As the saying goes, you can’t survive on love and fresh air. Most plants need soil to grow. Some don’t. The Air Plant can. To my knowledge, orchids and Tillandsia do not need soil. Orchids, as I’ve found out, need fertilising twice a month. You fill the sprays with diluted liquid feeds and spray them. Orchids and I are not the best of friends. They don’t bloom under my charge. Tillandsia is low maintenance, and loves you back.
How to care for Tillandsia
1. If you’re going on a long trip, soak your tillandsia in a pot of water for some time, say 10 hours. (This depends on size of plant and its hardiness.)
2. If your tillandsias are baby ones which only fit in the palm of your hand, just ask your friend to babysit, and mist it every other day. Too much water, i.e. soaking tiny tillys, kill it. (I’ve found this out, when it accidentally fell into a tray of rainwater and I forgot to remove it after 2 days.)
3. Warning: Soaking your tillys or fertilising them – causes them to flower and grow bigger. Some people don’t like their tillys to grow too big. I don’t fertilise my tillys and they do fine.
4. Indirect sun and shade works best, with air circulation. Direct sun will scorch it.
5. If left outdoors, beware of ants which love to hatch eggs and build nests in the crevices of the leaves. I’ve to soak my tillys once a month to rid the ant nest. Don’t tell L, he doesnt see anything wrong with ants.
6. If leaves start to curl too much, time to soak. I like the leaves curly, so am poor at estimating. Just soak it once a month.
7. After soaking your tillandsia cacticola, remember to overturn it, so water flows out of the leaves. You dont want to remove one pest and introduce another. Mosquitos breed in water trapped in the sockets. Also, the leaves may rot with too much water.
How to display tillandsia
1. Stick it on rocks or logs. Floral arrangements can be formed with small ones with plant glue on logs. You can buy them from enthusiasts who are selling tillys.
2. Hang it on wire to trellis or bamboo racks
3. Sit pretty on glass vases.
4. Do not cover base as it will rot with too much moisture. So don’t grow on moss.
(Most importantly, ensure air circulation and not under direct sun.)
But I’m moving into Tillandsia, having discovered them at the last Singapore Garden Festival in 2010. But the photo here is a young expert on Tillandsia in Singapore. He has an uncle who’s currently in Shanghai consulting with the Shanghai Botanical Gardens to put up a Tillandsia Tectorum Ecuador exhibit. So he has a regular supplier. Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours in his book Outliers. Practice makes perfect. Not your age or natural talent! Passion coupled with natural advantage in being exposed to something -, i.e this guy has a natural network advantage with people who poured into his life, and his own natural passion kicked in to spend hours researching on something. Gladwell cites the Beatles, (and read in this context, I found it applies for Bob Dylan as well – who spent hours playing in bars and memorising good poetry), Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Tiger Woods and even Mozart. Woo.. in an age of specialisation and building expertise, such a relief to know that it doesn’t matter being born on the wrong side of the railway tracks (as the saying goes), but that I can do something about it. Or maybe its not a relief anymore, because I can’t blame my parents. Responsibility is in my hands to redeem the time.