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Air plants growing in a terrarium

How to Grow Air Plants in a Terrarium (for Beginners)

Air plants, or Tillandsia, have become increasingly popular in recent years and these remarkable plants don’t require soil to grow, making them perfect candidates for a terrarium project. With a variety of sizes and species of air plants to choose from, creating your own air plant terrarium can be a fun and rewarding experience, sprucing up your living space with some greenery.

When it comes to growing air plants in a terrarium, there are a few essential factors to consider: selecting the right container, ensuring proper air circulation, and following specific care guidelines. We’ve got the basics of creating and maintaining an air plant terrarium, focusing on vital aspects such as container selection, plant arrangements, and care routines. By using these tips along with the right species, you’ll be on your way to creating a stunning and thriving terrarium.

Choosing the Right Terrarium for Your Air Plants

When you decide to create an air plant terrarium, the first thing you’ll need to consider is choosing the right container. Glass containers are your best option as they provide a clear view of your air plants while allowing light to pass through easily.

There are various shapes and sizes of glass terrariums available, such as round terrariums, teardrops, pyramid-shaped containers, and glass bowls. Some of the popular container options include vented glass containers that allow for better ventilation and airflow. This helps keep your air plants healthy by preventing the buildup of moisture.

Hanging glass terrariums can also be an excellent choice since they’re suspended with a rope or hook, adding a unique touch to your living space.

Tillandsia growing in glass sphere terrariums

When selecting a glass vessel for your air plant terrarium, it’s essential to consider the size of the container and the plants you wish to include. Keep in mind that air plants require room to grow, so choose a terrarium with enough space for your plants to expand comfortably.

Reptile and amphibian owners often place air plants within their aquariums to make them look more attractive and provide better-quality habitats for their frogs, newts, and lizards.

In terms of design, it’s up to your personal preference if you want to go for a minimalist look or something more extravagant. Just remember to not overcrowd the terrarium, as this could limit airflow and impact the overall health of your air plants. Providing a good balance between form and function is crucial to ensure your air plants thrive in their new environment.

Consider the location where you’ll be placing your air plant terrarium. It’s essential to choose a safe spot with bright, indirect light and good air circulation to keep your plants happy and healthy.

Preparing the Terrarium Environment

Growing air plants in a terrarium is all about creating a healthy environment where they can thrive. We need to focus on three crucial factors: ventilation and air circulation, indirect light, and humidity. Let’s take a look at each one to create that perfect environment for your air plants to grow.

Ventilation and Air Circulation

Air plants require a good amount of air circulation to grow well. To provide them with proper circulation in your terrarium:

  • Make sure to choose a container with openings, such as a glass jar with no lid or a terrarium with a vent.
  • Avoid overcrowding the plants – space them out, so their leaves don’t touch each other.
  • Rearrange the air plants occasionally to allow better air circulation around them.

Providing Indirect Light

Air plants thrive in bright, indirect sunlight. Placing your terrarium near a south, east, or west-facing window will ensure that they get enough light without being exposed to direct sun. Be mindful of these tips when choosing the light source:

  • Filtered sunlight is the best option for air plants.
  • Don’t put the terrarium in direct sunlight, as it can scorch their leaves.
  • During summer, you can hang your terrarium outside in a shaded or protected area for some natural light.
Air plant care cheat sheet

Maintaining Humidity

Even though air plants obtain most of their nutrients from the air, they still need some moisture to grow and flourish. Creating a suitable humidity level in the terrarium is essential to keep them healthy. Consider these suggestions:

  • Mist your air plants with water a few times a week to maintain moisture.
  • If your environment is dry, placing a damp layer of sphagnum moss or coconut coir at the bottom of the terrarium can help.
  • Keep the terrarium away from heat sources that could dry out the air, such as radiators and heaters.

Selecting and Arranging Terrarium Materials

Using Soil Alternatives

Air plants don’t require traditional soil, so you’ve got a variety of cool options for your terrarium base. Some popular choices include sand and orchid bark. Sand art is a fun way to incorporate color into your terrarium. You can use aquarium or sandbox sand, or even try regular-colored sand if you’re going for a natural vibe.

Orchid bark is excellent for a more organic look, and it helps keep your air plants healthy by providing proper air circulation. Just make sure to avoid using soil that’s too compact, as this can restrict air circulation and harm your plants.

Adding Rocks and Pebbles

Time to add some hardscape decorations to your terrarium. Rocks, pebbles, and aquarium gravel are great options. These materials not only add to the visual appeal but also improve the functionality of your terrarium. Here’s a quick breakdown of the benefits:

  • Rocks – Solid, stable surfaces for your air plants to latch onto.
  • Pebbles – Smaller, smooth stones that are perfect for filling gaps and leveling out your terrarium.
  • Aquarium gravel – Colorful, small-sized granules that can be mixed with sand for added aesthetic appeal.

Mix and match these options to create a unique and eye-catching terrarium.

Incorporating Driftwood and Bark

Driftwood and bark provide a natural art touch to your air plant terrarium. They not only add visual interest, but they can also be useful for anchoring your air plants as they grow. Here are a few pointers when incorporating these materials:

  • Driftwood – Use pieces that are smaller in scale to avoid overcrowding your terrarium. They should be clean and free of any critters.
  • Bark – Avoid bark that’s too large or sharp, as it might damage your air plants. You can opt for smooth, flat pieces like grapevine bark.

Theme Ideas for Terrariums

Ready to get creative with your air plant terrarium? There are tons of awesome themes you can choose from. Here are a few ideas to inspire your next terrarium project.

Mason jars are an affordable and versatile container option for your air plant terrarium. They come in various sizes and can easily be decorated to fit your desired theme.

Colored sand or gravel can transform the look of your terrarium. It adds depth, texture, and contrast, making your air plants pop. You can go for a single color or mix it up with layers for an even more unique and artistic look.

Tillandsia growing in a small terrarium

For fans of the sea, an ocean theme is an excellent choice. You can fill your terrarium with some aquarium sand, seashells, and other ocean-inspired elements. Make your air plants feel right at home by using blue or green sand to mimic the look of water.

If you love the outdoors, consider a forest theme for your terrarium. You can add small trees, moss, stones, and even tiny woodland creatures to create a mini enchanted forest. Your air plants will vibe well with the earthy woodland atmosphere.

A beachy theme is a fun way to bring a touch of summer into your space. Fill your terrarium with some white or tan sand to resemble a sandy beach, and add a few small palm trees or other beachy accessories.

Want to keep things bright and colorful? Choose vibrant container options, like colored mason jars or tinted glass, and mix in colored sand, stones, and other bright elements to make a bold statement. Your air plants will love the lively environment.

Adding Your Air Plants

So, you’ve got your terrarium all setup and ready to be the home for some cool air plants. Here’s a look at the process of adding them to your new miniature ecosystem.

Choose the right air plants (Tillandsia) for your terrarium. There are tons of species to pick from, so go with ones that are not only visually appealing but also match your terrarium size and conditions.

Smaller varieties like T. Ionantha, T. Argentea, or T. Stricta would be perfect for tabletop terrariums. Make sure the plants you’re starting with are healthy and, if possible, look for ones that have pups (baby plants) attached so you can enjoy the life cycle of your plants.

Species - Tillandsia Ionantha

Once you’ve got your plants, gently clean their roots and leaves. Remove any dead or damaged leaves, and check for pests. Don’t worry, air plants are pretty low-maintenance – just give them some TLC and they’re good to go.

Now it’s time to plant them in the terrarium. Air plants don’t need soil, so place them on top of your base layer (sand, pebbles, or moss) or attach them to decorations like driftwood, seashells, or cork pieces. Some people even use small pots or baskets to hold their plants.

Just make sure they’re not buried in any material, as they need airflow around their roots. Arrange the plants in an appealing way, but don’t overcrowd them – give them room to grow and breathe.

Ensure that the plants have the proper care they need. Place the terrarium in a spot that receives bright, indirect sunlight, and give your plants a gentle misting with water every week or so to keep them hydrated. Be careful not to overwater, as wet environments can lead to rot.

The temperature should be kept between 50-90°F (10-32°C) for most species.

Caring for Your Air Plant Terrarium

Watering Methods

Caring for your air plant terrarium is pretty simple, but let’s talk about the most important part: water. Air plants don’t need soil, but they do need water. There are two main methods to provide water to your air plants:

  • Misting – Give your air plants a good misting 2-3 times a week. Make sure to mist the entire plant, not just the roots.
  • Soaking – This is best for plants in drier environments. Soak your air plants for about 20-30 minutes once a week, then let them dry out completely before placing them back in the terrarium.

Fertilizer and Nutrient Needs

Like any other plants, air plants need nutrients to grow and thrive. You can provide these nutrients by using a water-soluble fertilizer specifically designed for air plants. Here are some tips for fertilizing your plants:

  • Fertilize once a month to keep them in tip-top shape.
  • Add the fertilizer to your water when misting or soaking your plants.
  • Use a 20-20-20 blend with micronutrients or an air plant-specific blend to ensure they get everything they need.

Monitoring Lifespan and Growth

Air plants are low-maintenance, but it’s essential to keep an eye on their growth and lifespan to ensure they’re thriving. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • New growth – Look for baby plants, called pups, growing from the base of the parent plant.
  • Leaf color – Healthy air plants have vibrant, colorful leaves. If the leaves start to look dull or brown, it’s time to check their care routine.
  • Dry tips – A few dry tips are normal, but if you notice excessive browning, your plant might not be getting enough water.

    Special Terrarium Designs for Growing Tillandsia

    Creating Hanging Terrariums

    Hanging air plant terrariums can be a fantastic addition to your home or garden. To create one, you’ll need a hanging container and some strong rope or cord. You can easily find suitable containers at a home and garden center or online. Once you’ve got your container, fill it with some decorative moss and air plants such as T. Stricta, T. Loliacea, or T. Funkiana. Be sure to secure your hanging terrarium with a sturdy hook.

    Making Wall-Mounted Terrariums

    Wall-mounted terrariums are an innovative way to display your air plants. Start by selecting a suitable wall-mounted container. It can be glass, ceramic, or metal. Attach a secure hook to your wall and hang the terrarium. Add your favorite air plants, like Tillandsia Stricta or clumps, and consider incorporating decorative elements like seashells or moss to make the display more engaging.

    DIY Terrarium Container Options

    When it comes to DIY terrarium container options, the sky’s the limit. Get creative with repurposed items like old light fixtures, mason jars, or wine bottles. For a more natural look, use materials such as seashells, urchins, or driftwood. The key is to create an environment that allows your air plants to thrive and still look great with the overall aesthetic of your space.

    An air plant growing in a glass jar terrarium

    Incorporating Unique Decorations

    Adding unique decorations to your terrarium can make it a real eye-catching piece. Some popular options include:

    • Seashells and urchins – Add a touch of the ocean to your terrarium with some colorful seashells and sea urchins.
    • Decorative moss – Place some decorative moss in your terrarium to create a lush, natural environment for your air plants.
    • Small figurines or statues – Include miniatures or small statues to add a touch of whimsy to your terrarium.
    • Gemstones and crystals – Incorporate gemstones and crystals to give your terrarium a mystical, enchanted vibe.

    Remember, the key to a successful terrarium is to combine both function and beauty. Use your imagination, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different designs and elements.

    Author - Stephen Little
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