Air Plants

by brookefiore


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Well folks, if you’re reading this and you live in the Northeast, then you can agree there is no escaping it. We are in a deep freeze. What always astonishes me about this time of year is how you can look outside your car window and just see the bitter cold out. There doesn’t need to be a person hunched in layers hurrying from door to door to detect it. There doesn’t even need to be ice within view to see it. The cold, unrelenting, bitter air of 7 degrees below zero permeates the landscape.

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The tree line of the woods, stretched high along the interstate, jabs at the glow of dawn on the horizon, but the branches seem to ache, appearing arthritic and stiff. Smoke billows from old mill towers, exaggerated and puffy, as if it is trying to chase away the arctic air mass.

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As I battle with the proper heat setting on my dashboard, I catch a glimpse of one lone rock rising out of a body of water, icicles wrapped around its base like a skirt. No ducks, no swans, nor any wildlife to observe on a day like today. Just people like me, bundled up in woolen socks and scarves, mittens and turtlenecks, brainstorming the best way to spend the shortest amount of time possible outside, playing victim to Old Man Winter.

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It’s days like these were I can get lost in the whimsy of my air plants. These little self-sufficient, succulent-like, house plants are a real pleasure to have hanging around (quite literally). They’re relatively low maintenance, low cost, mess free (with no dirt and minimal roots) and are reminiscent of tropical destinations, strangers to sub freezing temperatures.

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A little initial work is required to get your plants on a proper watering schedule, but the rest is low maintenance, pure enjoyment. Whether glass terrariums, decorative dishes or driftwood are your choice of vessel, these plants will live in the air and in indirect sunlight, using their leaf system as a means of obtaining adequate hydration.

Ours were ordered through Air Plant Supply Co. and we found the glass terrariums on Etsy.

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Here’s a little info for those of you who think an air plant or six would make a nice addition to your living room or sun room…

Temperature – a good range for optimal growth is between 50-90 degrees.

Life Cycle – air plants will bloom (a magnificent and brightly colored flower I am told) and reproduce little offshoots, better known as “pups,” just once in their life time, but the “pups” can be removed when they have grown to be 1/3rd the size of the parent plant. Pups will grow to be parent plants and repeat the life cycle given adequate light and water.

Fertilizer – thought not required, a Bromeliad fertilizer is recommended (should you choose to fertilize) to be used once per month during the months of March through October.

Water – air plants should be watered at least once per week – 2 to 3 times is optimal. A longer, 2-hour soak is recommended every 2 to 3 weeks. It is important to shake excess water from the plant’s leaves and to allow for complete drying in between waterings. Some particular species may require less (or more) frequent watering, but this information should come along with your order of air plants.

*It is important to realize that although air plants will maintain life for a longer period of time with minimal water, they will not grow or thrive and eventually will die. This can be learned the hard way in the case of “spike,” our little guy who was cared for by an uninformed owner, he is currently receiving comfort soaks and appears to have just one bright green leaf left to his body. We shall see how he fairs now that he is under proper care.

 

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