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The tillandsia or "girl of the air", an incredible exotic plant

The tillandsia or "girl of the air", an incredible exotic plant

In the forests of Latin America, the tillandsias have managed to do without the earth to feed only on the humidity of the ambient air. In our latitudes, they easily reproduce this feat in our interiors, where they bring originality and exoticism in exchange for a few weekly mists…

Tillandsias, plants that feed on air

While some living things would like to feed on love and fresh water, others manage to be satisfied with the ambient air. This is the case with the tillandsias, these exotic plants with funny shapes that absorb water through their long, fleshy leaves. By a strange phenomenon of capillarity, they retain the slightest drop of rain or rosé, and capture the minerals in the waters flowing from the canopy. Freed from the constraint of keeping their feet on the ground, these explorers do not hesitate to go and discover the heights. They then use their roots to attach themselves to all the supports that cross their ascent: tree branches, rocks, pylons or even electric wires… Well secured on their host, they then sway in the wind with elegance, which is what makes them worth the pretty nickname of "air girls".

Epiphytic plants that cling to other trees

Tillandsia, a multifaceted air girl

The genus of tillandsias, which itself belongs to the large botanical family of Bromeliaceae, has more than 400 varieties with very different aspects. Most have rosette foliage ranging from silver to dark green and all shades of green. The flowering is often spectacular, with very strong colors which reinforce the impression of exoticism which emanates from the plant. Among the most decorative varieties, let us quote for example "Tillandsia xerographica" with silvery foliage, "Tillandsia tectorum" with a fluffy appearance, "Tillandsia argentea", an ideal plant for suspensions or the very beautiful "Tillandsia caerulea". "Tillandsia usnéoides", which cascades from the branches of trees looks more like a silvery plant hair, which earned him the nickname "old man's beard". And to muddy the waters, some terrestrial tillandsias are sold in pots in garden centers, like the famous "Tillandsia cyanea" from Ikea!

Tillandsia usnéoides, vegetable hair that plays with light

Tillandsia, how to cultivate it?

Accustomed to the living conditions of the rainforest, the air girls adapt very well to our interiors, where they are ultimately much easier to grow than you might think. But beware, you still have to follow a few rules! Indeed, if they seem to feed on the ambient air, it needs to be as charged with humidity as the Amazon dew. In practice, they must therefore be sprayed generously and regularly: twice a day in hot and dry weather, and twice a week in winter. In the spring, consider adding a few drops of liquid fertilizer to your fogger to provide minerals that are not in the air. Finally, your tillandsias need a lot of light, but do not tolerate direct sunlight. On the other hand, once they have found their place and you have got into the habit of humidifying them, they will wear like a charm!

The ideal plant to install in a pendant light… without soil of course

The tillandsias lend themselves to all the decorations!

At home, air girls are among the favorite plants of decor and DIY enthusiasts. And for good reason, as they do not need soil, they can hang on any object, highlight the most original suspensions, slip into a terrarium or even mount on a wall or a bookcase. In all cases, just gently hang the plant with a wire or elastic and allow it a few weeks to hang on its own with its roots. Afterwards, all eccentricities are allowed, like hanging a tillandsia on a sea urchin shell to create a strange vegetable jellyfish which will perfectly find its place in a cabinet of curiosities…