Air plants (tillandsia) are epiphytic, which means that in the wild, they grow on other living things such as trees or shrubs, and some have even been found growing on cacti. Air plants can also be lithophytic which means they grow on rocks. They have also been found growing on rooftops and telephone wires. They do not require soil to live which makes displaying them half the fun of growing them! One popular way to display them is to mount them. Not only does it look rustic and unique, but it will also help mimic their growing environments and give their roots something to grab hold of.
Before getting started
Make sure that your air plants are completely dry, especially if they’ve been recently watered.
If you’re choosing to mount more than one plant onto one display, try and choose plants that are the same types (xeric vs. mesic vs. semi-mesic). Since the type of species determines how much sun and water they require, mounting similar species will make caring for them so much easier. For more information or a refresher on types of air plants and their specific care needs, visit our blog “How to Care for Air Plants”.
If your air plants have already developed roots, you can trim them off with sterile scissors. This will not hurt the plant and will make affixing them much easier. Once mounted they will naturally grow back and latch onto the mounting material!
Types of mounting material
There are many types of materials that air plants can be mounted to, but it is important that you use something that will not retain moisture for long. Cork bark, cholla wood, driftwood, grapevine, and lava rock are all great options. Since all of these materials is natural materials, every piece is going to be different and thus may need to be treated with slight differences. A little troubleshooting may be involved but don’t worry, it’ll be fun!
Method 1: Mounting air plants using glue
This is the easiest method for mounting air plants. Make sure that you are using glue that is both waterproof and safe for plants. We recommend E6000 glue. Some people like to use hot glue, and while it's probably fine temporarily, it certainly is not waterproof and may deteriorate before the air plant has a chance to latch onto the mount with its own roots.
Step 1: Position air plants
Play around with your air plants and arrange them on your choice of mounting material until you’ve found a presentation that you like best.
Step 2: Apply glue
Remembering where you want your air plants affixed, apply a bit of glue to the area and then gently place the air plant on top of the glue.
Step 3: Secure and let dry
Securing the air plant around the mount with string or a rubber band will help hold it in position as the glue dries. Place the mount someplace with good air circulation to dry overnight.
Step 4: Add hanger (if needed)
If you wish to hang your mounted air plant displays, you can affix a hanger to the top of the mount. Twisting wire around the top and creating the loop is sufficient. However, depending on your choice of mount, you may need to drill a hole in order to secure a hanger.
Mounting air plants using fishing line or wire
If the right glue is not accessible to you, or if you just prefer not to use glue, then fishing wire is a great alternative. Many folks like to use metal wire because it is easier to use than fishing line, but if you do choose to use metal wire, we recommend using a thin aluminium wire. Other metals (especially copper!) are harmful to air plants.
Step 1: Position air plants
Play around with your air plants and arrange them on your choice of mounting material until you’ve found a presentation that you like best. Depending on your choice of material, you may want to drill some holes to make threading fishing line or wire through to secure the air plants to the mount easier.
Step two: Affix air plants
Carefully tie a knot or wrap fishing line/wire around the base of the plant. Make sure it's wrapped securely but not too tight that it will damage the plant. Wrap the line/wire several times around the mounting material before tying a secure knot and trimming excess line/wire. Ideally, over time the air plants will grow roots that will anchor them to the wood mount. Once the plants have secured themselves, you can cut and remove the fishing line or metal wire for a cleaner and more natural appearance.
Step 3: Add hanger (if needed)
Again, If you wish to hang your mounted air plant displays, you can affix a hanger to the top of the mount. Twisting wire around the top and creating the loop is sufficient. Remember that depending on your choice of mount, you may need to drill a hole in order to secure a hanger.
How to water your mounted air plants
Air plants are sensitive to hard tap water. Using straight tap water can be detrimental to your plant’s health over time because municipal water often contains chemicals such as chlorine or fluoride. The best water to use is collected rain or pond water. The second best is bottled spring water. If those options are not available to you, set aside tap water overnight to dechlorinate before using it to water your plants.
Fill a large bowl or bucket with water and then add in your mounted air plants making sure that the air plants are facing down. Soaking times vary depending on species – refer back to our blog “How to Care for Air Plants” if needed.
When finished soaking, remove your mounted air plants. Gently shake off excess water, and then lay the mounts on their side in a spot with good airflow. This is important because it will help drain any excess water that is sitting inside the base of the air plants, preventing rot.
Now that you have the knowledge of how to mount and how to care for mounted air plants, we hope you will have the confidence to create your very own living art piece. Happy growing!
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