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You don’t always need soil to care for plants or do a bit of gardening. If you’re brave enough, you can grow plants with nothing but air, water and sky.

Tillandsia, or air plants, are part of the bromeliad family. They get their name because they rely on the air to grow.

The best news is they’re practically fool-proof. Plant fans who can’t keep anything alive, this article is for you.


What is an Air Plant?

Sometimes called a “sky plant”, the air plant is scientifically known as Tillandsia.

Tillandsia are a genus of plants that do not require soil to grow.

They absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves from the air and rain.

Air plants use their root systems solely for anchoring themselves to an object, making them fascinating additions to any indoor or outdoor space.


How to Identify Air Plants

Tillandsia, air plants, hanging on a wall on wood as they grow in a greenhouse

Other than a plant growing in a soil-free pot, you’ll typically notice that air plants have a rosette of leaves.

Depending on the species, their leaves may be thick and fleshy or thin and wispy.

Many air plants will bloom once in their lifetime, producing vibrant and exotic flowers that can last from several days to a few months.

Look for their distinctive silver, green, or sometimes red-tinted leaves that feel slightly fuzzy due to tiny water-absorbing structures called trichomes.


Air Plant Varieties in Australia

Not counting hybrid varieties, there are at least 450 types of air plants out there, and each one is freakier-looking than the next!

Here are some of the most popular Tillandsia species in Australia that you’re bound to fall in love with:


Tillandsia Aeranthos

Tillandsia Aeranthos

You can identify the Tillandsia Aeranthos with its upward-growing leaves that form a soft cone.

Its vibrant green foliage boasts a subtle bronze or yellow tinge under bright light, creating a dynamic display.

It is also known as the Flower of the Air and is particularly beloved for its striking blue or violet flowers.

The Aeranthos unveils its star power in spring or summer with a stunning pink inflorescence studded with purple flowers.


Tillandsia Brachycaulos

Tillandsia Brachycaulos

The Tillandsia Brachycaulos is a dramatic but beautiful air plant characterised by its broad, green leaves that turn red when it’s about to bloom.

This miniature marvel forms a rosette of thin green leaves, sometimes tinged with red.

It prefers bright, indirect light and requires soaking rather than misting.

Despite its petite stature, the Brachycaulos produces stunning purple flowers in summer.


Tillandsia Bulbosa

Tillandsia Bulbosa

The Tillandsia Bulbosa is unique for its bulbous base and tentacle-like leaves, creating an otherworldly appearance.

Its thick, rounded base, reminiscent of an onion bulb, stores water and allows it to thrive in drier environments.

The Bulbosa is particularly fascinating when it blooms, producing a bright purple flower from the centre of the bulb.


Tillandsia Capitata ‘Peach’

Tillandsia Capitata 'Peach'

The Tillandsia Capitata Peach is a captivating air plant with soft, peach-coloured leaves that form a rosette.

As it matures, its lower leaves turn into a vibrant burgundy, unlike other air plants.

The Capitata Peach thrives in bright, indirect sunlight and prefers occasional soaking to maintain its vibrant colouration.

Small, star-shaped lavender flowers that emerge in spring further enhance its delicate beauty.


Tillandsia Caput-Medusae

Tillandsia Caput-Medusae

Embrace the captivatingly strange Tillandsia Caput-Medusae, also known as the “Snake’s Head Air Plant”.

Its thin, green leaves twist and curl dramatically, resembling the writhing tendrils of Medusa’s hair.

While its appearance may seem unsettling, its air-purifying abilities and unique form make it a conversation starter in any room.

This intriguing variety is easy to care for, requiring only occasional watering and bright, indirect light.


Tillandsia Cyanea

Tillandsia Cyanea

Sometimes called Wallisia Cyanea, Tillandsia Cyanea is commonly known as the pink quill plant or sky plant bromeliad.

It earned its name from its striking pink flower spike or quill.

The Cyanea forms a rosette of thin, silver-green leaves adorned with striking pink trichomes.

This visual feast continues with its stunning inflorescence, featuring deep blue to purple flowers that emerge in summer.


Tillandsia Ionantha

Tillandsia Ionantha

Tillandsia Ionantha, the “Fuzzy Air Plant”, is popular for its adorable appearance and easy care.

Its thin, velvety leaves form a compact rosette, which ranges from green to silvery-grey, giving it a soft and cuddly look.

During its blooming season, vibrant red bracts emerge from its centre, creating a delightful contrast against its fuzzy foliage.

The Ionantha thrives in bright, indirect light and enjoys high humidity, making it a popular choice for indoor gardens.


Tillandsia Streptophylla Hybrid

Tillandsia Streptophylla Hybrid

Tillandsia Streptophylla Hybrid is often known as the “Shirley Temple” air plant.

It makes a statement with its curly, ribbon-like leaves that can vary from green to pinkish hues.

The Streptophylla hybrid enjoys bright, indirect light and high humidity, flourishing with regular misting.

This plant occasionally blooms vibrant red flowers, creating a truly eye-catching spectacle.


Tillandsia Stricta

Tillandsia Stricta

Tillandsia Stricta has soft, silver-green leaves that form a tight rosette.

Its leaves grow in a somewhat symmetrical pattern, giving the plant a full, lush appearance.

The Stricta produces vibrant pink to purple flowers that emerge from the centre of the plant, creating a striking contrast against its green foliage.

Tillandsia Stricta is an ideal air plant for beginners as it requires minimal care — it thrives in indirect sunlight and benefits from regular misting.


Tillandsia Tectorum Ecuador

Tillandsia Tectorum Ecuador

The Tectorum Ecuador is covered in a dense layer of trichomes, which give the plant a white or silvery look, making it appear as if it’s dusted with snow.

It has a loose, open rosette shape with long, slender leaves that can curl at the ends.

The Tectorum prefers bright, indirect light and requires less water than most other Tillandsia species, making it well-suited for drier Australian climates.


Tillandsia Xerographica

Tillandsia Xerographica

The Tillandsia Xerographica takes the crown as the “queen of air plants”.

It has broad, silvery-green leaves that curl and twist in a rosette pattern, creating a striking visual display.

Xerographica leaves are covered with trichomes, which give them a light, frosted appearance and help them tolerate dry conditions.

It prefers bright, indirect light and benefits from thorough soaking rather than frequent misting.

The Xerographica is slow-growing but worth the wait, as it eventually produces a large, red or pink flower spike that can last for months.


Where Can I Buy Air Plants in Australia?

If you’re thinking about buying air plants in Australia, you don’t have to look too hard as there are a lot of shops selling them.

Air Plant Decor, Bunnings, Flower Power, Rare Imports, and Marianne Annereau are just some of the stores where you can find air plants for sale.

Air plants online can start at $4 and reach up to $89, depending on the size, variety, and supplier. Those that come with decorated pots can set you back by $55 or higher.


FAQs About Air Plants

It doesn’t hurt to know more about these funky plants. 

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about air plants — whether you’re looking for the best air plant for beginners or if they’re safe for your pets.


Are air plants beginner friendly?

Yes, air plants are great for beginners.

Their minimal care requirements — indirect light, occasional watering, and good air circulation — make them perfect for those new to plant care.


What is the easiest air plant to take care of?

tillandsia ionantha

Tillandsia Ionantha is among the easiest air plants to care for, making it ideal for beginners.

It’s adaptable, requires minimal maintenance and changes colour when it’s ready to bloom.


How do I choose an air plant?

Choosing an air plant depends on your living environment and the amount of care you can provide.

Consider the light conditions of your space — most air plants thrive in bright, indirect light.

Look for healthy, green plants with no signs of damage.

Think about the size and aesthetic you prefer, as air plants come in various shapes and sizes.


Are coloured air plants natural?

Yes, the colours seen in air plants are natural.

Many species change colour as a response to their blooming cycle or as a reaction to light exposure.

The vibrant colours serve as a signal that the plant is ready to bloom or is currently blooming.


Are air plants safe for cats and dogs?

Most air plants are safe for cats and dogs, posing no toxic threat to pets.

They can be freely displayed in areas accessible to pets, making them a worry-free choice for pet owners looking to add a bit of greenery to their homes.

About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.


About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.