KUSA - Almost every plant needs to be rooted firmly in the ground. Not the air plant. It can grow on the side of a cliff, on a tree branch or even on electrical wires. Properly known as Tillandsia, the air plant is represented by many species found throughout tropical and subtropical North and South Americas. It is an epiphyte, meaning that it does not grow in soil but derives water and nutrients strictly through its leaves. Some air plants produce roots but these are to help anchor it to a branch or rock.

The plants have distinct personalities. Some species look like the top of a pineapple (they are related), while others form a tight, prickly ball. The broad-leafed species are native to dry regions while those with finer leaves evolved in more humid environments. The leaves are usually silver gray or moss green, although some may turn red before they flower. The flowers are peculiar tube-shaped blossoms that may be purple, red or white.

Air plants make novel and ideal plants for a negligent gardener. They do best in bright, indirect light. They may be grown in clear glass containers or in hanging planters in the window. They are often displayed mounted to rough bark or logs. An air plant may be worn as a fashion accessory on Earth Day.

Air plants need to be misted to keep them alive. How often you need to mist depends on the heat and humidity (or lack of it) in your home. Several times a week is advisable. Once a month, spray them with a water-soluble plant food.

Many gardeners grow their air plants in their most humid rooms such as in the bathroom or above the kitchen sink. Take your air plant with you when you shower. If you have been far too negligent and your air plant dries out, soak it in tepid water for an hour to help revive it.

Plants are courtesy of Tagawa Gardens.