ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Air plants are strange but beautiful relatives of the pineapple

Updated on October 11, 2015

Air plant photos

Close up on Air Carnation flowers
Close up on Air Carnation flowers
Spanish Moss
Spanish Moss
An arrangement of various types of Air Plant
An arrangement of various types of Air Plant
Tillandsia aeranthos growing on a dead tree in Tenerife
Tillandsia aeranthos growing on a dead tree in Tenerife

Plants that grow without needing soil

The plants in the genus Tillandsia are often called "Air Plants" because they grow in the wild in trees and on rocks and are not dependent on having any access to soil. Some species like T. aeranthos, which is commonly grown on Tenerife and in many other subtropical and tropical parts of the world, are also known as "Carnations of the air."

The Tillandsia species are actually epiphytes meaning that they grow in trees, which they need as supports, but they are not parasites and take no food from their hosts. Air plants get all that they need via the leaves which absorb moisture and nutrients from the air and also photosynthesise like all green plants.

Spanish Moss

They come from Central and Southern America and some of the Southern States and one species, the Spanish Moss (T.usneoides) is a common site in Florida, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi. Because of the creepy Gothic look it gives to places it is is growing in it often features in locations for horror films and television programmes. I am sure you have seen movies with this weird plant showing up in scenes set in swamplands in America's deep south.

It is not a moss but a flowering plant although it does share the same habit and appearance as the Old Man's Beard lichens (Usnea spp), which also festoon tree trunks and their branches and hang down from them.

Air plants as houseplants

Many species of Tillandsia are sold as exotic houseplants and distributed worldwide. They can be grown attached to driftwood or some other natural object and require very little care. Some types have pretty flowers, hence the "carnation" name they have been given.

Tillandsias reproduce by seed and also by pieces getting carried by the wind or by birds to new and suitable hosts.

The Tillandsias are actually related to the Pineapple (Ananas comosus) and are in the Bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae). These weird plants with amazing growing habits are in the same plant group as a commonly eaten and delicious fruit that we all know. It is incredible how they have evolved to colonise places other plants cannot grow, They are aptly named air plants because they grow in the air.

Easy to grow air plants


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      9 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I am glad to hear you have one, James! Thanks for posting!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      I have an air plant in my kitchen. It was given to me as a gift a few days ago. And now this! Coincidence? I think not!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)