The Q&A Archives: Air Plants or Epiphytes

Question: I once heard someone talking about plants that could be attached to say, a fence without soil or water. Were they putting me on or is there really a plant or flower like this?

Answer: Yes, there are "air plants" called epiphytes that grow by attaching themselves to other plants, such as trees. They are not parasites because they don't obtain nutrients, just support, from their hosts. They absorb their nutrients from the air, rain, and whatever decaying plant matter they can trap in their roots. Most epiphytes are native to tropical or subtropical climates with high humidity. Orchids, staghorn ferns, and Spanish moss are examples. You could probably grow an ephiphytic plant indoors, but it would be difficult outside in your climate because of the lack of humidity, drying winds, hot sun without overhead cover, etc.

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