Sassy, soilless gardening Botanical Boss

Hydoponics, hydroponic growing, vertical growing, vertical farming, gardening, life is a garden, greenery, fruits, vegetables, water, soilless, tank

Air plants and hydroponic growing haven opened a world of creative gardening potential, full of attitude, expression, and Earth-consciousness. If traditional gardening doesn’t perk up your green fingers, outlandish air plants and woo-girl hydroponics will do it. Life is a Garden’s industry experts have shared valuable insights to help you successfully embark on a soilless adventure this summer.  

Outlandish air plants  

The Tillandsia genus (air plants) are epiphytes, meaning they grow without soil and instead, use other plants (non-parasitically) or suitable objects to grow on (like a gorgeous piece of driftwood). They are a truly fascinating species to add to your patio collection. Try these statement-making, exotic treats:  

  • T. Mali Dofitas: Originally from the Philippines, this perennial evergreen will love a dappled sun to semi-shade location. Their spidery, upright rosettes of thick red-green leaves will stay vibrant even when not in bloom.  

  

  • T. Tectorum, Peru: Native to the Andes mountain of Ecuador and Peru, this large beauty can handle full sun with excellent air circulation. Their striking leaves are covered in gorgeous long, white, velvety trichomes.  

  

  • T. Love Knot: This charming hybrid enjoys good natural light with no direct sun. Their soft-curving leaves show off a dramatic colour scheme of reds, greens, and yellows. Purple flowers are a sensation when in bloom!  

Did you know? Tillandsia use their roots for anchoring and absorb water and nutrients through their trichomes (leaves).  

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Airplants, tillandsia, trichomes, November, garden, air, soilless, Greenery, life is a garden, decor, hanging, staghorn, butzii, colour, soil, hydroponics, water, vertical, botanical boss
Airplants, tillandsia, trichomes, November, garden, air, soilless, Greenery, life is a garden, decor, hanging, staghorn, butzii, colour, soil, hydroponics, water, vertical, botanical boss
Airplants, tillandsia, trichomes, November, garden, air, soilless, Greenery, life is a garden, decor, hanging, staghorn, butzii, colour, soil, hydroponics, water, vertical, botanical boss

Tillandsia hits and misses  

A winning recipe for success begins with bright light, good air circulation, and ample nutrients. Once you have these three in check, consider the following top air plant tips.  

  • Sun: Morning filtered sun is your best bet although some varieties can tolerate more sun depending on the species.  
  • Fertilise: Ask your GCA Garden Centre assistant for product advice and fertilise your air plants every second week. 
  • Watering: Use rain or spring water when spraying or submerging plants (check your particular plant’s needs) and avoid tap water that has damaging chemicals. Air plants need to dry out before watering to prevent rot.  
  • Humidity: Research your plant well and ensure you provide the optimal humidity needed.  
  • Mounting: Avoid using wood with bark that will fall off eventually and never use copper wire as the metal is toxic to air plants. After mounting, plants should not be stressed so using the correct mounting technique is essential.  
  • Pests: Luckily, pests are uncommon! Take care however, not to mistake the white trichomes for scale. Our experts recommend the preventative approach by ensuring that all the points are met. If you do experience pests, take a photo of the plant and ask your GCA Garden Centre assistant for product advice.  
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Airplants, tillandsia, trichomes, November, garden, air, soilless, Greenery, life is a garden, decor, hanging, staghorn, butzii, colour, soil, hydroponics, water, vertical, botanical boss

Sexy mounting with pantyhose 

You really don’t need fancy equipment to mount your prized air plants. Matt pantyhose, cork, and a stunning piece of driftwood are all you need for a sassy display. Follow the guide below for successful mounting. 

  1. Once you have chosen your mounting object (barkless wood, driftwood, or cork slab), carefully position your new air plant onto the object.
  2. Cut your pantyhose into vertical strips to use as elastic bands.  
  3. Secure the air plant on the mount by carefully and gently working your way around the leaves and roots. The bigger or heavier the air plant will determine how many times you need to work the pantyhose around the air plant and the mount selected.  
  4. When mounting, drill only through the mounting medium and not the plant. You may also want to use hooks that allow the plant to be removed if your variety needs to be soaked for watering.  
  5. After mounting, the plant’s structure must look the same as when you adopted it, meaning that it must not be strangled or stuck into any holes or drilled through.  

Why pantyhose?  It is flexible (won’t cut into your plant), durable, and goes unnoticed. As the pantyhose rots, the air plant will have already rooted onto the selected mounting material.  

Try this: Use galvanised wire to create twirls for air plants to hang in. This works very well to create vertical curtains of air plants.  

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Airplants, tillandsia, trichomes, November, garden, air, soilless, Greenery, life is a garden, decor, hanging, staghorn, butzii, colour, soil, hydroponics, water, vertical, botanical bossAirplants, tillandsia, trichomes, November, garden, air, soilless, Greenery, life is a garden, decor, hanging, staghorn, butzii, colour, soil

Woo-girl hydroponics 

Your inner woo-girl will not be able to resist the shriek-worthy world of exciting vertical water growing. With the correct set-up, you can save space and farm almost anywhere, reduce your carbon footprint, grow produce you actually want to eat, and of course, have total brag rights. Follow these handy hydroponic tips:  

  1. Use good quality water that has been distilled or undergone reverse osmosis.   
  2. Start off simple with strawberries, tomatoes, and spinach.  
  3. When adding nutrients to the water, always follow the product instructions. Add the recommended dose in shorter intervals to avoid potentially shocking plants.  
  4. Invest in professional equipment, including PH readers, lights, drippers, pumps, and pipes to ensure your plants receive excellent oxygen, humidity, and nutrient circulation.  
  5. Integrate your hydroponic system maintenance as part of your lifestyle and create a space where you can enjoy spending time to work on your fabulous new hobby.  

  

Best beginner plants for water-based growing  

  • Blueberries  
  • Cucumber  
  • Peppers  
  • Beans 
  • Herbs 
  • Kale  
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach 
Airplants, tillandsia, trichomes, November, garden, air, soilless, Greenery, life is a garden, decor, hanging, staghorn, butzii, colour, soil, hydroponics, water, vertical, botanical boss
Airplants, tillandsia, trichomes, November, garden, air, soilless, Greenery, life is a garden, decor, hanging, staghorn, butzii, colour, soil, hydroponics, water, vertical, botanical boss

Hydroponic growing is a long-term investment and may be costly when starting up. This growing method is really for the ambitious gardener looking for their next wow project. The rewards are worth it and once you’ve got your set up waxed and have learned what your plants need, it becomes all the more simple and enjoyable.  

Why hydro? Hydroponics use up to 95% less water compared to traditional open-field agriculture. In addition, plants grow faster as less energy is needed for establishing root systems in search of nutrients.  

Waster-wise, space-efficient, highly decorative and oh so sassy – air plants and hydroponics are where it’s at! You can read our in-depth industry expert articles on these topics via our website where you can also access our GCA Garden Centre national directory for all your plant and product needs: https://www.lifeisagarden.co.za/category/garden-centres/    

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