Air plants are one of the most exciting and unusual plants that you can put into terrariums – with the possible exception of the ever-popular carnivorous plants like Venus Fly-Traps, Sundews and Pitcher Plants. Air plants, also known as epiphytes, are just as unique in terms of their physiology, but very different in terms of their energy intake. Unlike carnivorous plants, which blend their chitinous snacks with the more typical systems of photosynthesis and soil-based nutrient delivery, air plants do more or less exactly what it says on the tin – they subsist on photosynthesis and atmospheric humidity alone. They don’t require soil as a growing medium, nor do they gain any kind of parasitic advantage by their choice of environment. Found throughout the tropical world, they are most noticeable in the boughs of trees, electrical and telephone wire systems, and almost anywhere else that sunlight can be converted into energy – soil and water are negotiable, not always necessary.
Caring for air plants can be simplicity itself, or they can demand as much as your other houseplants – it depends on what your home environment is like. If you live in a dry area, or you’ve got heating or air conditioning running all the time, your air plants will likely need to be watered several times a week in order to maintain the proper humidity for optimal growth. If your home is generally more humid, then you’ll be able to get away with fewer waterings, as your epiphytes will be able to get all the water they need out of the air itself.
The terrarium environment makes air plants much more manageable, as terrariums tend to have much higher humidity levels than the general atmosphere of a home, thanks to the enclosed environment and regular watering by you, the conscientious gardener. The enclosed environment also provides some interesting possibilities for the air plant terrarium, thanks to the wide range of glass terrarium containers that are available today. Air plants are perfect for non-traditional terrariums like the hanging glass terrarium, which is a modified version of a hanging garden basket. A bit of careful shopping at your local dollar store or a few weeks of yard sales will probably net you some excellent container options.
There are a huge number of air plants that are available for purchase (stay tuned for our TPTS plant store to go live!), so you’ll be able to find something that will work for your DIY terrarium design. We’re also going to offer you some pretty exciting glass containers for your terrariums, especially those that are great for hanging terrariums, a favourite style for air plants. Since an air plant terrarium can skip the soil part of the process, they generally weigh a great deal less, so you don’t have to be worried that your beautiful new project will come tumbling down with a crash in the middle of the night.
With so many possible combinations of air plants and glass containers, your air plant terrarium is limited only by your imagination, so go a bit wild! If you decide to go with a plastic container instead of glass, you could even make a mobile that would go into a child’s room, perfect for instilling wonder and adding a bit of extra oxygen to the air – and maybe you’ll wind up turning them into terrarium gardeners too! Enjoy!