- There are no rules in composition. Please visit @rareair_sg on Instagram for many ideas on how to use and compose your display. Some tips below:
- Start with the driftwood to stone connection as this will be the spine of the display. Again there are no rules, but for almost any piece of stone and driftwood there will be a natural ‘balance’ wherein the two pieces will naturally ‘connect’ in a way that they will stay together even without any glue. Once you have found this connection, there is a strong possibility that this is the best and most natural outcome of the composition.
- Make sure there are at least 3 connecting points from wood to stone to keep it steady and make a good positive connection. If there are only one or two points of connection, this is often brittle and will break easily if accidentally moved.
- After you are satisfied with the wood to stone connection, mark the connecting points with a pencil and put a dollop of glue to one of the surfaces. Do not put too much as the glue will drip. Connect the pieces quickly, and brace with loose objects at hand and ensure that the objects do not move for the next 6-12 hours.
- Once the spine is solidly glued in place you may need some time to clean up the spillover glue. Excess glue can be slowly peeled off surfaces and the best time to do it is at this stage before sticking on the plants or base.
- Compose the airplants onto the spine, and when happy with the positioning, put a dollop of glue onto the base of the plant (usually this will be a hard, brown woody base right at the bottom center of the plant). Once the plant is in position, brace or wire the plant in place to ensure they will remain in place for at least the next 6 hours. Do this progressively for all the plants.
- Next will be the preserved moss. The moss will only require very little glue to stick, and they are useful for covering areas where the roots or base of the airplants might be exposed. Again they need to be held in place until the glue is dry.
Basic Airplant Care
Tillandsias, just like any other plant, need light, water and air circulation. Foremost of these is light. The best type of light is shaded, semi outdoor light like on a balcony. Failing this, beside or near a window is good too. If unable to provide these, airplants will grow very slowly and may slowly wither away. The more light the plants have, the more water they will need. Water using a spray bottle, spraying all over the leaves until they are dripping wet. Tillandsias can take water up to every other day or just once a week, depending on the amount of light they receive.
In South America where they are from, Tillandsias grow on trees, rocks, other plants and even on electric wires. Their seeds are dispersed by wind and their roots provide them anchorage on whatever surface they land on, burrowing and gripping tighter to that surface as they grow. In nature they are very seldom seen in a formal vertical position, in fact they are often fixed sideways or even upside down. Such positioning also helps them avoid pooling water at their base which may eventually cause rot if combined with poor air circulation. For composing your piece, the glue can more than take the place of their roots in clinging to any surface, so be creative and don’t be limited by a normal upright position of the plant.
Any fertilizer for Tillandsias must be sprayed on and must be diluted to a lower level than is typical for terrestrial plants. Breeders use Bromeliad or special Tillandsia fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. Tillandsia are unable to use the nitrogen commonly found in other fertilizers as they are not planted in soil. Fertilizer an speed up growth and encourage blooming, although this can also shorten the lifespan of your plant.
Tillandsias in general only bloom once in their lifecycle. After blooming, the plant begins to ‘die’ but not in the conventional sense. Post-bloom, the plant may take months or even years to slowly shrink and waste away leaf by leaf. In the meantime though, they will produce one or more offsets or pups which will eventually lead to having more plants!
Probably one of the most fulfilling aspects of owning airplants is to watch them produce little pups that will grow and eventually replace the mother plant. In general it is desirable to keep the pup attached to the mother as long as possible as they grow faster this way. Alternatively the pup can be separated when it reaches 1/3rd the size of the mother and placed elsewhere.
Tillandsia Leaf Types
In general there are two types of tillansias by leaves: Xeric and Mesic. Xeric are the airplants with more trichomes (the small hairs that allow airplants to take in air and water from their leaves). They appear whiter or more silvery and require more light and less water. Mesic are the greener leaves, which require less light and more water. Knowing which plants are which allows you to group plants with similar need together in a display piece.
Plant growlights are an alternative to having natural sunlight available. Airplant displays are very suited to using growlights as obviously they are easier to move and don’t have the potential mess that soil based plants have. Make sure to have the growlights as close as possible to the leaves and have at least 14 hours of light a day.