Posted in category: Garden Kits, Miniature Plants.

Air Plant Terrariums or Aeriums

tillandsia-closeupAir plant terrariums seem to be one of the hottest things for houseplants right now. In fact, when we wrote this article, the number one selling item on in the Indoor Plants category is an air plant terrarium or aerium. An aerium is generally defined as a glass container housing a tillandsia. Terrarium, is technically an incorrect term, but most people are using it anyway. Unlike other terrariums and vivariums, dirt and water are typically not included in aerium set up.

So, what are tillandsias?

The name itself has a fun backstory. (You know me, I like to dig and research this sort of stuff.)

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was the Swedish fellow who first created the system for which we classify plants and animals (genus, family, species, etc). It has been changed some since then but he is considered the father of modern taxonomy.  Have you ever wondered what the L. or Linn. means in plant names? It generally means the name of the plant was originally described by Linnaeus.

So Linnaeus was apparently looking for a name to call a genus of epiphytic plants (plants that grow non-parasitically on another plant). He remembered the tale of a seasick Elias Tillandz (1640-1693). Elias had travelled from Turku to Stockholm and opted to walk home rather than face getting on another boat. According to Google maps, the journey would have taken at least 381 hours or around 1,800 km to walk around the head of the Gulf of Bothnia. Tillandz, who later changed his name to Tillander, was a professor who had written about the plants native to Sweden. Tilland is generally translated from Swedish to English as “by land.”

Whether Linnaeus was hoping to honor a fellow scholar or enjoy a bit of a joke, what we know as air plants, or Tillandsias, are named after a seasick scholar named Tillandz.spanish-moss

But, what are tillandsias, really?

Let’s start with perhaps the most famous of the tillandsias – Spanish moss. Despite it’s name, Spanish moss is not related in any way to moss. It is a member of the bromeliad family. It obtains the nutrients it needs from the environment rather than the plant it lives on. Like all tillandsias, any roots it produces are solely used to anchor the moss to its host.

It is commonly found in temperate areas in the southeastern United States, Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Americas.

People do use Spanish Moss for a wide variety of applications but it is not generally “kept” as a plant. It is commonly used for decoration in plantings and with artificial flower arrangements.

All and all, there are over 600 difference species of tillandsia. Their new-found popularity has led to a recent increase in hybridization. The number of species has been on the rise over the past decade. It’s also become easier than ever to buy tillandsia plants.

We have purchased a few air plants through the years and most died a somewhat slow and lingering death. After reading up on them over the past few days I have no doubt what we did wrong – we didn’t water them enough.

In the average home, tillandsia plants should be dunked overnight in water once a month. They should also be misted 2-3 times a week. We misted but never knew about the dunking. Many of the folks selling these charming little plants online are including plant care sheets to help ensure you have more success than we did. Armed with the secret to dunk the entire plant in water, one of these terrariums is definitely on my Christmas list.

One word of caution though, one of my little plants was trimmed by my feline companion. It looked like grass and she was one to nibble all things which looked like grass – even the plastic stuff. I found my battered tillandsia plant on the floor after it had been thrown around the house like a play toy and had its leaves trimmed.

Air Plant Terrariums

There’s a number of sellers who offer these pretty glass globes for tillandsia terrariums but this one has the added benefit of coming with a nice metal stand.

The kit comes with a 5″ round glass terrarium, a 5.75″ x 9″ black metal stand, 2 air plants and black/silver rocks. It also comes with assembly instructions and a plant care sheet.

This company sells a number of air plant terrarium kits and components including: large and small black metal stands, assorted live tillandsia plants and other complete air plant terrarium kit without stands.

By the way, individual globes are generally a more expensive option than purchasing a multi-pack. There’s a few online vendors asking as much for one air plant planter as this vender is charging for a hanging terrarium 3 Pack!

Tillandsia Plant Displays – non-enclosed options

If you already have a tillandsia plant and are looking something other than a glass terrarium, there’s tons of fun and clever choices available like these:

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