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Spanish moss care & info | Tillandsia usneoides

You might know Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) as the plant hanging from trees in tropical regions and used in all sorts of arts and crafts. But did you know this epiphytic Bromeliad also makes a great houseplant? Spanish moss care is not too complicated. Like other air plants, it can be grown without a pot in any bright location you have to offer.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about growing Spanish moss in your own home.

Name(s) (common, scientific)Spanish moss, black moss, vegetable horsehair, long moss, Spanish beard, tree hair, Tillandsia usneoides
Difficulty levelIntermediate
Recommended lightingBright indirect
WaterSoak/and or spray
Soil typeNone

Spanish moss care

If you want to grow Spanish moss in your home, the best way to keep it alive and healthy is to mimic its natural environment.

Spanish moss is not actually a type of moss but an epiphytic Bromeliad also known as an air plant. It grows on trees in a non-parasitic manner, relying on raindrops and humid air as its natural water sources. The species is ubiquitous in the Southern United States, but also occurs in Central America, South America and surrounding tropical islands like the Bahamas.

In the home, this means you don’t need a pot to grow Spanish moss: just place the moss near a window that offers bright, indirect light. A relatively warm and humid location is ideal.

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) in its natural habitat.

Spanish moss care: Light, location & temperature


An important part of Spanish moss care is figuring out the right balance in lighting. Because Spanish moss naturally grows in and under tree canopies, it isn’t used to being blasted with direct sunlight.

Although it should be able to take some sun, especially in non-tropical areas, try to limit it to morning and evening.


Although you should probably be able to grow the hardy Spanish moss in any location in your home, it prefers a relatively humid spot like your kitchen or bathroom.


If grown indoors, temperature isn’t too much of an issue for this air plant. Room temp works fine, and it can handle much higher and lower as well. Even light frost won’t be fatal as long as you keep your Spanish moss dry!

Do keep in mind that this species will go dormant when exposed to low temperatures. It can come back alive just fine when things warm up again, but dormant Spanish moss isn’t the prettiest thing to look at.

Close-up of Tillandsia usneoides plant with blurry bokeh background.

Spanish moss container

Your Spanish moss doesn’t need a pot to grow in, so you can go as crazy as you want with it.

This air plant can be hung from a simple hook, glued to wood or other surfaces, or even draped across another plant. It looks great attached to any hanging planters you already have and can really make a lovely centerpiece. Additionally, there are endless Tillandsia holders out there that should work well.

Just make sure your Spanish moss doesn’t form a dense ball, as fresh air needs to be able to reach all strands. Any parts that don’t get plenty of air circulation will eventually die off.

Also keep in mind that you’ll need to water your Spanish moss regularly, so choose a container that allows you to easily remove the plant for watering or something that can handle being soaked.

Wood ornament with Tillandsia air plants including Tillandsia usneoides and xerographica

Spanish moss care: Watering

So how do you water a plant that doesn’t grow in soil? Watering is the one complicated thing about Spanish moss care.

Well, you imitate a rain storm! The easiest way to keep your Spanish moss well-hydrated is to give it a quick soak when it’s gone completely dry. How often this will be depends on the humidity level in your home and the amount of sun it gets, but it’ll probably be once or twice a week.

Use rainwater, dechlorinated tap water or even aquarium/pond water. You can quickly dip the plant in a bucket or pour the water on it from the top; the exact method doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that Bromeliads like Spanish moss don’t like to stay wet and are prone to rotting. This means that it’s a good idea to allow your Spanish moss to dry properly after every watering. Very gently shake off any excess liquid and leave the plant to dry for a bit before returning it to its container. It’s good to go once the leaves have gone back to their natural, silvery color.

Tip: Still unsure about how to keep your Spanish moss hydrated? Have a look at the full air plant watering guide.

Close up of Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish moss) with shallow depth of field and green bokeh background

Propagating Spanish moss

We can keep this section short and sweet: propagating Tillandsia usneoides is incredibly easy. All you have to do is separate groups of strands. Each one will keep growing, eventually forming dense mats of its own.

You can grow Spanish moss from seed as well, although this is something for the more dedicated hobbyist. A happy Tillandsia usneoides will grow small orange flowers which, if pollinated, will form a fluff somewhat similar to dandelion seed parachutes.

You can place the Spanish moss fluff on a surface that’s easy to keep lightly moist and where you won’t lose sight of them, like slabs of bark. Carefully mist daily and you should soon see tiny strands of Spanish moss start to develop. They’re not the quickest growers, so you’ll have to be quite patient!

Spanish moss fertilizer

In the wild, Tillandsia usneoides tends to prefer host trees with a high degree of foliar leeching, like cypress and oaks (Schlesinger & Marks, 1977). These provide plenty of minerals and other nutrients, ensuring the Spanish moss can grow well.

In an indoor environment, we have to find another way to provide some extra nutrients to our Spanish moss in the growing season. This is not too challenging: if you have a pond or an aquarium, you’ve pretty much got feeding your Tillandsia sorted. Soak the plant in this water rather than tap water so it can benefit from that delicious fish poop fertilizer!

If you have to rely on tap water, don’t worry. There are also special Bromelia and air plant fertilizers available. They tend to come as a fertilizer spray or a powder that you dissolve in water. Soak or spray your Spanish moss every few weeks if it’s growing well during the spring and summer months.

Close-up of Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides).

Buying Spanish moss

If you’d like to grow your own Spanish moss, be sure to resist the temptation to run outside and pluck some off a tree. When grown outdoors this plant is called home by all sorts of nasty bugs, some of which can cause skin irritation.

You’re better off buying your Spanish moss from a nursery, garden center or plant store. If you’re having trouble finding it you can also try the terrarium section of your local pet store, as this plant is often used in terraria.

Is Spanish moss toxic to cats and dogs?

I couldn’t find any specific info on this, but Spanish moss is sometimes used as horse feed. I’d assume if it isn’t poisonous for horses, it won’t do much damage to your cat or dog either. Additionally, air plants in general aren’t toxic.

That being said, eating any plant might upset your pet’s tummy and result in vomiting. Those long strands are probably irresistible, especially to cats, so try to just place your Spanish moss out of their reach!

Spanish moss meant for arts and crafts might be treated with chemicals, so be sure to be careful with that.

If you love air plants, don’t forget to also check out the Tillandsia bulbosa caresheet.


Schlesinger, W. H., & Marks, P. L. (1977). Mineral cycling and the niche of Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides L. American Journal of Botany64(10), 1254-1262.