How to Take Care of Tillandsia Xerographica – 9 Easy Pointers!

This is a plant like no other, the eye-catching slender leaves that curve and tousle are like something you would see in a hair stylist advert. The Tillandsia xerographica is the queen of air plants (plants that don’t require soil to grow), and it’s no wonder why!

The first time I set eyes on this air plant, I was mesmerized by its striking long slender curly leaves and knew I had to have one. I purchased my Tillandsia xerographica two years ago and have kept it in a hanging basket so I could show off its unique foliage. Surprisingly this intricate-looking plant is one of the easiest air plants to care for, and if you are lucky enough, you might even witness its blooms.

Let’s dive into what’s involved when owning a Tillandsia xerographica, from lighting, humidity, watering, and temperatures. We will show how you can be the best air plant parent ever!

Tillandsia Xerographica

Table of Contents

How Much Light is Required?

As far as air plants go, the Tillandsia xerographica is a natural beauty but can be a bit fussy when it comes to light. This air plant likes to live it up in the bright light- but not too bright.

If you’re thinking of bringing home a Tillandsia xerographica, make sure you find a spot that has 6 hours of bright indirect sunlight daily. They don’t like direct sunlight, that’s for sure. Try finding a spot that has some shade but is still a good amount of light.

person holding a jumbo tillandsia

I have my Tillandsia xerographica hanging opposite a west-facing window in the corner of my living room. It gets enough light and is happy as a clam!

If you notice the leaves of the air plant start turning brown or yellow, it may indicate the plant is receiving too much bright light and needs to be moved to a shadier spot.

Do They Need Water?

Air plants are a little different when it comes to watering because they absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. A good practice is to soak the air plant in water for 20-30 minutes every fortnight. After soaking, gently shake off any excess water and place the air plant upside down to allow it to dry out completely before putting it back in its container.

Because it is not a big drinker, the type of water used is essential. If you live in an area with hard water containing many extra compounds, try using filtered or bottled water. These compounds can build up around the roots and affect how the air plants breathe.

When watering, you are using lukewarm water, and feel free to give your air plant a mist with a spray bottle from time to time.

many tillandsia's on a tree outside

Can I Use Soil?

The Tillandsia xerographica is a free spirit when it comes to soil requirements. They don’t like to be deep-rooted in soil. Instead, they want to bare all and absorb the moisture and nutrients available from the air.

One significant aspect of these air plants is that they like to be mounted on a surface or placed in a container with a well-draining medium. You can get creative with displaying it- you can mount it on some driftwood or a decorative stone or even place it in a glass container with some rocks.

When it comes to the medium, you’ll want to use something that’s light and airy, like sphagnum moss, coconut coir, or perlite. It’s like giving the air plant a breath of fresh air, allowing it to thrive without weighing it down with heavy soil! 

I used sphagnum moss in my hanging planter mainly to anchor the roots in place and stop them from falling out.  

What Temperatures Are Necessary?

hanging basket with on blue and green background tillandsia xerographica

Another critical factor in keeping air plants in perfect condition is their ideal temperature range. This air plant likes to keep things cool and breezy, so you want to keep it in a room where the temperature stays between 50-90 F (10-32C). It’s a wide range for a houseplant, so you have a little wiggle room to work with.

Like us, the Tillandsia xerographica air plant doesn’t like being too hot under the collar. Ensure it’s not sitting in direct sunlight or near a heat source like a radiator or air vent. On the flip side, this air plant doesn’t like to be too cold either.

If the temperature drops below 50F (10C), it can start to suffer. Make sure you keep the plant in a warm spot during the colder months.

Does It Need High Humidity?

women holding tillandsia xerographica on plate

Humidity and temperature go hand in hand when being a doting air plant parent. The air plant likes to keep things cozy and thrives in 50-70% humidity levels. This is an easy range to achieve and wouldn’t turn your home into a sauna either!

To keep the humidity- especially in dry conditions, you can mist the air plant with a spray bottle every few days. Think of it as giving it a little spa treatment to keep it moisturized and refreshed. You can also place a humidifier near the air plant to keep the air around it nice and humid. Humidifiers are inexpensive to run and offer us some fantastic health benefits too.

As I experience dry conditions each winter, I must step up my game a bit to keep my air plants in perfect condition. I invested in a humidifier for the majority of my air plants, but in the other rooms, I use some different methods. I found placing a small bowl of water near the plants helps to keep the moisture around them.

Also, you can position all the air plants in groups with other air plants to create a mini jungle environment. This is my favorite method to raise humidity as it’s what naturally occurs in its natural habitat.

If you don’t have a collection of air plants, you can always place your air plants in a naturally steamy room like the bathroom, laundry, or kitchen. Just make sure it gets adequate lighting in there too.

Should I Fertilize the Tillandsia Xerographica?

tillandsia xerographica on a beige wall

When you think air plants have no soil, it can spark questions about their fertilizer requirements or application. This plant does need a little nourishment from fertilizer now and then to keep it growing strong.

When it comes to the type of fertilizer, it’s best to use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer with a ratio of 20-20-20 NPK (nitrogen, potassium, phosphate). This will give the air plant the right mix of macronutrients it needs to thrive. It’s like us having a well-balanced diet but only easier!

Try not to go overboard with the fertilizer- too much of a good thing can be bad, as we know. Too much fertilizer will cause the roots of the air plant to burn, and correcting it later is a challenge. For the Tillandsia xerographica, you’ll only need to fertilize it once a month during the growing season (spring and summer).

To apply the fertilizer, firstly you can mix it with water according to the instructions on the package. Choose a time when the air plant needs its water bath anyways, and then you can add it to the bath and kill two birds with one stone.

How Do You Propagate the Tillandsia Xerographica?

hand holding tillandsia xerographica against brown wall

Ever wondered how you can make more of these curly green babies? Good news for you the air plants are easy to propagate. Like many air plants, it produces pups (the name of the baby air plants) you can break off or wait for it to flower and collect its seeds.

Here is a rundown on the propagation methods of the Tillandsia xerographica:

Pup Division

This method involves carefully separating the baby air plants (pups) from the parent air plant and planting them into their own pots. Like splitting up a family into separate households so everyone can have their space to grow!

To get started:

  • Gently remove the parent air plant from its pot, basket, or wherever it is planted. 
  • Gently shake the air plant and untangle any leaves that may be caught up. 
  • Next, gently separate the pups from the mother air plant by pulling them away at the base or using a clean, sharp knife.
  • If the pups are mature (1/3 of the size of the mother plant), then they should come off easily. If not, then you can cut them off.

Once you have separated your pups, you can plant them into their own pots. Keep them in the same location as the parent air plant and continue with the same care until the pups mature and can be relocated.

Seed Germination

Another way to propagate the Tillandsia xerographica is through seed. This is a little bit more complicated, and the air plant doesn’t produce seed very often. Nonetheless, it’s a fun experiment to try, and you never know what you will get! Although these air plants are known for their beautiful vibrant flowers, they only bloom once a year, so it’s a very special occasion. After flowering, the plant will produce seeds you can collect and plant later on.

Plant your seeds by finely spreading them over a well-drained soil mix. Keep them moist until they sprout. Ensure you don’t pile too much soil on top of them and keep them in a bright indirect light location while they start to shoot. You must be very patient with air plants, which can take several weeks to several months- up to a year. While it can be a beautiful reward, in the end, it takes too much patience for me, so I stick to the pup division method.

Does It Attract Pests?

tillandsia xerographica on white background

Like many other air plants, the Tillandsia xerographica can be susceptible to several pests. Here are some of the most common ones you may encounter:

Spider Mites

Spider mites can be a common problem for the Tillandsia xerographica. They feed on the plant’s sap of air plants and cause damage to the leaves, causing them to turn yellow or brown. You will notice an infestation by the fine webbing on the plant. To make an organic pesticide, you can mix one teaspoon of neem oil with four drops of dishwashing detergent and a liter of water. Use a spray bottle and spray the foliage once a week, and the little critters will disappear.


These tiny white fuzzy-looking pests are also common on air plants. They feed on the plant’s sap too, and can cause stunted growth and yellowing leaves. You may notice white powdery substances on the plant and see them wandering around the air plants in clusters. To combat a mealybug infestation, you can use a neem oil spray or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove them individually.

Scale Insects

These insects can be challenging to spot as they tend to blend in with the plant. They wound the stems and feed on the air plant’s sap causing yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and even death if left untreated. The best way to fight off scale insects on air plants is to pick them off by hand or use a neem oil spray once a week.

tillandsia xerographica outside side view


These problematic tiny, slender insects can also feed on the air plants. They can distort the growth and cause discoloration. They are so small to detect at first glance, but they have wings, and you might notice them flying around your home. An early indication of thrip infestation on air plants is small yellow or brown spots on your plant. When detected early, you can eradicate the pest and save your plant from any extreme damage. Use neem oil insecticidal spray; it works wonders on thrips as they don’t like the smelly, sticky layer on the leaves.

Regularly inspect your air plants to keep them free from any potential pests. Prevention is always best, so ensure you are not overwatering and keep your humidity levels in check. High humidity can often invite unwanted guests to your home, so if you see some, it can be a sign the humidity is too high.

Is the Tillandsia Xerographica Toxic?

Tillandsia xerographica is generally not toxic to humans or pets. However, exercising caution when handling any plant is always a good idea. Some people have allergic reactions or sensitivities. While it’s not toxic, you must note that it is not an edible plant and should not be ingested. Ingestion of the Tillandsia xerographica can cause digestive upset or irritation.

Keep your air plants away from any pets or small children in your home. If you notice any signs of illness or discomfort in your pet after they have eaten or come into contact with the plant, be sure to call your vet immediately.

tillandsia growing on a tree outside

About Tillandsia Xerographica

The Tillandsia xerographica has long silvery gray leaves that curl inwards, giving it a rosette-like appearance. The foliage is thick and fleshy, which allows them to store water and nutrients for extended periods. This striking feature makes it an excellent plant for those who forget to water.

When it comes to blooming, the Xerographica produces a flower that emerges from a thick green stem from the center of the tight rosette. Leaf bracts are a rosy red color and encase the bloom. The tubular flowers consist of floral bracts that are 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) long and grow on a spike that will reach up to 12 inches (30cm) tall and last a few weeks. Not only is this striking pinkish-purple bloom great to look at, but it also has a pleasant fragrance which is even more reason to own one!

Native to the dry forests of Southern Mexico, this epiphytic air plant can thrive in diverse environments as soil is not needed for them to thrive. For this reason, this stunning plant has stolen the hearts of air plant enthusiasts worldwide. The Tillandsia xerographica is part of the Bromeliaceae family, which also hosts 3000 species of plants. One of them is the pineapple. Now you can see the resemblance!

Fun Fact – Even though this plant originates from southern Mexico, the name Xerographic comes from the Greek words meaning writing (graphic) and Zeros, meaning dry. So, the translation of this mouthful of a name is dry painting or dry writing.

FAQ Tillandsia Xerographica

How do you care for a tillandsia xerographica?

To care for the Tillandsia xerographica, you must provide the proper environmental conditions. Water once a week by misting or bathing the roots in filtered lukewarm water. Keep it in temperatures of 50-90F (10-32C) and humidity of 50- 70%. Fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer formulated for air plants. Make sure it gets 6 hours of bright indirect light daily.

How long do tillandsia xerographica live?

The Tillandsia xerographica is like other air plants that have slow-growing habits. It can live up to 20 years, making it one of the most significant and dramatic air plants.

Can xerographica grow in my house?

The xerographica can be grown indoors or outdoors if in warm climates. If grown indoors, the temperature needs to be 50-90F (10-32C) with a humidity of 50-70%.

Why is my xerographica dying?

A common cause of death for the xerographica is dehydration. Leaves curling with dry tips are a sure sign your Tillandsia is dehydrated. Contrary to that, overwatering can cause death in these air plants too. Overwatering will be shown with browning leaves that eventually rot and fall off. Stick to a regular watering routine to keep your air plant happy and healthy.

What is the lifespan of tillandsia?

The average life span of a Tillandsia is 2-5 years, depending on the cultivar’s environmental conditions and how it is propagated.

Get Creative With Tillandsia Xerographica

All in all, I’d say growing Tillandsia xerographica is a breeze. For starters, this air plant is a real survivor. It thrives in various environments, making it a perfect choice for those who aren’t exactly green thumbed!

One thing that sets the queen of air plants apart is its unique appearance giving the owner many options to get creative when planting. You can grow them in hanging baskets, quirky pots inside shells, or even mount them on an old picture frame- the possibilities are endless! The long spindly leaves and delicate tendrils stand out from the crowd and make it a real head-turner.

This is the ultimate low-maintenance houseplant for someone who is looking for a hardy air plant species to add to their collection.

Ready to Take the Plunge and Become an Air Plant Expert?

Let us know your thoughts and feedback – here. We love to talk plants! 

Suppose you’re ready to become an air plant parent, head to our care pages, where we have all the information on keeping your plants healthy. 

We have stocked our houseplant hub with all the advice to get you started. Spruce up your home with some air plants and make your friends green with envy!

Photo of author
Alex Tinsman
An avid plant and flower lover! Ever since he was little, plants, flowers, and shrubbery of all kinds filled his life. Alex credits this fascination with nature's beauty to his mother and grandmother who were - and still are - dedicated gardeners. It's now Alex's mission to pass that same love for plants onto others and show them it's as easy as pie to bring nature inside.

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