Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Epiphyte

Santa brought me an air plant for Christmas.  Buddha likes to hold it while he meditates.

An air plant, or epiphyte, is a category of plant that hails from the canopy of the rain forest.  They do not require soil.  This particular type, a tillandsia, does naturally grow roots, but they are used only for clinging to trees, not for the absorption of water or nutrients.  It sucks in water through the outer cells of its leaves.

Contrary to what the giver of this gift assumed, tillandsias require plenty of water and care.  They are soaked by rain approximately 2 - 3 hours per day in their natural environment, with time in between each soaking to completely dry out.  They are not like cactuses, nor can one be left floating in a bath of water for more than a few hours at a time, or it will rot.  In other words, the little buggers are incredibly high maintenance.

The lovely lady who gave me this plant didn't realize that it would be a bad idea to leave it on my desk unattended for a week, in a gift bag, over the Christmas holidays.  When I got back the tips of all its leaves had gone brown and crispy, and the plant had retreated into dormancy.  I had to go through several cycles of soaking it and letting it dry to get it back to something resembling good health.

We'll see if I have the patience to tend to this demanding plant every day.  I'll give it a try.  I'm testing to see if running warm tap-water over it for a few minutes each day will do the trick.  That would be preferable to having to prepare a bath for it, soak it, and then remember to take it out to dry after a suitable period of time.  My other plants are much easier to care for.  I water them once a week, on Sunday, and that's the end of it.

My grandmother gave me a couple of her plants recently.  Apparently everyone she knows thinks that plants are the best gift for her, so she has more than she can handle.

This one is very pretty.  The edges of the leaves are pink, if you look carefully:

This one is also from my grandmother:

In the photo below you have to look carefully to find the plant in the foreground with the flat, heart-shaped leaves.  It always blossoms at the winter solstice.  There's one bloom off in the background, peeking out from behind the forest of giant aloe tentacles.  In the foreground you can see two up-and-coming flowers, both still buds on stalks, leaning toward the right.  I'm excited to see the two new blooms coming in.  I had just removed one of the older blossoms, and I wasn't expecting any more to come in and take its place.

Anyone want to place a bet on how long that air plant is going to last?


Warped Mind of Ron said...

Me and plants just don't get along... they die so easily and don't even get me started on salads....

DarcKnyt said...

High maintenance plants are doomed in my realm. I can't remember to always take care of myself, I can't pamper a needy plant. I think it's interesting how easy it is for something that fragile to survive and thrive in its own environment but once removed from it, it becomes a delicate, touch-and-go dance.

Good luck!

Granny Annie said...

The aloe vera is great to pinch off a leaf and apply the juice to a burn or scrape for instant healing. Be careful with the schefflera because it will out grow you. The epiphyte is fascinating and we shall be eager to learn of its progress under your care.

Lynn said...

Oh - I'm not good with indoor plants and have an iffy relationship with outdoors ones. Good luck!

LL Cool Joe said...

If I had any of those plants they'd be dead in a few weeks! Good luck!!

ratherawkward said...

I thought you could just mist an air plant on a regular basis?

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: I believe you have a serious condition known as a "brown thumb". (Ew.)

DarcKnyt: Yes, it's fair to say that thousands of years of evolution did not optimize the tillandsia for the environment of my livingroom.

Granny Annie: Sche-what? *looks it up* Oh, so that's what it's called! Well, it can't be worse than my aloe tentacle-monsters.

Lynn: I have never been responsible for caring for outdoor plants, however if I did have to plant a garden I'd pick plants that needed little if any tending.

Joe: See my reply to Ron, above. ;-)

ratherawkward: I would have thought so, however a number of websites that I referred to contradicted that idea. Although I guess if you mist it until it is completely saturated with water that would be equivalent to soaking it in any other way.

Jenski said...

I had a few of air plants once. I misted them regularly (but not every day), and survived for quite some time. I think I had some regiment of misting with an occasional soak. If it starts turning brown at the base, you know it's rotting from wetness...I would know. :-)

G. B. Miller said...

Most of the plants in my office are eithe of the bamboo type or the crawling vine type.

Especially the crawling vine. :D

DarcsFalcon said...

OH I love houseplants! I used to have them by the dozen, but time and chance have overtaken them all.

I thought - but it's been so long that I'm no longer certain, that the one with the pink edged leaves is in the dracaena family. And the air plant I thought could be heavily misted on a daily basis?

You have quite the indoor jungle starting there, and I'm jealous! Looking good, Spark! :)

Happy New Year, but the way! I hope yours has been wonderful.

Tracy Moore said...

Love the plants! Also really love your Buddha statue. I am getting better with plants now thank goodness. Used to kill all of them.