How to Grow Tillandsia ionantha

An Ideal Introduction for Novice Air Plant Owners

Tillandsia Ionantha

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Tillandsia ionantha is one of the most popular and eye-catching air plant species, but there are over 500 different types of Tillandsia in total.

Compared to other air plants, ionantha is known for being robust, adaptable and needs minimal maintenance—perfect if you haven't cared for these types of plants before.

They're also very pretty to look at. They start off tiny and have a cluster of green/gray leaves that form in a round shape. As they become more established, the thin and long foliage stretches, the colors deepen, and they take on a more wavy form.

The small but beautiful yellow or white flowers on the ionantha appear at the top of striking purple-toned shoots. During this bloom phase, the leaves on the plant also become more eye-catching, developing pink or reddish hues. It's no surprise that they're also often called 'blushing bride air plants.'

Although it can take several years for the plant to mature, and it usually goes into decline after around five years, mature plants readily grow off-shooting 'pups.'

Like all air plants, Tillandsia ionantha shouldn't be put in a typical potting medium. It's an epiphytic species that has the ability to grow on other plants or, commonly, on tree branches.

Instead, you can position it on things like an ornamental piece of untreated wood, in a glass terrarium, or even tucked into a shell. Some epiphyte lovers even use specialist wireframes to hang the plants from.

Botanical Name Tillandsia ionantha
Common Name Blushing bride air plant, sky plant
Plant Type Perennial, succulent
Mature Size Up to 6 in. tall
Sun Exposure Partial shade
Soil Type N/A
Soil pH N/A
Bloom Time Fall
Flower Color Purple, red, pink
Hardiness Zones 9-11, USA
Native Area Central and South America
Toxicity Non-toxic
hanging tillandsia ionantha

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

tillandsia ionantha growing to maturity

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

tillandsia ionantha

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Plant Care

Tillandsia ionantha might be one of the more hardy air plant species, but they do still have some particular care requirements that need to be met for them to thrive.

They need plenty of sun, regular misting, and good air circulation.

Light

Getting the lighting right is one of the key factors of good air plant care. Indirect light is the ionantha's best friend. If you put them somewhere with strong, full sun throughout the day, they can become overly dry, and the leaves can scorch, especially if humidity levels are low.

They're a great addition in office environments because of their love of fluorescent lighting.

If the lighting isn't bright enough, however, they're unlikely to flower.

Soil

Just as the name suggests, this plant will grow in the air, and its roots should never be placed in a potting medium.

If you're placing your Tillandsia ionantha in a hanging position, you may initially need to use a safe glue or wire to secure it. After around a month, the plant's roots should start to wrap onto the mount, wood, or other plants.

Water

Air plants like Tillandsia ionantha thrive when the conditions are warm and humid. They don't need as much water as many air plants, though, and don't appreciate being soaking wet.

This is why light misting is what is recommended. Usually, this will be around a few times a week, or more if you live in a hot and dry climate.

In dry regions, you can even run your ionantha under the tap for short periods, although they should never be fully submerged. If you do this, they really need to be turned upside down and any excess water should be shaken free. They should be allowed to dry out before repositioning.

Trapped water in the leaves is a big problem for this plant, and over-watering is one the main reason why people end up killing them off.

Temperature and Humidity

Although Tillandsia ionantha is a mesic variety suited to warm, humid, tropical-like environments (ideally between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit), provided you give them regular mistings, they can still do well in dry heat.

Cooler temperatures in the winter are appreciated, and this will help to encourage flowering the next year. Good air circulation is also vital for this plant.

Fertilizer

Some fertilizers are made specifically for air plants, and feeding your Tillandsia ionantha with one anywhere from once a fortnight to once a month could be beneficial during the summer months.

Enthusiasts report good results from adding an organic fertilizer made from fish emulsion to the misting spray.

Tillandsia Ionantha Varieties

Given its popularity, it shouldn't be a surprise that there's a wide selection of ionantha to choose from.

Some of the unique types include:

  • 'Feugo' - Slightly rarer, this form is known for the deep red foliage that develops when the plant gets enough sun. They also grow in densely forming clumps.
  • 'Rubra' - A small variety that, in its soft form, grows in a more spreading, wide form. It also has a hard form that has a more upright shape.
  • 'Maxima' - Ionanthas aren't large air plants, but the Maxima is considerably larger than the average variety and can handle more direct sun, too.

Propagating Tillandsia Ionantha

One of the great things about this plant is that, once mature, it readily sprouts offshoots that are referred to as 'pups.'

Once the pups reach about half the size of the mature plant, they can simply be cut off so that you can continue to enjoy ionantha for years to come.

Common Pests/Disease

Another appealing aspect when it comes to Tillandsia ionantha is that it's virtually disease and pest-free.

It isn't a mineral heavy, like those grown in soil, making it less attractive to insects and mites.

If any pests do bother your ionantha, rinsing the plant and then hanging it to dry is usually enough to dislodge them.