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Houseplant of the week: air plant

By Gynelle Leon
Tillandsia xerographica looks best on a wood stick or in a glass dome or shell holder.
Tillandsia xerographica looks best on a wood stick or in a glass dome or shell holder. Photograph: mokjc/Shutterstock

Why will I love it?
Air plants are attractive and sculptural; they look more like sea-creature tentacles than plants. This particular species, Tillandsia xerographica, is one of the biggest and is known as the king of air plants. It needs no soil to live in.

Light or shade?
Bright light.

Where should I put it?
In a bright bathroom suspended in a glass dome, or inside one of those shell holders, which will make it look like a floating green jellyfish.

How do I keep it alive?
Despite the name, these plants require more than just air to survive. To water one, submerge it in a sink or bowl of water for 30-60 minutes every two weeks, then let it dry before returning it to the holder. It is accustomed to tropical climates, so loves some direct sunlight during the day and prefers a room temperature of around 16-27C.

Did you know …
A mature plant will produce a single spike with purple and pink tubular flowers in autumn, but this happens only once in its lifetime. After this happens, the plant will die, but just before – or during – the flowering stage, it will produce little plantlets known as “pups”, which will live on.

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