Growing Sky Plant: Learn About The Care Of Tillandsia Sky Plant

Growing Sky Plant: Learn About The Care Of Tillandsia Sky Plant

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Low maintenance plants are hard to find. Tillandsias offer a unique form, ease of care, and just a fun way to bring the outdoors into your home. Tillandsia sky plant (Tillandsia ionantha) is a superior specimen that doesn’t require traditional pot and soil combinations. This member of the Bromeliad family will grow epiphytically on a variety of organic surfaces. Learn how to grow a Tillandsia for a family-friendly plant that will make you look differently at plant presentation and care.

Sky Plant Bromeliads

Bromeliads are found in most areas of the world but are mostly tropical to subtropical plants. They grow without root support in soil and can even be found in habitat hanging from trees. Tillandsia sky plant is a member of this family and produces a rosette form of leaves that funnel to a central core. The plant is native from Mexico to Nicaragua and naturally grows on trees and even rock faces.

Sky plant bromeliads are easy to grow and make interesting presentations on bark or logs. If you are lucky and provide a good climate and care of Tillandsia, it will reward you with purple flowers or bracts in winter.

Care of Tillandsia

Once you get your air plant mounted, the Tillandsia sky plant is one of the easiest plants to maintain. They are usually sold already mounted, but if not, you can attach the plant at its base to a cork bark form, branch, or even shell. You can also place it freely into a terrarium or wedged among some rocks.

The key to growing the sky plant is humidity. Mist the plant daily or place sky plant bromeliads in the kitchen or bathroom, where humidity is naturally high.

Temperatures should be at least 60 F. (16 C.), but temps around 50 F. (10 C.). in winter will help force flowering.

Fertilize weekly with a half dilution of household plant fertilizer applied as a foliar mist.

These plants perform best in indirect but bright light.

How to Grow Tillandsia to Share

The propagation of Tillandsia is simple. Growing sky plant from offshoots or “pups” is the best way to create new plants. Pups grow at the base of the mother plant. When they are half the size of the parent, use a sharp knife to divide the pup from the original growth.

Plant it in the same manner by fixing to a board, or baby it for a while in a peat mix until the plant is healthy and ready for mounting. You can mount plants with glue, wire, or even just temporarily fix them with paperclips until roots grow into the substrate or mounting form.

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How to Grow Air Plants (Tillandsia), a New Indoor Gardening Trend

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The first time I saw a Tillandsia planter on Etsy, I thought "oh, that's cute." Not being a houseplant person (because I have this bad habit of killing them. ) I didn't think much of it.

The second time I saw a Tillandsia planter, on Design*Sponge, I thought, "Cute, but I'd kill it, and then I'd feel bad."

And the third time I saw a Tillandsia planter (this time in necklace form on Etsy) I decided that I HAVE to have one.

I don't have my Tillandsia yet because I'm still in the research/see-if-I-can-talk-myself-out-of-yet-another-plant phase. But in my research I've come across a lot of useful information about growing these plants. And since they seem to be a good option for those of us with limited space, I thought I'd share some of the great Tillandsia-related stuff I've seen online.

Air Plant Care Instructions

Air plants are easy to care for, as long as you are sure to give them the basics.

Yup, as the name indicates, you must provide lots of air for your air plant. Do you need to give it a fan or blow dryer? No. Just make sure that it’s not sealed up in a closed container so that fresh air can circulate freely around the plant.

How to Care for the Blue-Sky Vine

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Mediterranean-climate gardeners needing quick shade for an arbor or gazebo or cover for an unattractive fence can look to the blue-sky vine (Thunbergia grandiflora). An ever-blooming perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11 and tender perennial in USDA zone 8, it's a summer-blooming annual in colder areas. The 20- to 30-foot climber envelops its support in leathery, heart-shaped evergreen foliage and nodding clusters of pale-blue, yellow-centered flowers. The showy blossoms reach up to 3 inches across. Native to India, this enthusiastic performer is sometimes marketed as the Bengal clock or skyflower vine.

Plant blue-sky vine at the base of a supporting structure in a well-draining, organically rich soil with six or more hours of morning and late afternoon sun. Shelter it from strong, midafternoon sunlight. Space multiple plants 3 to 5 feet apart to accommodate their mature, 6- to 10-foot spread.

Water the vine deeply every 10 days to two weeks, or as needed to maintain evenly moist soil. While it tolerates brief dry spells, regular moisture maximizes blue-sky vine's flower production.

Feed the plant using a general-purpose, 6-6-6 fertilizer when the vine resumes growth in early spring and again in the beginning of summer, but only if its growth has slowed. Excessive fertilizing encourages rampant, and possibly invasive, spread. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers that stimulate leaf production at the expense of flowers.

Check the foliage regularly for infestations of sap-sucking whiteflies, spider mites and scale insects. Wash mites and whiteflies off with a strong blast of water. Scrape scales off with a toothbrush, or suffocate them with an application of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil applied according to the label directions.

Watch the vine for root-knot nematode damage. An infestation of these microscopic, root-feeding worms causes a weak, yellowing plant that wilts in the heat of the day despite regular watering. Nematode eradication is extremely difficult. Adding organic material, such as compost or peat moss, to the infested soil to improve its moisture and nutrient retention limits the damage they inflict.

Prune actively growing blue-sky vine stems as needed to contain them on their supports. In USDA zone 8, where the plant dies back following frost, cut the dead canes to the ground in autumn. Prune it again in early spring to remove shoots injured in spring frosts.

Growing Needs

Needs for light, temperature and water can vary greatly between species of Tillandsia. Some are more adapted to arid climates while others prefer humid environments. None are frost tolerant, but many will tolerate high temperatures. Before attempting to grow a Tillandsia find a species that fits your growing environment well. There are a few questions you can ask yourself do you want to place them in a humid terrarium? Do you want to grow them in your dry, heated home? How much light do I have available? These questions will help you find a Tillandsia that will fit your growing capabilities.

Tillandsia Bromeliad Species, Air Plant, Blushing Bride, Sky Plant

Family: Bromeliaceae (bro-mee-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Tillandsia (til-LAND-see-uh) (Info)
Species: ionantha (eye-oh-NAN-tha) (Info)
Synonym:Pityrophyllum gracile
Synonym:Tillandsia rubentifolia


Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:


Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Seattle, Washington(2 reports)

Gardeners' Notes:

On Aug 7, 2017, analen from Tamworth, NH (Zone 5a) wrote:

There are about 650 species of Tillandsia, perennial flowering plants in the Bromeliad family, commonly known as air plants. They are native to the southern United States, the West Indies (Caribbean), Mexico, and Central & South America.

If you live in a cold zone like myself, I grow them as house plants. Some people erroneously assume that because they do not need soil to grown in, they don't need water, just air. These are very easy to take care of as long as you remember to spray them regularly with a sprayer.

On Jul 14, 2012, mazmom from Prescott, AZ (Zone 8a) wrote:

I have two small plants that I bought at the NY botanical garden two years ago while on vacation. They are inside in indirect light. I soak them once or twice a month. It never occurred to me to feed them until I read this week's discussion. Duh. Maybe now they'll start growing.

On Jul 9, 2012, one86pinestreet from Vero Beach, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

Years ago I tucked one into an oak tree crevice on a shady path. It blooms once or twice a year. I spray it with the hose in passing & now & then splash left over orchid fertilizer on it. It's an eye-catcher when it's in bloom.

On Aug 25, 2011, nativelyeager from Brooksville, FL wrote:

They're gorgeous, 'tidy', easy, and do not go invasive. Caution: best not to place them where easily stolen.

On Apr 20, 2008, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

This pretty little plant is often seen inserted into shells with magnets on the back. Tourists purchase them to put on their refrigerators, but fail to realize that the need moisture. They last a remarkable long time.

On Feb 7, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Nice tiny Tillandsia with great purple flowers in fall, and reddish leaf tips. Cultivation is easy as long as they don't get too cold or dark. Just glue/wire them to the understory of some tree where they may get some spray from a sprinkler, or get misted regularly, or keep in a greenhouse (seem to like more light than we normally get indoors, and a bit too dry for them). Wont flower in a greenhouse unless you cool them off in the winter. Native of Mexico and Central America.


Bright filtered light is the general rule, and the higher the humidity of the air the higher light will be tolerated. Outdoors the silvery-leafed varieties (ex: Xerographica, Harissii) can usually be grown in full sun, but in an un-shaded greenhouse or close to un-shaded glass in a sunny room or conservatory the same plant will quickly burn because the air dries out like an oven. In a very sunny spot indoors they may need daily misting or weekly soaking depending on which method you prefer. For more information, read our detailed post about the effects of Summer Sun on your air plants.

Watch the video: Tillandsia - grow u0026 care Air plant