Tillandsia bulbosa care & info! | Bulbosa air plant

What is green, has funky tentacle-like leaves and doesn’t need any soil? Well, Tillandsia bulbosa of course!

Air plants like the bulbosa are all the rage at the moment and their popularity isn’t showing any signs of decreasing. This particular variety is easy to grow and will brighten up any home with its almost alien-like looks.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about Tillandsia bulbosa care and growing this air plant in your own home!

Name(s) (common, scientific) Bulbosa air plant, bulbous air plant, Tillandsia bulbosa
Difficulty level Medium
Recommended lighting Bright indirect
Water Spray & soak regularly
Soil type None

Tillandsia bulbosa care

To figure out what Tillandsia bulbosa needs to thrive, it’s a good idea to look at the way it naturally grows. In the wild, this air plant can be found throughout the Caribbean Basin, Central America and some parts of South America. These areas are warm and relatively humid.

So how do they grow without any soil? Tillandsias are Bromeliad epiphytes, which means they use their tiny roots to attach themselves to any suitable surface (in a non-parasitic way).

Tillandsia bulbosa is often found growing on trees, where it gets plenty of light but direct sun is usually blocked out.

Tillandsia bulbosa air plant

Tillandsia bulbosa light, location & temperature

Light

Bulbosa air plants like quite a bit of light, although direct sun is probably a little too intense.

Filtered or indirect light is ideal, which means a location near a window should work best. You can also grow these air plants under articificial light.

Location

When choosing a location for your Tillandsia bulbosa, keep in mind this air plant is naturally found in relatively humid areas.

Your bulbosa will probably appreciate not being placed in a very dry area of your home; your kitchen or bathroom might work well!

Temperature

Because Tillandsia bulbosa is a tropical plant, it won’t appreciate cold.

Try not to let the temperature drop below around 12 °C/53.5 °F, even in winter. Something around or even above room temperature is much better – just don’t let your bulbosa get scorched by the sun.

Tillandsia bulbosa container

Although they are often sold in sealed terrarium-like containers and pretty tall vases, these are actually not the ideal environment for a bulbosa air plant.

Why? All air plants actually need plenty of fresh air and do best out in the open. Cute as it may look, try to avoid anything that doesn’t allow the air to circulate properly.

So what does work well as a Tillandsia bulbosa container? You can be as (un)creative as you like! Create a nice wire structure for your bulbosa to perch upon, attach the air plant to a piece of decorative rock or driftwood or just plop the plant on your windowsill.

There are also loads of air plant holders available online from all kinds of sellers.

If you want to grow your air plants in a terrarium, it has to have multiple openings.

Watering Tillandsia bulbosa

If you’ve never grown Tillandsias before, you might be wondering how you are supposed to water a plant that doesn’t grow in soil.

It’s easy, really. Tillandsia bulbosa doesn’t have many water-attracting hairs (trichomes) on its leaves, so it likes a little more water than many other air plants. Just spray your bulbosa a few times a week to keep it happy and healthy. Increase mistings during the summer months when the plant is actively growing and getting plenty of light.

You can also give this air plant the occasional soak. Do make sure no water is left in its bulbous base after soaking (give it a good shake!) or you might eventually end up dealing with rot.

Tip: Want to learn more about keeping your air plants hydrated? Have a look at the full guide to watering air plants.

Propagating Tillandsia bulbosa

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to propagate an air plant like Tillandsia bulbosa using the good old stem cutting method that works well for many other houseplants. Luckily, though, it’s not impossible to multiply your bulbosa for free.

Tillandsia bulbosa does occasionally flower in the home and you can actually grow these guys from seed. You’d have to pollinate the flower and wait for the seeds to form. Air plant seeds look a little like dandelion fluff, little parachutes ready to be taken away by wind or rain.

Once you’ve collected your air plant seeds, you can soak them for a week or two in water. After this, lay them out on a moist surface, like a layer of spaghnum moss. Keep the seedlings lightly moist (though never wet) and be patient, as baby air plants are extremely tiny and not quick growers by any means.

If that all sounds like a lot of work for a few air plants, you’re right. Growing Tillandsia bulbosa from seed is definitely a project for the more serious air plant enthusiast. If you’d like to propagate your Tillandsia bulbosa more easily, you can take advantage of the fact that these are clumping plants. Any pups that grow on the mother plant can be separated and displayed on their own!

Tillandsia bulbosa air plant on driftwood on white background.

Tillandsia bulbosa fertilizer

Again, if you’ve never grown air plants this part might be a little confusing. They do appreciate some fertilizer here and there, but… where do you put it if not in the soil?

There are actually multiple methods. You can buy a generic Bromeliad fertilizer or even a specialized type for Tillandsias. There are Tillandsia sprays and powdered Tillandsia fertilizers. The powdered variety is not diluted, as you’re supposed to do this yourself at home, so it’ll last you a bit longer.

  • One method is to just spray with fertilizer once every two weeks to once a month during the growing season to supply your Tillandsia bulbosa with some extra nutrients.
  • You can also soak your Tillandsia bulbosa in water with added fertilizer to give it a boost.
  • If you’re lucky enough to own an aquarium or have a pond in your back yard, you can actually use this water as a gentle natural fertilizer. The nitrates and other nutrients make the perfect plant food, so just soak your Tillandsia bulbosa in “fish water” instead of tap water to keep it growing well.

Buying Tillandsia bulbosa

Tillandsia bulbosa is one of the more common air plants and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding it. If your local plant store or garden center carries air plants you might be able to find it there. If you don’t want to leave the comfort of your home there are also tons of online sellers out there. You can buy a Tillandsia bulbosa on Amazon here.

When buying your Tillandsia bulbosa keep in mind there are multiple types, with the most common being “Belize”, “Hook” and “Guatemala”. The former has leaves that grow larger and more straight, whereas the other stays relatively small and has leaves growing in all directions.

Is Tillandsia bulbosa toxic to cats and dogs?

Luckily, Tillandsias like Tillandsia bulbosa aren’t toxic to cats and dogs. They do, like all plants, cause an upset stomach.

Try keeping your air plants away from your pets, because they are the perfect size for a chewing toy!


If you have any more questions about growing Tillandsia bulbosa or if you want to share your experiences with this wacky houseplant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! And if you love air plants, why not check out the Spanish moss care guide as well?

Marijke Puts
About Marijke Puts
Marijke Puts has Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Science and is from The Netherlands. She has a certified master gardener and loves everything about houseplants and gardening.

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