A complete guide to the Tillandsia aeranthos, an air plant with striking leaves

Believe it or not, the Tillandsia aeranthos (and other members of the Tillandsia species) are part of the Bromeliad family. In their native habitat, these air plants are epiphytic and grow attached to trees, branches, and rocks. They’re an easy-to-care-for air plant variety that is fast-growing and great for beginners.

A display of Tillandsia air plants

Benefits of growing a Tillandsia aeranthos in your home

Most Tillandsia aeranthos plants are kept as houseplants, as they look great in a terrarium or as an accent on a desk. Perhaps the biggest benefit to growing any air plant is that it doesn’t create the same kind of a mess as regular houseplants do. They don’t need to be grown in soil or in containers, so you don’t have to worry about how to repot them when they get too big. And since they can be displayed in any way your imagination desires, there’s minimal investment in plant stands, which makes air plants a great choice for those living in smaller spaces.

Other benefits of having these plants in your home include:

  • They lower stress levels
  • They’re non-toxic to pets or humans
  • They reduce pollen allergies by trapping dust and pollen particles
  • They remove trace amounts of carbon dioxide and toxins from the air

How to care for a Tillandsia aeranthos

The hardest thing about air plants, because they aren’t planted in soil, is getting the proper amount of water to the leaves. (Yes, the leaves. Air plants absorb water through their foliage as opposed to their roots.) Under-watering and over-watering are the most common issues home gardeners run into with these plants.

If under-watered, the leaves of the Tillandsia aeranthos will turn brown, dry out, and start to curl. If over-watered, your plant becomes susceptible to rot that can ultimately kill it. During the warmer months, it’s important to mist your Tillandsia aeranthos a couple of times a week to keep the humidity levels up. Many people, instead of misting, will choose to soak the leaves of their air plants once a week for around 15 minutes. If you decide to go that route, take care to leave the bulb of the plant out of the water and let it dry upside down. Not only does this allow any moisture to drain out of the leaves, but it keeps water from getting trapped in tight spaces where it can cause rot.

Light needs: Filtered light is preferred; direct sunlight can burn the leaves
Water needs: Mist a couple of times a week during the summer, reduce during the winter

Does the Tillandsia aeranthos need to be planted in soil?

Nope! Although it can be planted in a soilless potting mix outdoors in hardiness zones 9 through 11, you’re more likely to be growing this plant indoors due to its versatility as a houseplant. Since the Tillandsia aeranthos absorbs water through its foliage as opposed to its roots, planting it in soil is unnecessary (and detracts from one of the drawing points of having one in your home).

Do Tillandsia aeranthos plants bloom?

Yes! When cared for properly, your Tillandsia aeranthos will flower for a few weeks during the summer. The pink shades are complemented by blue- or violet-colored flowers, which are usually only a few centimeters in size. Even with a healthy plant, blooming only occurs every few years. That’s why many people will choose to let the clusters grow together instead of separating them, that way each summer a different plant will be flowering.

How to propagate your Tillandsia aeranthos

Because the Tillandsia aeranthos grows offshoots that are naturally clumping, it’s an easy plant to propagate. Similar to a spider plant, all you have to do is separate the offshoot from the parent plant when it’s strong enough to live on its own.

A healthy Tillandsia aeranthos will start producing multiple pups from the base of the plant, which you can choose to leave clustered if you want; however, if you’re hoping to give one as a gift or simply expand your collection, you’ll want to remove the offset safely from the parent. Once the pup is about a third of the size of its parent plant, take a sterilized pair of shears and cut as close to the base as possible without damaging either plant. If a cutting is successful and viable, new roots will start forming within a few months.

Things to remember about your Tillandsia aeranthos

The most common issues home gardeners struggle with for these plants are proper sunlight and regular watering. If you notice any indication that your plant is burning, is too dry or is rotting, it’s time to make some adjustments.

Unfortunately, more often than not, a sign of rot can’t be reversed. If the rot is only on the outer leaves, you can try removing them safely and adjusting your watering schedule to see if that solves the problem; however, if your air plant is already falling apart, it’s too far gone. Conversely, if your air plant is drying out, you can always try giving it a good soak for a few hours to see if that helps correct the problem. Some air plant enthusiasts even suggest soaking for 12 hours, though we’ll leave the length of time to your discretion.

The Tillandsia aeranthos, along with other air plants, can be quite rewarding to have in your home, if only for the unique look of each variety. They come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. Once you get the hang of their care requirements, air plants can make quite a remarkable collection.

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