MilkWeed: Tilly Tribute

Prior to 1974, the US had never seen the likes of a Tillandsia air plant. These fascinating sea-like creatures are all the rage these days and as I design another tilly wedding this week (insert squeals of delight here), I am convinced I will never tire of their magic. Brought here from South America by Paul Isley of Rainforest Flora in a series of rather daunting and dangerous efforts , he and his team supply plant nerds the world over with over 10,000 tillies a week. These soil-less epiphytes take any where from 6 to 20 years to mature from seed and with all the rare hybrids and cultivars, they have become a plant collector’s dream. At once trippy and elegant, tillies can be used as living art with relatively low-maintenance, though do read up on your particular variety as they range in their watering and natural light needs (desert-dwellers beware, Floridians & Pac-North Westerners rejoice).  Here are some of my favorite ways to see tillies used.

These hanging air plant pods by Michael McDowell were designed to drain plants after hydrating; preventing them from sitting in water, which they hate. Simultaneously prehistoric and futuristic, tillies can also be strung en masse on fishing line to create room screens and living chandeliers, hey hey!

tend, air plants, orbs
Tilly orb design by Tend. Photo: Scott Caligure

Tilly orb design by Tend. Photo: Scott Caligure

Terrariums are a great way to optimize moisture-rich environments for air plants but be sure to remove them when watering so H2O doesn’t pool up and rot the poor lil’ guys.

Photos: Flora Grubb

This cool lobby installation at Bardessonno Hotel is by Flora Grubb (above) and is on a timed misting system. Misting is acceptable if you mist with enough water to essentially rinse the entire plant very well. Otherwise salts from our water build up and burn the leaves over time (filtered water is best). Ideally, air plants live in bright shade or dappled sunlight outside where they only need to be hosed down every couple of weeks and soaked well once a month. Most air plants kept indoors should be rinsed under the faucet twice a week and soaked for 4 to 6 hours, once a month. Feed with Ephipytes Delight for ultimate happiness.

Mirror Mirror by Kara Bartelt. Photo via toHOLD

Live Lamp by Kara Bartelt. Photo via toHOLD

Fun furniture designs…not sure how easy to soak but love the concepts. And hey, for all they bring to us, plants are worth the effort right?

Cube Aeriums by Susie Nadler of Flora Grubb Gardens

I find it’s best to remove the plants when time to mist or soak (with the grain of the growth, like the way one pets a cat nicely) so that the glass stays clean and again, water doesn’t pool. Water needs are reduced (but not eliminated!) with these semi-enclosed habitats.

Tilly bridal bouquet by Tend. Photo: Scott Caligure

Tilly bridal bouquet by Tend. Photo: Scott Caligure

Design by Susie Nadler for Flora Grubb. Photo: Noa Azoulay-Sclater of Feather Love Photography

Photos: Noa Azoulay-Sclater of Feather Love Photography

Two words my friends: Sustainable. Weddings. How much more romantic can you get with these other-worldly greens?

Other Tillandsia adventures? Do share! And be sure to stay tuned for the world’s most sublime succulent next month!