By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin
Tillandsias, or air plants, are easy to grow and add dimension, color and texture to any gardening space. With over 730 species in the Tillandsia genus, they are mostly native to Central and South America. Also known as epiphytes, tillandsias thrive without soil and attach to other plants or trees. They are in the Bromeliad family. Some grow in the desert but the ones we are focusing on are generally found in the understory of a tropical forest. Nutrients and water are absorbed through the leaves. The thin leaved tillandsias are usually in the rain forest and the thicker leaved ones grow in drier habitats. The roots, which are limited, are used to stabilize the plants on trees or other structures rather than to access water and nutrients.
Some like the Spanish moss are rootless. Spanish moss is an air plant but it is an exception to the tropical Tillandsias. Spanish moss can be grown outside in the North where temperatures dip down into the teens. With a limited root system, Spanish moss derives its nutrients and moisture from the air.