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Tillandsia Xerographica Growing Secrets

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Tillandsia xerographica is often considered the King of Air Plants! This is due to its grand size when compared to most other Tillandsias. On top being a beautiful air plant, it is exceedingly easy to grow and can tolerate a lot more neglect than many Tillandsias. Keep reading to learn all about this amazing air plant and how to care for it!

Tillandsia Xerographica in Nature

It helps to know where plants grow in nature in order to give us a clue about how to grow them in our homes.

Tillandsia Xerographica is native to southern Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. They grow in semi-arid regions and in very dry and sunny conditions.

It is a very drought tolerant plant. In fact the species name, xerographica, says it all. The words “xeros” in Greek means dry.

Most of the moisture that they get is from morning dew in nature.

Tillandsias grow as epiphytes (attached to trees) or lithophytes (attached to rocks or stones) in nature.

How Do You Care For Tillandsia Xerographica?


I have my Tillandsia xerographica growing right in front of a large wall of Eastern windows. It gets morning sun and is very happy in this location.

This particular air plant does like some direct sun so don’t be shy about placing it in some direct sun inside your home.


Compared to many of the thinner leaved tropical air plant cousins, the thick leaved Tillandsia xerographica needs to be watered much less frequently.

For a while I was watering my plant about every other week. Then I started to let it go a little longer and it was still fine.

My preferred way of watering my xerographica air plant is to use the soaking method. I simply turn my plant upside down and place it in a deep bowl of water so it can be completely submerged.

I would say that I water my xerographica this way about once or twice a month. This is the procedure I follow:

  • Place the plant upside down in a deep bowl.
  • Fill the bowl with tepid (never cold!) water.
  • Let it soak for 30 minutes to an hour or so.
  • Take the plant out and shake it lightly several times while holding it upside down. You want to get all excess water out of any crevices to avoid rotting.
  • Then I place the plant upside down onto a kitchen towel until it is dry.
tillandsia xerographica

Finally I place it back in its normal growing location.

The fun part about growing Tillandsia xerographica is that you can “customize” how it looks! Depending on how dry you let it get, the leaves will be straighter or curlier.

If you let your plant dry out more, the leaves will be curly. If the plant is fully hydrated, they will be straighter.

Check out this very interesting and short YouTube video below where a Tillandsia grower illustrates this fact. You can visually see exactly what I’m talking about and then decide for yourself which one you prefer!

Depending on the subspecies, the size of this plant can vary. Take a look at this larger variety that I spotted at a nursery:

tillandsia xerographica

One word of caution though for watering air plants!

According to Tillandsia grower Airplant Man, never use distilled water to water your Tillandsias. Distilled water will remove nutrients by osmosis and kill your air plants.

Rainwater is of course preferred for any plant, but tap water or filtered water will work fine. I personally use plain tap water when I water my Tillandsia xerographica and all my other plants.


I do have a special fertilizer that I like to use for my air plants. You’ll have to check out my general Tillandsia care blog post where I detail this information!

It is not absolutely necessary to fertilize your air plants, but they will be healthier, bigger, have better flowering, and produce more pups if you do.

tillandsia xerographica

Why is My Air Plant Dying?

There are various reasons why your air plant might be dying and many important things to remember so that you can avoid this.

My Air Plant is Rotting

One way to kill your Tillandsia xerographica, or any air plant for that matter, is to leave water sitting between the leaves for extended periods of time. In order to avoid this, you can do the following:

  • Give your Tillandsia a few good shakes after you soak it. Turn it upside down and shake it!
  • Allow your Tillandsia to dry upside down after you shake it.

I’ve never lost an air plant due to rotting before and it is because I follow these methods.

You might wonder why air plants don’t rot in nature. This is simply because they have much better air circulation outdoors and are able to dry out on their own. Indoors, we need to make some adjustments to make up for lack of air circulation.

My Air Plant is Drying Out

Is your air plant drying out too much and you can’t seem to keep it hydrated?

If you find this is the case, start soaking your Tillandsia like I described above in the watering section. You will not rot your Tillandsia out as long as you follow the procedure of shaking excess water and letting it dry upside down.

That’s all folks! Remember to check out my general Tillandsia care blog post for additional care information.

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:


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Saturday 30th of January 2021

I just received 2 large xerographica that I ordered 2 weeks ago and when they were getting their 10min bath yesterday, when I went to pick up one the center fell out of it? I’ve never seen such and definitely not finding much on here that could tell me what caused this. It’s the 2nd bath since I’ve had it. I use bottled spring water mixed with my saved rain water. It looks healthy as ever is why it’s so puzzling. I emailed the company late yesterday so if I hear anything from them it’ll be next week but in meantime do you know what caused this? Is it done? Dead? Sick? It has dark green leaves, no brown anywhere and baby shoots were coming out of the center. I stuck it all back in but that’s probably not the right thing to do? Dunno I’m stumped. I appreciate your time and help.


Monday 1st of February 2021

Hi Amanda, did it spend time in cold weather during shipping at all? When you water, do you shake it out to dislodge any water so that it doesn't rot? What kind of light do you have them in?

Raederle Phoenix

Wednesday 23rd of December 2020

I bought a large box of air plants including three xerographica about a month ago. I read that air plants like rainwater, so I've been using rainwater from our rainwater collection system for my plants by filling my bathtub every 9 to 10 days and dunking them. This morning is my third time giving them all a dunk, and I noticed one of my xerographica has reddish/brownish areas on the center of leaves. The other two xerographica seem healthy, and they've all been watered and dried together.

One possibility is that I picked up my air plant while I had oil on my hands. Could this harm the plant? (I regularly moisturize my hands with almond or jojoba oil.) I suspected oil as a possibility because when I dunked it, it had little spots that seemed like oil spots which I was able to rub away in the water. The only thing is that these spots weren't possibly created by my touching it. It looked more like it had been spritzed with oil, which isn't something that seems possible in the location I've been keeping it (fairly high up in a corner of a room).

The other possibility would be light. I have most of my plants on glass shelves *above* my windows. This means they get virtually no direct light at all, but indirect light all day long. I'm unsure how it compares to being 4 feet from a window at a lower location. They're about 1 foot from the window, but above is very different than below (because of the angle of the sunrays).

The one xerographica that shows some browning has been located on a lower shelf further away from my windows, about three feet from the window, but still near the top of the window height. It's been very cloudy, so I doubt it received direct sunlight during this time.

Interestingly, my one other air plant that is looking ill was in a nearby location. That's my Spanish Moss. In the case with the moss it seems that the part of the plant that was on the underside is unhealthy and I suspect it wasn't dry enough when I put it on the shelf. Either that, or the bottom side just hasn't been getting enough light.

The last factor that maybe could be affecting my unhappy xerographica is my humidifier. It runs on a timer for only 15 minutes at a time, hours apart. I have it on the glass shelf above my western window and many air plants are near it. I figured they'd like that since it doesn't get them wet really, but it does make the air moist. All the plants around the humidifier look as healthy as when they arrived, so I would think it's a problem, except that this xerographica is the xerographica closest to the humidifiers line of mist (many of the air plants are much closer than any of the xerographicas).

After writing this all out I thought I might have a clearer idea what's the matter. But I don't. :(



Tuesday 29th of December 2020

Hi Raederle! Tillandsia xerographica come from drier climates so they actually don't need high humidity. You had some interesting observations that helped me give you some recommendations. If you are regularly handling your airplants, the spotting could very well be from your hand creams. Perhaps try and moisturize your hands after you handle the plants. As far as light, I would move them so that they are actually in front of the window and not above it. Xerographica actually benefit from some direct sun and need more light than many other Tillandsias. I hope this helps!

Rhonda Anderson

Friday 1st of May 2020

how to know when it is through flowering.


Monday 4th of May 2020

You'll just see the flowers dry up. Is this what you were asking?


Friday 6th of March 2020

Can I cut the long flower stem when it's done flowering


Saturday 7th of March 2020

Yes absolutely! Your original plant will start to slowly die, but should produce pups soon and you will have another generation! :-)