The Q&A Archives: Bromeliad and Tillandsia

Question: I recently came in contact over the internet with some new plants that I had never heard of before. They were bromeliad and tillandsia. I was wondering if you could give me some information about these. I plan on buying some for my house. Do they have to be attached to something? And if you know, how do they grow without soil?

Answer: Bromeliads are a large family which include the group Tillandsia. Some members of the bromeliad group require soil, some do not. Under the group Tillandsia, there are many, many varieties. Tillandsia is a member who does not require soil. Tillandsia take up water from humid air, and obtain nutrients from air-borne dust. Did you know that that plant you see in trees throughout the south, "Spanish Moss" is in fact a Tillandsia? Specifically, it is Tillandsia usneoides. Tillandsia can be attached to things, like a branch, or something ornamental like a picture frame, sea shells, driftwood, or, just laid upon a counter top or something similar. Other members of the Bromeliad family need to be in something or attached to something. There are MANY members of the Bromeliad family. Some include: Aechmeas, Ananas, Billbergia, Guzmania, Neoregelia, Nidularium, Vriesea, etc. Each different member has different growing requirements. So, if you acquire something new, if you want to post another question with a specific name and variety, we will be glad to help out. Bromeliads (including Tillandsia - especially Tillandsia) are often very difficult to grow. Bromeliads take patience, skill and pretty specific temperatures. They also need to be watered in very specific ways. It would seem that Tillandsia would be quite easy to care for, it sure looks that way on paper. In the home, for the average person, their death rate is pretty high. I have never known anyone to keep one alive for more than six months. However, I don't want to discourage you from your new interest. Check the local bookstore for books on Bromeliads. There are people who exclusively collect and grow them, and there are many books about that in print right now. Good Luck!

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