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?