Once rare, exotic plants found only in the tropics and sub-tropics, air plants have recently become trendy low maintenance houseplants. Air plant is the common name for several varieties of plants in the Tillandsia genus. They are called air plants because they grow without any soil. Air plants are epiphytes, like epiphytic orchids and staghorn ferns, meaning that they absorb water and vital nutrients from rain, dew, humidity, dust, air and decaying plant or insect matter through specialized structures on their leaves, called trichomes.
Air plants attach themselves by small roots to rocks, trees, or shrubs; some air plants have even adapted to survive on the shifting sands of deserts. Air plants can be found naturally in their native regions of the Southern United States, Mexico, Central America and South America.
As houseplants, most air plants tolerate low light and need very little water or fertilizer. Only a weekly misting with a spray bottle is necessary for most air plants, and fertilizer is actually not recommended because Tillandsia plants can be fatally harmed by fertilizers that contain copper, boron or zinc. Most varieties also cannot tolerate temperatures that dip below 45 F. (7 C.). Air plants are available in a variety of colors and textures, and they are excellent for use in crafts.
Air plants can be attached to seashells, driftwood, cork, canvas, craft wood and many other surfaces with almost any glue, including low temperature hot glue sticks. However, Elmer’s glue is water soluble and won’t hold up after too many waterings. Air plants can be hung in fun jellyfish or chandelier crafts by wrapping their small root structure and base with monofilament fishing line or wire; just be sure to never use copper wire on air plants. Special air plant holders or hangers are also available at many craft stores or green houses. Adding sphagnum moss around air plant crafts will help hide glue, strings and also help to retain moisture around the plants.
Below I’ve added instructions for a couple fun air plant crafts.
Air Plant Jellyfish
- Sea urchin shells
- Air plants
- Monofilament fishing line
- Craft glue
- Sphagnum moss
- Sewing needle
Sea urchin shells are very fragile, so care must be taken. With craft glue to hold it in place, gently stuff the inside of a crafting sea urchin shell from the larger hole on the bottom with sphagnum moss.
Cut a length of about 10-14 inches of fishing line and wrap, then tie, one end of the fishing line around the base of the air plant. You can add a dab of glue to keep the knot in place.
Thread the other end of the fishing line into the sewing needle. Push the threaded needle up through the larger bottom hole on the sea urchin shell, through the stuffed sphagnum moss and then up through the smaller hole in the top of the sea urchin shell.
Continue to pull the fishing line up through the sea urchin shell until the air plant base is inside the sea urchin shell and its foliage hangs out the bottom like jellyfish tentacles. I like to attach the hanging bit of fishing line to Christmas ornament hooks because they are inexpensive and easy to hang from many things, but some crafters just make a loop.
Air Plant Hermit Crabs
- Flat rock or piece of coral
- Decorative seashells
- Air plants
- Hot glue gun and sticks
- Sphagnum moss
- Magnets (optional)
Glue patches of sphagnum moss on to your flat rock or coral, and also inside the seashell hole. Then also glue the base of air plants into the seashell openings.
Attach these little air plant/seashell hermit crabs to various spots on the flat rock or coral. (Note: Magnets can be attached to the back of the rock or coral to make fun refrigerator magnets.)
Both these projects are easy and inexpensive to make, and also make great gifts. However, the crafting options are endless with air plants. Let your creativity flow and come up with fun new crafts for these beautiful low maintenance plants.