Air plants are the new pot plants - here's how to display them

Naturally beguiling and low-maintenance, air plants are the botanical must-haves du jour

01 October 2017 - 00:00 By Mandy Allen/Bureaux
Air plants are very easy to care for as they absorb moisture from the air.
Air plants are very easy to care for as they absorb moisture from the air.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux.co.za

Exotic and sometimes bizarre-looking, air plants are part of the Bromeliad family and originate largely from South America. They are scientifically classified as Tillandsias and there are over 550 species to choose from.

Air plants are low-maintenance and do not require soil to grow, absorbing all their water and nutrients through their leaf system from the air.

This makes them extremely versatile for decorating within most environments.

TRY THESE IDEAS:

1. GROUP EFFORT

Grouping plants close together increases the level of water vapour. This visually arresting mix of air plants (pictured below) is a beautiful living exhibit with its graphic leaf shapes, textures and shades. 

Choose an appropriate surface - a window sill, table top or vintage tray - and display a selection of air plants with various leaf-shapes and hues.

Combine these with rustic natural and man-made elements such as wood, stone and clear glass lab jars for an industrial-organic effect.

Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux.co.za

Plants on window sill include: Tillandsia Xerographica, Tillandsia Argentea, Tillandsia ionantha fuego, and Spanish moss.

Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux.co.za

2. LIVING SCULPTURE

Look to nature and replace that painting above the fireplace with an organic, textured sculpture that lives and breathes.

Affix a variety of air plants to a piece of driftwood using thin craft wire. Hang the driftwood sculpture from a picture hook.

Air plants on driftwood include: Spanish moss, Tillandsia aeranthos, Tillandsia fuschii and Tillandsia abdita

Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux.co.za

3. TERRARIUM WITH A TWIST

Create an indoor miniature garden with a modern aesthetic. This twist on the classic terrarium sees a variety of air plants arranged in lab-style glass beakers, vases and jars.

Create a diaphanous effect by hanging a few air plants in front of a window. Use transparent fishing gut and hooks to make a 'floating' installation.

Tillandsia include: Spanish moss, Tillandsia lorentziana, Tillandsia tricolor, Tillandsia 'Houston', Tillandsia neglecta, Tillandsia setacea, Tillandsia igneciae.

Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux.co.za

4. TABLE SOME IDEAS

Make air plants the main event on a hallway table or other surface.

Compose plants in a selection of clear round glass containers that are identically-shaped, but various sizes and forms (bowls, ramekins, measuring jugs and clear-glass tea cups). This will ensure visual synergy while imbuing the installation with a personalised touch.

Selection of Tillandsia include: Spanish moss, Tillandsia lorentziana, Tillandsia tricolor, Tillandsia 'Houston', Tillandsia neglecta, Tillandsia setacea, Tillandsia igneciae.

Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux.co.za

5. SHOWER POWER

Transform your shower into a tropical paradise. Air plants enjoy humidity but allow some air to circulate so they have a chance to dry off. Six hours of indirect sunlight will also ensure that they thrive.

Suspend plants from hooks attached to the shower surface or screw hooks into the ceiling and suspend plants with transparent fishing gut.

Plants include: Staghorn ferns, Spanish moss, Tillandsia ionantha fuego.

Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux.co.za

6. HOME WORK

Greenery creates an organic focal point in the home office environment, encouraging creativity while enhancing a sense of calm.

Attach small to medium-size air plants to the wall using Prestik or double-side tape. Or tie onto a piece of driftwood or bamboo using fishing gut and make a mobile. Hang against the wall using hooks, nails, curtain rail or copper pipe. Additional air plants can be displayed in vases or vessels.

Air plants include: Staghorn fern; Tillandsia Xerographica, Tillandsia Argentea, Tillandsia ionantha fuego, Spanish moss, Tillandsia stricta, Tillandsia juncea, Tillandsia lorentziana, Tillandsia tricolor, Tillandsia 'Houston', Tillandsia neglecta, Tillandsia setacea, Tillandsia igneciae.

 

HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR AIR PLANTS

Air plant aficionado Marissa Pretorius of Opus Studio shares the low-down on how to care for these fascinating plants:

1. They will still need watering: hang them in the shower for no-effort care or give a healthy misting with a spray bottle every second day.

2. Air plants will benefit from being dunked in room temperature tap water for about 30 minutes every third week. Once they've had a good soak, let them dry in a high-light environment.

3. Placing air plants in a vessel with a small amount of water will allow them to produce their own moisture (the "self-watering" terrarium effect). Make sure your chosen container is not sealed as they need circulating air to survive.

4. If your air plant looks too grey and dry, a light misting will restore its green hue.

5. Air plants prefer bright, filtered light. Basically, the more indirect but bright light the more they will thrive.

6. If your air plant is looking poorly and dry, give it an overnight soak. Shake it off properly so it doesn't retain too much water as this can cause rot.

Production: Marissa Pretorius/Opusstudio.co.za. Styling: Sven Alberding/ Bureaux.co.za; Location Babylonstoren.


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