50 cm) wide.

This hardy houseplant can handle dry conditions like a true champion, although it does like good air circulation and temperatures not below 7°C (45°F). This tropical stunner enjoys its moments in the sun, but direct, strong sunshine will leave the plant with sunburn.

Did you know that air plants, along with succulents, are trending in becoming decor for weddings? Take a look at this article and you’ll really be inspired!

5 Types of Air Plants
Tillandsia Cyanea – Pink Quill Plant @brandon_nxs

Tillandsia Ionantha Maxima Huamelula

Catching the eye of everyone who passes by is the Tillandsia Ionantha Maxima Huamelula or simply known as T.Maxima . When in bloom, this upright shaped plant proudly shows off bright hues of pink, purple, blue and green, while bearing a resemblance to an enchanting firework display.

The rare T.Maxima has thick, moss green, succulent leaves that burst out from a central point, with the leaves starting off dark green at the base and turning pinkish-red towards the tips when exposed to strong light. The plant generates multiple, striking purple flowers with yellow tips, producing more than 5 flowers all at once.

This air plant originates from Oaxaca in Mexico and has been known to grow up to 6 inches tall. The T.Maxima’s colorful and unusual form gives it that wow factor when mounted on a piece of bark or driftwood, if not sitting pretty in a terrarium. But to also keep up with their tropical theme, we thought you may like these flamingo planters!

5 Types of Air Plants
Tillandsia Ionantha Maxima Huamelula @mj.0512

Tillandsia Harrisii

The Tillandsia Harrisii is a very exceptional plant that is held dear to the hearts of many botanists, as it was named after an American air plant enthusiast named Bill Harris who was brutally murdered in Guatemala in 1985.

This distinctive air plant has silvery- grey leaves that are curled in a dense rosette along its stem and are usually falling towards one side. It is considered to be a caulescent species— which defines it as a plant that grows along a stem that is above the ground.

T.Harrissi displays a deep- red inflorescence that consists of 5 to 9 spirally positioned, purple- violet flowers with blue-violet petals and orange to red bracts. These magnificent colors create a sheer contrast to the grey-green leaves of the plant. As a slow grower, it may not produce blooms until after a year or two.

The T.Harrisii thrives under bright indirect light and away from full sunshine, so a sunny window or nook is the perfect spot for it. It also prefers moderate humidity with a good air flow to prosper. Try storing yours in a unique planter like this one, it’ll fit perfectly on your desk at work or night table at home!

This easy care plant is native to Guatemala and requires a CITES permit that certifies that the plant was sustainably grown and not collected from nature.

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5 Types of Air Plants
Tillandsia Harrisii @pot_plants_windy

Tillandsia Stricta

The ever-popular Tillandsia Stricta is an evergreen air plant and a local resident of Trinidad, Venezuela, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana and northern Argentina. The plant can take root on sand dunes as well as under tropical rainforests, making it a highly adaptable plant. According to its climate, Tillandsia Stricta may have soft flexible leaves or firmer rigid leaves and can vary in size and color.  

This air plant’s scientific name (stricta) translates to ‘erect’ and illustrates the upright habit of this plant. It also ties into the plants’ colloquial names; Upright Air Plant, Strict Tillandsia and Erect Tillandsia.

The Tillandsia Stricta is a clump-forming perennial with short stemmed leaves that grow into thick rosettes. This compact species has dark green leaves and produces attractive pink and white floral bracts when in bloom. The bracts hold a showy bright blue flower that sadly only lasts a day, although the bracts remain vibrant for up to 10 weeks.

Known to be one of the fastest growing species, the Tillandsia Stricta is a decorators dream– delivering an impressive colorful clump after a few years. They can be mounted on virtually anything, giving you creative leeway to go nuts with wood, ceramics, sea shells and rocks.

5 Types of Air Plants
Tillandsia Stricta @tamanhatijz

Care Tips for Air Plants

Air plants are slowly taking over the indoor plant world and you do not want to be left behind! There are some pointers to remember when taking care of air plants.

Check out our article, Check out Your Ultimate Guide on How to Care for Air Plants, for an extensive look!

Watering Air Plants

Too much water will kill your little one. Some air plants do well with the occasional misting once a week, especially during cold seasons. During the summer, the dunk and dry method works the best. Soak the plant for 15 minutes then shake off the excess water before putting it back in its home.

Here’s our article dedicated to watering air plants, check it out!

Sunlight for Air Plants

Air plants are naturally found hanging on to tree branches. This shows they flourish with a bit of shade or in bright, filtered or indirect light. They do not like baking under the scorching sun.

5 Types of Air Plants
Beautiful air plant display @flowers.by.roxanne

Curious to try out one of these 5 types of air plants? We would love to hear about your adventures as well as answer any questions you may have! Already own air plants? Show us your photos in our exclusive Facebook group, Succulent City Plants Lounge!

Ready to start your air plant collection? Let us help! Head over to Succulents Box, where you can sign up for monthly subscription boxes and get over 200 air plants and succulents delivered right to your door! Starting at just $5 a month, you can grow your air plant collections right from the comfort of your home! Click here to learn more and sign up today.

If you want to learn more about air plants, we have some additional articles to help! Air Plants vs Succulents, Everything You Need to Know About Air Plants, and 7 Rare Air Plants You Need in Your Home!

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Loved learning about this succulent and now inspired to add more to your collection?! (We don’t blame you) Check out Succulent City’s new line of ebooks covering topics from, “All the Types of Succulents for Indoor and Outdoor,” “Different Types of Planters,” and many more helpful in-depth ebooks. Head to this link to view our full line of ebooks and get started with our complementary guide. 

Thanks for reading, happy planting! ?

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