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Monday, April 13, 2020

How to Care & Cultivate for Airplants

I had mentioned in my earlier post on my first experience of falling in love with this xerographica but years ago these cost like RM300 which is quite a big deal for me.

This particular species are known as the largest of it's kind and highly sought after and so was their rarity. There were not many breeders and most of these were imported and thus they were very expensive due to their limited plant stock.

I faced many challenges caring for them especially they just die mysteriously on me after thriving for so many years. One of the factors is that still prove a mystery when they suddenly rot and fall away without any warning.
And so, I keep a distance where practice a non-attachment policy where in case if they do die, I take it as nature has it's own mysterious cause in action.

Other times,
squirrels or tree shrew nibble at them causing havoc to the whole crown structure where the rosette is bitten and damaged.

Another factor is my over zealous attitude of over feeding and watering which proved fatal
as they to are highly detrimental to this kind. And so, I'm very careful when spraying fertilizers on them.

These are love partial bright sun. These plants still need some element of sun, too much shade and they rot away, too much sun and they get burned up. Getting the right balance is the key for success this particular one.

Based on my experience:

I had found that wood vinegar is very deadly to airplants.
Somehow the whole thing dies in horrible crown rot.

I found that through following up with other gardeners and their success stories:
A half teaspoon of MSG with 2 liters of water sprayed within 2 weeks helps them to have a decent growth but somehow it also attracts rodents to feed on them and that is another horrible challenge to deter them.

Regardless, I do caution everyone to handle airplant with care in feeding as too much can kill them.
Less is always safer and better.

To safeguard my collection:
I do tend to wash /flush the airplants with heavy watering to clear off any residue
The most important thing is to have them in clear open space as in any case, if they are heavily grouped too close together - the chances of rotting is very high.

Tie them Up: Only Using Non-Metal Medium

I would advice not to use bare metal wire instead use insulated wire or cable tie.
Fishing line also or thread too works best. I find metallic surface tend to corrode and rust which can be fatal for airplants. Also sometimes when they are exposed to hot weather, these metal can burn on the foliage surface and it can be damaging.

Tie them: Positioned Downward.

This is applicable especially for the huge rosette types because the airplant somehow holds water at the top crown and may cause crown rot if not too careful especially it they are placed in the open where rain water can easily get sprayed and get collected at the center.

And so, I tie them up vertically as the water can easily pour out without collecting in the center. Eventually the plant will slowly revert it center-crown upward but by then the airplant will already set itself such that the water will able to drain out naturally from the crown.

This will save you from the unfortunately crown loss. 


Water them only in the morning and early evening giving them time to dry out. 
Do not water them during the wet season - if it rains, do not water. 
If it is still wet from rain or dew or any means - do not water until they are totally dry.
Watering them continuously can cause them to rot and fall apart.

The roots are for Fastening not for Water Intake:
Water them on the Leaves (totally wetting them)

Another thing about airplants,
The roots are practically useless as they are only meant to behave as hooks and not as nutrient feeder.
The velvet silvery surface on the leaf structure - they suppose to be absorbing the water, moisture and nutrients..

Another myth said about airplants is that its often misunderstood for these plants:
"they don't need anything except air and few misting.."
Before you know it - the whole plant dies - and its too late to safe it.

Also, they are not meant to be an ornament as fridge magnets or chime ornaments.
Give them their due - treat them as plants.

Placing them in a Glass Bowl can also be fatal unless its just used as a decorative piece for a day or two for a function purpose but after that - do place them outdoors where they receive air movement and the required elements for their care and survival.

Air Movement

Placing them in the airy place is the best for them.
Do not place them in the wet, humid dark places as it would prove fatal for them.

I had place them where they can get some indirect sunlight where the water can dry off within 1-2 hours. If they are wet throughout the day - then that location is not ideal for them.

I doubt they do well indoors unless they receive bright indirect light with good air movement.
It is a case by case situation. Something like keeping the Spanish Moss indoors - they can be challenging but not impossible.

Silver Leaves vs Green Leaves

If you notice the leaves are in silvery color - it has this velvet kind of surface where it is covered with specialized cells known as (trichomes) capable of rapidly absorbing water that gathers on the surface of the foliage. That is how they survive - when the leaves gets wet - they turn green.

Once they get dry - they turn back to their original silver coloration.

There are two types common types - the silver and green.
This particular type - the silver requires more care as they are not as hardy as the green counterpart.
And so - do be cautious on the watering regime as they can rot easily if over-watered.

Note: See How I had tied them up side ways - this is to avoid crown rot.
Also not using bare metal wire instead using insulated wire to protect them from metal leeching.

I would recommend to look for Airplant fertilizer which are easily available compared to years ago. These will make them thrive and grow very well.

Do not use normal conventional fertilizers as they can be too strong for them.

These are the basic simple care guide - There is a lot learn and experience as these plants are unique and behave differently when faced different stages of weather and conditions. Do check and identify what works best in your condition.

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Tropical Garden, Batu Caves, Malaysia
My Malaysian Tropical Garden mainly focused on unique and colorful plants ranging from rare to common plants all around the tropical belt across the world. Ideal for inspiration for challenging areas in the garden space - indoor gardening, balcony gardening and small green spaces especially for ariods, bromeliads, begonias, edibles, cascading & vertical garden plants, succulents & cacti, orchids, together with both shade and sun loving plants.

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