Wednesday, April 29, 2009

urban gardening part IV - air & water


Have you ever seen one of these? This is a Tillandsia, often referred to as an air plant, or Tilly. I added one to my bay window garden a while back and although it requires a bit more maintenance than an herb, succulent, or pot of carrots, caring for it has been an interesting experience and it seems to be enjoying the environment here.

The photograph above shows the plant being watered. There's no use for a watering can when a Tilly needs a drink, and by the way, this drinking is something they need to do very often, which makes the name "air" plant seem odd. Anyway...watering this plant means fully submerging it inside a bowl of water for at least an hour. I'd never heard of such a thing. There are rumors that you can just mist them every so often with a spray bottle, but that doesn't seem like a good idea to me. Even after a one hour+ soak, the Tilly is pretty dried out before the week is up. The submersion method works for both of us, so why mess with it. I skip the misting.

When we purchased our Tilly from Flora Grubb Gardens it had a big bloom emerging from the center of the plant and watering was a bit complicated because the bloom was not supposed to be submerged with the rest of the plant. Now the bloom is gone and I just place the entire plant in a full bowl of water for about an hour, once per week, shake off any excess water, let it dry completely, and then place it back on its pedestal in the window.

Tillys don't need any soil because water and nutrients are absorbed through their leaves. I suppose this is the explanation for this "air" plant business, but I believe something like "octopus" plant would be much more appropriate.

I don't think this plant really cares what it is called. It's the carefree type. With no soil to hold it down, the Tilly just rests quietly upon its pedestal and sunbathes all day. No hat or sunscreen required. And then there's that weekly dip in the pool... What a life.


  1. I had one of these back in the bay area (also from Flora Grubb Gardens), and I can say that the misting method really isn't enough. I would mist it every couple of days, and it always looked dried out. I didn't know you could submerge it -- thanks for the tip!

    and on a random sidenote, I always thought Flora Grubb was just the name of the shop until my sister moved to SF -- her downstairs neighbor is Flora!

  2. Now this I didn't know....I'm putting my baby in a bath immediately.

    You are a treasure trove of fine photos, beautiful writing, yummy recipes and now plant care.

    Me and my air plant thank you.

    xo jane