Tillandsia roots have one task, strictly for anchoring to any tree, rock surface, structure or host plant (even one another). The roots take in no nourishment from the host nor do they supply the Tillandsia with any nutrients. Tillandsia roots are used to secure a place for growth and position the plant to receive optimal light and water.
Roots are not an integral part of an air plants life or health and the absence of roots is not a sign of poor health.
Do not plant their roots in soil as it will cause the air plant to rot. For aesthetic purposes roots, may be removed from just below the base of the air plant using scissors.
Tillandsia rely solely on their leaves to absorb rain, draw in moisture and nutrients from the air and allow for photosynthesis to produce food for the plant. Leaf colors and textures vary from few to many, wide to thin, silvery, white, lime green, dark green to almost black. Leaves can be ridged, stiff, brittle, soft, flexible, succulent, smooth and curly. Some have microscopic, less pronounced trichomes (Mesic) while others have fuzzy, white, enlarged highly visible trichomes (Xeric). Leaves surrounding an inflorescence may “blush” or turn bright red, pink, orange, peach or yellow as blooming season arrives. In some Tillandsia (T. Brachycaulos, T. Fuego, T. Victoriana) the majority of the plant turns intense red/pink. The blush usually subsidies back to green after flowering.
When it comes time to flower, from the center of the plant develops the inflorescence, the stem or spike reproductive portion of the tillandsia, from which the flowers emerge from the bract. Later if successfully pollinated a green seed pod will form from the base of the flower. The duration of the blooms varies among plants. Typically, the stem or inflorescence emerges with a colorful bract. Then the flowers bloom from the bract. The flowers expire, then some time after the inflorescence spike dries and browns and expires, as well. At this time if pollination has not occurred or the formation of a seed pod is not desired, the entire spike may be removed from between the leaves with a clean set of scissors.
After flowering, Tillandsia enter the next phase of life: producing seeds, pupping or both. Depending on variety, Tillandsia can form pups at the base of the plant, from the inflorescence or along the stem. After some time of facilitating seed formation and nourishing the process of pup development and growth, the parent plant will wither giving way to those pups to start the cycle again. With good care, the parent plants health does not typically decline until pups are mature enough for survival on their own. Some varieties of Tillandsia will form a clump with passing time of this continued cycle. They can remain as a clump or the pups may be separated individually once they become 1/3 or better of the mature size.