Having trouble keeping Tillandsia alive or just starting out and want to care for the toughest air plants? Some Tillandsia are very hard to kill relative to other Tillandsia and these plants are perfect for beginners, those in climates difficult for air plants, or those who have killed other species. The plants below are tough and are least likely to die among a collection.
Ideal plant care always depends on many factors such as climate, specific growing location, season, and more. Generally, the amount of water a Tillandsia needs is relative to the light and heat it is receiving.
T. ionantha is a tough little plant with many different forms. In the wild, ionantha are often subjected to severe xeric conditions, so they have naturally evolved to be hard-to-kill. They can take more full sun than many other Tillandsia, and they don't easily dry out. They can grow on minimal water (relative to other Tillandsia), but are still susceptible to rot, if not dried correctly. ionantha receiving insufficient water may shrink or the leaf tips may die back- this is a plant's suggestion to water more frequently. It is wise to occasionally check the health of an ionantha by tugging on innermost leaves- if they pull out, there may be rot or another health issue- leaves should be strong and remain attached. ionantha often grow in groupings of 3-5 plants, and even if one of the plants dies, the others may be able to continue growing.
Its high adaptability, tolerance of sun and drought, and prolific reproduction makes T. ionantha one of the least likely Tillandsia to die.
T. ionantha 'Zebrina'
Tillandsia stricta is a species that grows in highly variable habitats and fittingly has many different forms. In general, stricta is a medium-sized plant with a dense rosette of straight, green leaves and a striking, inflated inflorescence. T. stricta Hard Leaf is one of the easiest plants in the entire Genus to grow. It can grow on minimal water, and gives plenty of warning before dehydrating to death. Brown leaf tips and a wrinkled base indicate a want of more frequent water. The plant can be adapted to survive temperatures in the 90's Fahrenheit (Celcius: 32-35) and possibly higher, depending on water availability. It is one of the very few Tillandsia relatively unbothered by cold, and is even able to stand brief periods of freezing temperatures. It enjoys strong but indirect light and can still be killed by rot due to poor drying or air circulation. Hard Leaf lives up to its name, and the leaves can be easily damaged or broken.
With a legendary cold tolerance and easy-growing nature, T. stricta Hard Leaf is certainly one of the least likely Tillandsia to die.
T. stricta Hard Leaf
(photo credit: www.airplanthub.com)
Tillandsia crocata is a small, mostly saxicolous (rock-dwelling) plant with a clumping habit and strongly fragrant flowers. T. crocata Giant is its giant form. This plant is surprisingly drought-tolerant (more so than regular T. crocata due to the larger size). The dense trichome covering means it doesn't mind some full sun. Although bigger than regular T. crocata, it shares a wonderful resistance to rot simply because it can dry off so quickly. The leaves of T. crocata Giant will respond to the plant's water intake: more water will cause straight leaves, while less will curl them without harming the plant. Leaves will typical curl severely long before the plant is damaged by dehydration. Care should still be taken with full sun and high heat, due to the slender form of this plant.
With an extremely rare balance of rot and drought tolerance, adaptable leaves, and abundant offsets, T. crocata Giant cannot easily be killed.
T. crocata Giant (photo credit: www.airplanthub.com)
T. bergeri is a relatively quick growing caulescent (showing an obvious stem) plant known as the "Mad Pupper" for its habit of growing many pups throughout its entire life. One small T. bergeri can quickly grow into ten. The species is drought tolerant, has a beautiful flower, and can act as a signal plant for other air plants. T. bergeri leaves will severely curl longwise when thirsty, which can act as a reminder to water other air plants, which may be just as dehydrated but do not show it so obviously. T. bergeri can often be revived from near-total desiccation with an overnight soak in water. T. aeranthos is a nearly identical species, except for a slightly different flower and less pups.
With drought tolerance, quick growing speed, pups galore, and a Lazarus effect, T. bergeri has a lower likelihood of dying than many other Tillandsia.
T. bergeri/T. aeranthos (photo credit: www.aiplanthub.com)
T. harrisii enjoys brighter light than most other air plants and can therefore survive in a wider range of habitats. It is one of the toughest air plants in general due to the thick leaves and dense trichomes, but still enjoys regular waterings and good air circulation.
T. harrisii can survive bright light and neglect better than almost any other air plant and will therefore be relatively unlikely to die.
T. harrisi (photo credit: www.airplanthub.com)
This popular species is tough, interesting, and is really only likely to die from rot caused by poor drying. It can stand higher heat, less water, brighter light, and more neglect than many other Tillandsia. Thick, succulent leaves don't easily dry out, while a dense layer of trichomes protects T. caput-medusae from sun. While able to survive neglect, T. caput medusae responds very well to good care with quicker growth, bigger inflorescences, and more pups.
Easy-growing, forgiving, and tolerant of everything but rot, T. caput medusae is like a starter Pokémon: hard to kill, loyal, and by your side for a long time.
T. caput-medusae (photo credit: Elena)
Tillandsia duratii is a species growing naturally in dry areas. Its toughness has resulted in a large population and habitat range, making it one of the most successful Tillandsia on Earth. T. duratii are able to thrive under a wide range of light, water, and temperature conditions, and has one of the longest-lasting and most fragrant flowers in the genus. Tillandsia legend Dr. Mark Dimmitt is reportedly able to grow T. duratii outdoors year-round in Tucson, Arizona. Although able to survive high light and heat, T. duratii in such conditions should receive complimentary amounts of water.
With extreme adaptability and no fear of full sun, T. duratii not only has a striking shape and flower, but it is relatively hard to kill.
T. duratii (photo credit: www.airplanthub.com)
This species is tough simply because it can grow in a wide variety of conditions. T. streptophylla does not easily dry out and its leaves will tightly curl in drier conditions, while plants in more humid environments will grow straighter leaves. The curling action of the leaves makes the water needs of this plant easily identifiable. Although able to survive some direct sun and drought, T. streptophylla is more prone to rot that other Tillandsia due to its bulbous base in which water can become trapped.
With a high tolerance for sun, heat, and drought and a built-in water indication system, T. streptophylla is one of the least likely ait plants to die.
T. paleacea, like all other air plants, has adapted survival skills from the environments in which they grow. This versatile species can be found growing on Peruvian outcroppings, cliffs, and sandy beaches and has adapted to survive such nutrient-deficient conditions. This species can take more sunlight than other air plants and can deal with periods of drought, making it an ideal low-maintenance Tillandsia.
With an ability to survive harsh conditions and a bit of neglect, T. paleacea is not an easy air plant to kill.
T. argentina is a small species growing both as an epiphyte and a saxicole. This species grows in a wide range of conditions and has thus developed a slow metabolism. While not a fast grower, T. argentina enjoys brighter light than other Tillandsia and does not easily dry out. The skin of this species is naturally wrinkly, and this is not related to the hydration level of the plant. It is generally tough and does not mind a bit of neglect.
With slow growth and high adaptability, T. argentina is a fine choice for a hard-to-kill air plant.