I need to know how to grow and care for a Tillandsia “air plant” that was just given me. I know nothing about them and am concerned about the floury dusty part on the bottom. It looks to be a natural part of the plant.
Your “air plant” belongs to a group of epiphytes called Tillandsia. Ephiphytes are plants that attach themselves to other plants, trees, rocks and grow without soil. They are part of a large bromeliad family. The white silvery fuzzy appearance is due to trichomes. These specialized velvety organs help bromeliads absorb nutrients and water.
Place the plant in bright indirect light. The green- leafed varieties prefer part-shade.
Feed the plant once a month with a 20-10-20 fertilizer. Use 1 tbs per gallon-follow directions on the label. Make sure the nitrogen in the fertilizer is not urea based as the plant cannot break it down. Use nitrogen that is nitrate or ammoniac based.
Mist regularily and water twice a week in summer by wetting the whole plant and then letting it dry. Water less in winter. Don’t use softened water- too much salt. Rain or tap water is good. Silvery Tillandsia needs less water than the green leafed varieties.
Once the mother plant is done blooming, it can produce multiple offsets or pups (baby plants). These can be removed when they are about 1/3 the size of the mother plant or left on the mount. Keep in mind that once a bromeliad blooms it will not bloom again.
Tillandsia should not be planted in soil but can be mounted in a piece of driftwood or cork. Wrap the roots and bottom of the plant in sphagnum moss and wire/staple it to the wood or glue it with waterproof glue. They also look great in a decorative stone container.