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15 Easy Air Plant Varieties for Beginners (Tillandsia)

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Are you wondering which air plant varieties are best for beginners? I’ve chosen a selection in this post that you can start with in order to get comfortable growing these remarkable plants. These varieties were specifically chosen to help set you up for success.


Tillandsia plants are epiphytes (grow on trees) which have tiny, wiry aerial roots that can cling to any surface and grow. They primarily use their roots to anchor themselves onto a surface.

There are more than 650 Tillandsia species which form the largest genus in the Bromeliaceae (bromeliad) plant family, and are native to tropical and subtropical America.

The unique aspect of these plants is their ability to grow without soil. Their secret lies in the fuzzy protrusions on the leaves called trichomes, which absorb moisture from the air and rain.

Now let’s explore 15 gorgeous, and easy to care for air plant varieties.


1. Tillandsia caput-medusae


Tillandsia caput-medusae or Medusa’s Head gets its name from its resemblance to the
unruly mane of the Greek character Medusa which was composed of snakes.

It is also known as the Octopus plant, as its foliage mimics Octopus tentacles when turned upside down. The leaves are fuzzy with a powdery silver coating due to the density of trichomes on their surface.

It belongs to the Xeric air plants category, which can handle dry conditions with direct sunlight exposure and less watering, making it well adapted to growing indoors.

2. Tillandsia seleriana

Photo Credit: Deutsch: Timm StoltenEnglish: Timm Stolten, CC BY-SA 3.0

Tillandsia seleriana is native to Central America and Mexico. In its natural habitat, the species grows in high altitudes on tall trees, which makes it a sun-loving plant.

The plant is also known as Rhino’s horn for its wide, bulbous base and narrow and wavy leaves that protrude from the center. A powdery layer of trichomes covers the greenish-grey foliage leaving it with an incredibly fuzzy appearance.

T. seleriana produces beautiful pink and purple colored flowers.

3. Tillandsia harrisii

Photo Credit: James Ho, CC BY-SA 2.0

Tillandsia harrisii is a gorgeous, beginner-friendly air plant. The species is native to Guatemala and gets the term “harrisii” in honor of an American plant collector, Bill Harris.

The silvery-grey velvety leaves help the plant stay in good shape even in dry and low humidity

Being a non-fussy Tillandsia variety, T. harissa requires care, which includes filtered sunlight, weekly dunking or misting and good airflow to the roots.

4. Tillandsia filifolia

Photo Credit: Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

At first glance, Tillandsia filifolia resembles a sea urchin with its dark base and thread-like
leaves. This explains why the plant gets the term “filifolia” which comes from the Latin word “filum” meaning thread-like projections.

T. filifolia is native to Mexico and Central America where it grows in high altitudes as an epiphyte, and produces lovely purple-colored flowers.

T.filifolia is an easy-growing air plant species which works best in partial shade conditions.

The plant is a preferred choice for jellyfish planters because of its tentacle-like foliage which adds a touch of whimsy to your indoor space.

5. Tillandsia streptophylla

Photo Credit: Keith Edkins, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Tillandsia streptophylla, aka the Queen of air plants, makes for a perfect accessory to
your living room with its unusually curly appearance.

The term ‘streptophylla’ translates to twisted leaves, which aptly describes its green curling leaves. The plant is also known as the “Shirley Temple” air plant, as the leaves remind us of the bouncy curls of yesteryear’s Hollywood beauty.

T. streptophylla is one of the most beautiful varieties of Tillandsia with its wide base that feature
curly tentacle-like leaves.

This beginner-friendly air plant variety requires less water to thrive. Interestingly, the more
dehydrated the plant gets, the tighter the curls become.

The best way to maintain its lovely ringlets and vibrant green color is to dunk it in water once a week and allow it to completely dry.

6. Tillandsia xerographica

One of my Tillandsia xerographica plants. I have several!

Tillandsia xerographica is a stunning variety of Tillandsia which features mossy gray-green leaves that form lovely curls at the tips.

It is also one of the largest species of air plants that usually grow around 90 cm tall and wide (about 3 feet), earning the suitable title, King of air plants.

T. xerographica is native to South Mexico and Central America where it grows in semi-arid regions in dry and sunny climates.

The species is a popular choice among air plant collectors as it’s easy to mimic its natural
conditions. You can place the plant in areas that receive direct sunlight (not hot afternoon
sun) as it prefers more light than other air plant types.

Watering can be less frequent and preferred ways are dunking it upside down or misting it once a week.

7. Tillandsia flabellata

Photo Credit: Kurt Stüber [1], CC BY-SA 3.0

Tillandsia flabellata is a beautiful variety of air plant which is native to tropical forests of
Mexico and Central America. The species has thick leaves which ranges from deep green to red and produce orange to red blooms.

Although it is an air plant, T. flabellata is often grown in a loose orchid mix or sphagnum moss to maintain its health.

The best part about the air plant is its fast-growing and low-maintenance nature.

Simply choose a spot with indirect sunlight and mist it once in a while to enjoy its beauty.

8. Tillandsia usneoides


Tillandsia usenoides is a unique air plant that looks magical with its silver leaves dangling
down from its host trees.

The plant is native to the tropical and sub-tropical regions of America where humidity levels are relatively high.

T. usneoides has several nicknames like Spanish Moss, Grandfather’s Whiskers, Grey Beard, Old Man’s Beard, Wool Crepe, etc., for its grayish, hairy appearance.

The plant can be easily grown at home by giving it sufficient moisture by frequent misting or dunking in water.

Like virtually all air plants, it is a soil-less variety which can source nutrients and water from the air with the help of the grey trichomes on the leaves.

9. Tillandsia aeranthos

Photo Credit: scott.zona, CC BY 2.0

Tillandsia aeranthos is one of the popular air plant varieties preferred by many growers for
its fuss-free nature and attractive appearance.

The plant features thin upward-growing green leaves covered with a dense layer of trichomes and pointy and sharp ends. T. aeranthos has a native distribution starting from Brazil to North Argentina and Paraguay.

In its natural habitat, the plant is seen growing in groups or colonies, sticking to rocks and tree branches.

The plant produces a cluster of gorgeous pink and purple flowers, offering a perfect contrast
to the bright green foliage.

10. Tillandsia ionantha


Tillandsia ionantha starts off with a bright green color which slowly turns into a vibrant pink shade to attract pollinators.

The ornamental value of this species lies in its deep purple, tubular flowers.

T. ionantha is native to Mexico and Central America and grows in shady conditions.

The easy-growing air plant variety is both epiphytic and lithophytic in nature, meaning, it can
grow on tall trees and even on surfaces of bare rocks.

11. Tillandsia fuchsiii

Photo Credit: Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada, CC BY 2.0

If you want to add a fun and quirky element to your home décor, look no further than Tillandsia fuchsii.

The spiky silvery-green leaves growing out of a small base resemble a porcupine, and is commonly called the pincushion air plant.

T. fuchsii has a native distribution from Mexico to Guatemala where it grows as a xerophytic air plant.

The succulent leaves are covered with a layer of fuzzy hairs to survive even in very dry conditions.

This small plant reaches a maximum height of 3”-5” and makes for a versatile décor element in your home. It is a low-maintenance and low-water plant which does well in partially shaded places.

12. Tillandsia capitata

My Tillandsia capitata that I mounted onto driftwood in my greenhouse

Tillandsia capitata is a pretty air plant variety which features thick and wide leaves with
silver-green to red hues.

The species has a wide native distribution from Mexico to Honduras and Cuba to Hispaniola, where they are seen attached to rocks and stones.

T.capitata naturally grows in dry and desert conditions, which indicates its ability to tolerate
direct sunlight with low moisture levels.

13. Tillandsia butzii

Photo Credit: Daderot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Tillandsia butzii looks like a mysterious deep sea creature with its bulbous base and white
spotted, tentacle-like leaves.

T. butzii is native to Central Mexico and Central America, and when left to grow untamed, the plant spreads like a clump and produces a voluminous, wild look.

T.butzii produces beautiful purple flowers which create a striking contrast with the green foliage.

14. Tillandsia stricta

Photo Credit: Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0

Tillandsia stricta has a native distribution from Eastern Columbia to Trinidad and Northeast Argentina. T. stricta produces silvery green leaves which grow around the base.

The plant rewards you with funnel-shaped, bluish-purple flowers, and although the blooms last only a day, the pinkish bracts will remain intact to add color and character to your space.

15. Tillandsia tectorum

One of my Tillandsia tectorum plants

This stunning air plant variety is native to Peru and is one of the easiest Tillandsia species that you can grow indoors.

In nature, it is a lithophyte (grows on rocks) in dry, sunny and high elevation locations in Peru and Ecuador.

The unique “hairy” appearance of Tillandsia tectorum is due to its very large trichomes. They serve to protect the plant against UV rays in its high altitude, sunny environment.

So be sure to give your T. tectorum the sunniest spot that you can in your home for best results.


Be sure not to miss my complete care guide for Tillandsia, where I talk about light, watering, and everything you need to help your air plants thrive.

And this concludes this post on 15 easy-to-grow varieties of Tillandsia. With a little imagination and minimal investment, you can discover new ways to display these stunning air plants in your garden or interior spaces.

Also don’t miss my bromeliad types post where you can read about other plants in the Bromeliad plant family. If you love Tillandsias, you will probably love many other types of bromeliads as well!

And if you’re loving air plants, don’t miss my post all about air plant flowers as well as how to water air plants.