Airplants and Succulents – Low maintenance – High visual interest

Airplants and Succulents

Bright, bold sprigs of greenery bring freshness to any area of your home, no matter what time of year it is. Air plants offer a low maintenance way to cultivate your green thumb. These spiky, alien-like beings can thrive anywhere, even on the most unexpected surfaces.

Plant Fancy

Air plants (Tillandsias, evergreen, perennial flowering plants in the Bromeliaceae family) can live for up to eight years – no soil required. They’re found naturally in tropical regions, attaching themselves to bark and other natural surfaces. There are many reasons they are attractive, says Marco Carnevale, Live Goods Buyer for Terra Greenhouses. “They’re very unique and very exotic looking. They last forever indoors – but they can be placed outdoors too.” During the summer, they can best create attractive accents to your outdoor space, and they shine as attractive living wall art. Judy Papalia, Head Designer for Harper’s Garden Centre, says living wall art is the big trend right now. She says if you’ve got a piece of tree bark, logs – or even wooden pallets – they can be used to create original artwork to hide those otherwise bland fences.     

Both air plants and succulents come in many shapes, sizes and colours. Papalia’s newest favourites are the six-inch firesticks, which she says are great for adding some height to the overall design. “It’s an unusual plant.” For unique pieces that meld modern décor with the plants, she points out the store’s funky wire balls accented with air plants, which can be hung from anywhere.

These plants are popular because of their low maintenance requirements, but also because of their diversity. “We’re starting to carry some larger sizes. They come in all shapes and sizes and varying price points as well,” says Carnevele. He recently sourced a line of air plants that can be worn as pendants. “It’s in a small ceramic pendant with a hole in it and inside is the air plant. There’s a leather band that goes around your neck and you can wear it like jewelry.” He’s also seen them featured on rings and other jewelry pieces.

Know Your Roots

Air plants don’t actually have root systems, but instead they take in nutrients through their leaves. “They like some sunlight but not direct,” advises Carnevele. He also suggests dipping them in water once every two to three days and adding some liquid fertilizer to the water, but scale down the recipe and add approximately a 1/3 teaspoon. “You could mist them but they don’t like to sit in water too long. Don’t over mist. They pull all their nutrients out of the air. They’re a great air purifier. It’s how they survive – they pull carbon dioxide out of the air and change it into pure oxygen.”

Papalia points out that succulents don’t have to be placed in soil. They can be placed in designs with moss (including Spanish moss) or sand. She says that it is important to make sure there’s enough drainage for the succulents and to give them some room. “They need space because the roots grow horizontally not vertically,” she notes. If you wish to plant them in soil, she recommends using cactus soil.

You don’t have to be an ardent gardener to be able to produce a mini montage of plants, whether they’re delicately placed in a glass globe, in a wire ball or beautifying your fence. Garden centres will gladly help you pick out all the ingredients needed for you to take home and begin your creation. “I don’t think people actually realize what they can do with these plants,” Papalia says. She’s right…you can be more creative and artsy than you may have even realized, and you will have the chance to get your hands dirty and flex your green thumb.

by Becky Dumais

Local Links

Terra Greenhouses, Hamilton
terragreenhouses.com

Harper’s Garden Centre, Hamilton
harpersgardencentre.com

Satellite Garden Centre & Flower Market, Hamilton
satellitegardens.ca

Green Mountain Gardens, Hamilton
greenmountaingardens.ca

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