I know it sounds like a Nova special -- exploring ways to display a plant that is so foreign to most of us. Air plants, more specifically Tillandsia, have become increasingly popular and there has been a multitude of customers visiting Sprout Home sometimes confused, but always intrigued by the options of successfully displaying them.
Q: I love Tillandsias and understand their care but I do not know how to display them. I do not see any in the store planted in a pot with soil, which is my automatic go to when displaying a plant.
A: Tillandsia's do not want to be potted in soil, if you do that they will rot and no one wants that. Being epiphytic, they naturally derive water and nutrients from the air and do not want to be sitting in water or soil. Since they do not have to be planted like a regular houseplant take advantage of its epiphytic nature and get out of your potting boundaries. As long as ample light is available and you have the ability to water them, displaying options are abundant -- mount them on a board to hang on your wall, utilize them as part of a landscape in a terrarium or go minimalist and simply leave them sitting on your shelf like a laboratory's specimen collection.
Q: Mounting them to display on the wall sounds like a fun way to do it. I have a piece of wood board that I like the shape of and a blank wall, why not? What can I use to affix them to the mounting board without hurting them?
A: You can use most types of waterproof glue but do not use Superglue. Use it minimally and dab just enough to attach your new friend. Wire is a good option but make sure that it is not copper as copper kills Tillandsia. You can also use nails and staples but use cautiously. Only nail or staple the woody stolon or root mass as to not harm the growing part of the plant. Other options would be fishing line or twist ties through holes drilled into the board. Think of your board as an empty canvas and do not be scared to add other material in your air plant design such as dried moss.
Q: If I wanted to use them in a terrarium should I just throw them in there?
A: Air plants like to be completely dry in-between watering which means your terrarium needs to have airflow in order for the tillandsia to be happy. Make sure your terrarium has adequate ventilation by selecting a terrarium home that has an opening or a mesh as to let your air plants breath.
Q: What if I just wanted to hang them from my ceiling?
A: You can do that as well. You can either put them in a hanging terrarium or an open pot or just hang them without any support other than some fishing wire. Perfect for when you have a vessel that you want to display but your ceiling can not afford to have the weight of a traditionally potted plant.
Q: I can't decide how to display them but they are begging me to take them home and I must oblige.
A: Luckily there is no time pressure. Take them home and let them hang out with you for a little while. It is like picking out a paint color and putting the color chips options on the wall to live with for a couple of days. Eventually your design concept will come to fruition and you will know what to do. If it takes a little longer than expected, move them around in different scenarios until one sticks. Just last week I was removing pups from some older Tillandsia plants that I had at home and did not have a chance to display them before a dinner party... they made wonderful name card holders for the guests.