Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

Photo by: José Picayo.

T. fuchsii is an exquisite and refined species that looks fragile but is quite hardy. The silvery leaves of the plant arc outward from the base.

Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

Photo by: José Picayo.

T. ‘Eric Knobloch’ grows to only eight inches, and its leaves turn a frosty rose just before the plant blooms.

Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

Photo by: José Picayo.

T. mallemontii is a miniature species with fragrant blue flowers and a clumping habit. It prefers the outdoors.

Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

Photo by: José Picayo.

T. tenuifolia ‘Silver Comb’ has leaves that grow along a stem that can reach two feet before the plant starts to form a clump. This cultivar tends to dry out quickly.

Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

Photo by: José Picayo.

T. ‘Curly Slim’ can grow to more than two feet. It has a wonderful form, with wide leaves that resemble banana peels. Offsets will occasionally branch off from the main plant.

Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

Photo by: José Picayo.

T. ‘Showtime’ is prized for its thick stems and symmetrical clumps.

Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

Photo by: José Picayo.

T. xerographica is the king of all air plants with its silvery gray leaves. It grows slowly but eventually will reach 18 inches in height and 15 inches in diameter.

Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

Photo by: José Picayo.

T. tenuifolia ‘Blue Flower’ has beautiful pink bracts bearing very blue flowers with pine needle-like foliage. The plant creates small clusters of five to eight inches in diameter.

Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

Photo by: José Picayo.

T. neglecta has thick, succulent leaves and is known for producing many offsets from its main stem.

Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

Photo by: José Picayo.

T. intermedia is unusual in that it produces pups at both ends of the plant. T. crocata is easy to grow and produces tiny yellow flowers with the most delightful fragrance of any Tillandsia.

You can purchase tillandsias ($1 to $35 per plant; $150 minimum domestic order) from Tillandsia International (559-683-7097). We also consulted experts at Rainforest Flora (1921 Hawthorne Boulevard, Torrance, California; 310-370-8044) and Joseph Marek Landscape Architecture. You may also want to read Paul Isley's Tillandsia II ($72) and Genus Tillandsia ($5) from Exotic Plant Books.

How to “Plant” Air PlantsTillandsias may free you from the constraints of pots and soil, but that leaves the question of how to display them. With suggestions from breeder Paul Isley, who has grown air plants for more than 30 years, we offer three options:

Mounting
"Dream Team's" Portland Garden
Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

1. Mounting: Use floral wire to fix the plant onto a branch, fence slat, or section of tree bark. Hold the base of the tillandsia against the object and secure it there by weaving the wire through the plant leaves and around the base several times.

Hanging
"Dream Team's" Portland Garden
Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

2. Hanging: Take wire that’s flexible but sturdy and custom design your own planter. Make a loose basket or spiral shape to hold the plant, and at the other end of the wire, create a hook for hanging it. 

Velcro
"Dream Team's" Portland Garden
Garden Design
Calimesa, CA

3. Velcro: With a hot-glue gun that has cooled briefly, attach one half of a Velcro dot to the plant’s base and the other half to the wall. This makes it easy to remove the plant for watering.

Melissa Ozawa is a writer in New York City who also works for the Garden Conservancy.

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