Organize & Clean

Decorating with Air Plants: 6 Ideas & Tips For the Weekend

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Kimber Watson)

Air plants, also known as tillandsias, are all over the blogosphere and I doubt this fun trend is going to fade anytime soon. It’s not surprising: With their striking sculptural forms and easy, elementary maintenance, they’re a versatile plant that anybody can care for! Earlier this summer, I came up with an interesting way to suspend one of my giant air plants, so I thought I’d share my idea in this week’s Apartment Therapy Weekend Project.

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As long as you have the materials on hand, the project is pretty darn quick and easy. But before we begin, lets get down to the basics of Air Plant 101:

1. They absorb nutrients through their leaves
Air plants are a member of the bromeliad family and they possess the unusual ability to absorb nutrients through their leaves. The majority of air plants are epiphytic, meaning that instead of living in soil, they survive by using their roots to attach to other plants and sometimes even to objects, such as rocks or buildings. Their unusual soil-less feature—along with their long-lasting bloom time (most varieties bloom for one to several months)—make air plants ideal for use in design projects.

(Image credit: Kimber Watson)

2. Air plants need bright but indirect, filtered light
They also need good air circulation. To water, you can mist them every few days or soak the entire plant in room-temperature water for about an hour, once every week to ten days. They also benefit from a good water-soluble fertilizer at 1/4 the strength recommended, about once a month. Air plants do not like over-fertilization!

Now that you understand the basics of air plant needs, you can start thinking about what container, vessel or object you want to use or make to showcase your tillandsia.

(Image credit: Kimber Watson)

3. There are over 400 species!
With over 400 species, it’s not surprising they all look so different! I like to play around with switching plants with varying forms into differing containers until I find the perfect combination. Some examples of vessels are shells (sea urchin and snail are shown above), a glass votive, vintage sailing rigging or a glass prism.

(Image credit: Kimber Watson)

4. Vessels are for attaching
Because the roots are used for support and not water, think about what your air plant could grow in that it would eventually end up attaching itself to. You commonly see air plants mounted on boards or driftwood for this very reason! Also, you don’t have to limit yourself to one air plant per container. They are quite content growing in an arrangement that includes multiples.

5. Where to find air plants
If you aren’t sure where you can purchase air plants, most specialized garden stores will carry them. I’ve also spotted them at big box home improvement stores. Etsy is an excellent source for a wide variety of tillandsias, including the harder to find larger types.

6. Tune into tomorrow for the step-by-step process and finished result!
I’ll also share a few pictures of how I’ve incorporated air plants into my decor at home. For my latest vessel idea, I decided to use a dried vase sea sponge that I found years ago washed up on shore.

But please note: If you do find a large seashell on the beach, only take it if it’s empty. Never remove a shell from its habitat with a living animal inside (you can purchase shells and sponges, but if you are buying ones that are commercially available, be certain they are ethically sourced!). If you intend on placing the shell or sponge indoors, you should soak it for a couple days in soap and water, adding a few drops of bleach to help remove the smell and any remaining bacteria.

Share your project!

There are no embarrassing fridge interiors or junk drawers to confess to this week! But we would love to see the before and after photos of a spot in your home that gets a dose of cheer from a cute air plant. So take to Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr with the hashtag #atweekendproject. We’ll be looking for you!