These tropical "air plants" (epiphytes) are in the Bromeliad family, genus Tillandsia. They are first cousin to Spanish Moss; in their native habitat they live in the treetops, often among ferns and orchids.
Good air circulation and bright filtered light are essential to their environment. Their food comes from dead leaves, bark, and insect droppings that fall into the rainwater stored in the center "cup" of the plant. As it all decays, the nutrients are absorbed by the leaves; the roots are used only for clinging to the bark
Air plants may be wired or stapled to a piece of wood, or glued to any surface using Liquid Nails or a silicone-based glue. They also grow well in coral or lava-rock, or can be potted in any container using bark, moss or twigs. They should be firmly attached or wedged in order to take root, and cannot be sitting in constant moisture as this will rot the plant.
When grown indoors, air plants need a drenching mist twice a week or a good soaking once a week. Completely sub-merge the plant for a while - even over-night is OK. If they're kept in a container with no drain-holes, shake excess water off of the plants, or turn container upside down to get rid of any standing water so the plant won't rot. Never use chlorinated water, or water that goes through a softener. Rain-water is the best - they love to be outsideuse city water; let it stand overnight so the chlorine evaporates before using it.
Air plants need bright filtered light, and should be shaded from the hot summer sun. These are tropical plants; they will thrive with no attention hanging under a tree for the summer, but must be moved indoors before the first frost. While inside with either heat or air-conditioning on, you may need to water them more often. Be sure to keep them out of the direct draft from the vents. During the winter, take your plants outside on warm days (55 F); protect them from cold winds, but let them get some fresh air. Full sun in the winter won't hurt them.
To keep your Bromeliads healthy, fertilize once a month (half-strength), or use a small amount of fertilizer every time you water. Use any water-soluble plant food such as Jack's Classic or Miracle-Gro - mix half-strength with water and spray-mist all over the plant, or use it in the soaking water. If you need an insecticide or fungicide, wet table powder is the best, and use at half-strength.
Bromeliads bloom when full-grown, and then produce young plants ("pups") from among the leaves. Separate the pups when half the size of the mother plant; pot in sphagnum moss until roots start growing, then mount them if you like. The mother plant will slowly die, but can produce up to a dozen pups.
Bromeliads are most interesting and versatile plants. In deciding on arrangements, you are limitedonly by your imagination! during a summer rain! Otherwise you can use well-water or distilled water... if you must...
Common varieties of Air Plants Nick's carries include; Cacticola Spiral, Tectorum Ecuador, Bulbosa Guatemala, Xerographica Mini, Straminea Tillandsia, Hondurensis Tillandsia, Baileyi, Concolor x Capitata, Tricolor Meloncrator.