By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
What are xerographica plants? Xerographica plants are epiphytes that live not on the ground, but on limbs, branches and rocks. Unlike parasitic plants that depend on the host for life, epiphytes use the host merely for support as they reach towards the sunlight. They are sustained by rainfall, moisture in the air and decaying plant matter. Read on to learn more about this unique member of the bromeliad family.
Xerographica Air Plant Information
Hardy plants accustomed to drier air of Central and South America and Mexico, xerographica plants generally do well in most indoor environments.
Commonly known as air plant, tillandsia is a genus with over 450 species. Xerographica, a striking, silvery plant with large, curly leaves, is often considered the king of all tillandsia air plants. Growing xerographica houseplants is relatively simple.
How to Grow Xerographica Plants Indoors
Most tillandsia air plants are accustomed to humid environments, but xerographica plants are able to tolerate relatively dry air. Don’t assume, however, that xerographica plants need only air. Like all plants, tillandsia plants need a certain amount of moisture.
Xerographica air plants can also handle more sunlight than their tropical, shade-loving cousins, and they will struggle without adequate light. However, direct, intense light may sunburn the plant. Natural light is preferable, but you can supplement with artificial lights. Be sure to leave the lights on for 12 hours every day.
Fertilizer isn’t really necessary, but if you want bigger, faster growth, add a very small amount of liquid fertilizer to the water. Use a general-purpose fertilizer diluted to one-quarter strength.
Xerographica Air Plant Care
Submerge your xerographica plant in a bowl of water every week or two. Decrease watering to once every three weeks during the winter months. Shake the plant gently to remove excess water, then place it upside-down on an absorbent towel until the leaves are thoroughly dry. Avoid direct sunlight while the plant is drying.
Heating and air conditioning can cause the plant to dry faster. Watch for withered or wrinkled leaves; both are signs the plant needs a little more water.
Water your xerographica air plant in morning or early afternoon so the plant has time to dry. Never water the plant at night. Mist the plant with lukewarm water once or twice every week, or more often if the air in your home is very dry.
Treat your plant occasionally by taking it outside during a warm summer rain. It will greatly appreciate this.
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Read more about Epiphytes
Growing Air Plants or Tillandsia
The Spruce / Kori Livingston
There are about 500 different species of tillandsia the best known is the Spanish moss that gracefully drapes from oak trees throughout the American South. This huge genus—the largest in the bromeliad family—is sometimes divided into the grey-leaved air plants and green-leaved terrestrial plants. In truth, all tillandsia are naturally epiphytic air plants that grow by clinging to trees and extracting excess moisture from the air. Once rare, tillandsia is now common in garden centers, where they are frequently sold as part of hanging gardens. Only a few tillandsias can be grown in pots—the rest must be mounted.
It is true that air plants absorb water from the air. However, they still need supplemental watering. The amount of water, as you may expect, depends on the type of air plant. Tillandsia xerographica is a xeric plant, which means that it is native to a drier climate. Like other xeric air plants, xerographica plants prefer frequent mistings to soaks.
However, many people have kept their air plants happy for years by soaking them rather than misting them. No matter what watering method you use, it is very important to give your air plant plenty of time to dry after watering. I like to leave my Tillandisa xerographica upside down near a sunny window for about 2 days after watering. This prevents rot because water is less likely to stay trapped in the leaves.
Ideally, it is best to use filtered water on your air plants (including Tillandsia xerographica). Air plants are sensitive to the chlorine content of tap water. However, you should NEVER water your air plant (or any other plant) using distilled water. Distilled water does not contain nutrients. As a result, a process called reverse osmosis will remove nutrients from the plant and possibly kill it!
During the warmer months, consider putting your Tillandsia xerographica outside during a rain storm. The plant will greatly appreciate this as that kind of environment mimics its natural habitat.
Your watering habits will also impact the leaf shape. If you allow your xerographica plant to dry out a bit, the leaves will form a curly shape. In contrast, well-hydrated xerographica plants will have straight leaves.
Detailed Xerographica Care
Whether you're looking to make sure your Xerographica is in it's perfect conditions, or looking to see if one could work for your space. We've got you covered.
Bright, indirect light is vital
Xerographica plants need bright light but it’s important that you keep them away from direct light as this can scorch the leaves. They will struggle to grow and survive in low light areas so this is an important thing to get right.
Mist your Xerographica often
As Xerographica plants don’t grow in soil they need to get water through misting and water baths). We recommend misting several times a week in summer and weekly in winter. It’s important to mist in the morning to allow time for the water to evaporate. If the leaves are still wet when it’s colder at night it can lead to leaf rot.
Use a water bath every other week
Another thing which keeps your Xerographica plant from drying out is using a water bath. We recommend doing this every week or two in spring and summer and monthly during winter.
Warmer temperatures are better for your Xerographica
Xerographica plants will struggle in cold temperatures so you want to make sure they are away from any cold drafts coming in through windows or doors. Average room temperature and above is ideal.
Fertilising is optional
You really don’t need to fertilise your Xerographica as they will thrive in the right environment. If you do want to feed your plant then you can add a little liquid fertiliser into the water bath every now and again.
Propagate the Xerographica pups
The easiest way to propagate a Xerographica is to cut off the pups that it starts to grow as the plant gets more mature. You can also propagate through the seeds from Xerographica flowers but that is a little trickier.
Xerographica are safe for pets
Another great thing about Xerographica plants is that they are completely safe for pets and humans so you don’t need to worry about putting them out of reach.