The Tillandsia xerographica, also known as the Xerographica Air Plant, is an iconic air plant and a member of the bromeliad family. It’s native to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. You can find it growing naturally on the tops of tall trees where the sun shines bright.
They are most easily identifiable by their silvery-colored leaves. The leaves curve downwards to form a tight rosette with a striking appearance. It is the main attraction of these plants. It blooms only once, and it only happens when specific conditions are met. The flowers’ colors range from purple to red, lasting a long time. It is a very popular ornamental plant worldwide and is an excellent addition to any home garden.
Tillandsia Xerographica Main Characteristics
|Common Name||Xerographica Air Plant, King of Air Plants|
|Botanical Name||Tillandsia xerographica|
|Synonyms||Tillandsia kruseana, Tillandsia xerographica, Tillandsia tomasellii|
|Native Range||Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||9b to 11a|
|Mature Size||Height: 1-3 feet; Spread: 1-3 feet|
|Bloom Time||Spring, Summer|
|Propagation methods||by seed, by division|
|Sun||Full sun to Partial Shade|
Tillandsia Xerographica Care
The Xerographica Air Plants are epiphytes, meaning they grow on trees without taking nutrients or water from them; instead, they take their nutrients from the air and water around them. They have ingenious mechanisms that absorb moisture and minerals from rainwater or dew drops off other plants to survive. They do not need soil because they absorb nutrients through their leaves like a typical plant uses its roots.
The plant needs bright, indirect light but can tolerate direct sunlight in small doses. Just don’t go overboard, or you’ll end up with sunburnt leaves. Fluorescent light can also replace sunlight, but the plant won’t grow as easily.
Since these plants are epiphytes, they don’t need a soil medium to grow. Instead, most people end up attaching these to a support. The support can be anything—an aesthetically pleasing piece of wood, bark, or even another plant. When one of these plants grows to a large enough size, most supports won’t hold them up any longer. Instead, a bowl or a hanging basket becomes the ideal spot for these silver-leaved perennials.
Tillandsia xerographica are watered a little bit different compared to other plants. Since there is no root system to water, watering is done by submerging the entire plant headfirst into the water. The recommended frequency is about once every two weeks. You can also water the plant by pouring water over the leaves, but submersion usually works better. Remember to dry out the leaves as it is important they don’t stay wet as they are prone to crown rot.
This bromeliad requires a warm temperature to grow well. Milder climates with a temperature range between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit are considered ideal. Although it can survive the occasional cold snap, don’t let the temperature fall below freezing.
Misting the Tillandsia xerographica every week or so is paramount as these plants need to be kept in moderate to high humidity (50-70%). Just like when watering, dry out the leaves by shaking the plant after every misting session to prevent crown rot. If the room has heating which lowers humidity, you might have to do this more often.
Feeding your Xerographica Airplant is for the most part unnecessary. The only time they may need fertilizer is when you are trying to encourage growth, pup formation, and flowering. To do this, you can use a very weak solution of orchid or bromeliad fertilizer in the water. Feed your plant 1-2 times a month.
Propagating Tillandsia Xerographica
The propagation method for this species involves either using offsets (pups) or seeds. Unfortunately, seed propagation of Tillandsia xerographica is much slower (It can take years). Therefore it is not the recommended method.
First things first, check if the offset has reached one-third the size of the parent. Any smaller, and chances are it won’t survive separation. Twist and pull it at the base (not the leaves), and it should come right off. Once you have your offset, simply care for it as you care for an adult plant. Water, light, humidity, and temperature requirements stay the same. The plant should keep growing normally until it reaches full size. Take note that these plants are exceptionally slow growers.
Tillandsia xerographica are non-toxic. They are harmless to humans and pets. So keep them around the house without worry.
There are a few pests that can be a problem for Tillandsia xerographica. These include mealybugs, scale insects, and aphids. These are easy to identify and can be treated with a simple insecticide. If ineffective, you can also try horticultural oil.
Indoor Care Guide for the Xerographica Air Plant (Tillandsia Xerographica) (Video)
How to care for Tillandsia xerographica?
Caring for these plants is easy. Simply place them in bright, indirect sunlight, away from radiators or air conditioners. Water them twice a week and mist them weekly.
How to water Tillandsia xerographica?
You can water these plants by submerging them in a bowl of water. Keep there for a few seconds, and then take them out. Shake the plants around so that no water remains on the leaves and put them back in their original spot.
How big do Tillandsia xerographica get?
The main portion of the Tillandsia Air plant (the leaves) can grow as tall as 3 feet and spread just as much. In essence, it’s a big ball of foliage that’s pretty to look at. If the plant manages to flower, the tubular stem with the bracts can reach another 3 feet in length, essentially becoming twice as tall.