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I recently received three Tillandsia ionantha plants as a gift. The set came with some teardrop-shaped glass "terraria" in which to display the plants. Each container has a large hole to put the plant in and a few small holes above that, presumably for ventilation.

Tillandsia plant in glass teardrop

The kit also came with some sand and goofy "sea life" decorations, not shown here.

I know that cacti and succulents are often sold in similar containers, which are actually quite harmful to the plants. Is it safe to use these containers with my air plants, or will I be dooming them to a slow death? And if I do use the containers, what can I do to maximize their suitability?

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When I was a plant technician at a Botany Exhibit we had numerous bromeliads and tillandsia to take care of under varying conditions. None of them were inside a glass or plastic bottle.

  • display #1: glued to cork or bark with silicon adhesive (not silicon for bath and kitchen which contains a fungicide). Sprayed once daily with filtered water to remove chlorine. Extremely high light levels from high pressure sodium lights that were on twelve to fourteen hours a day with ventilation
  • display #2 glued to a piece of driftwood, sprayed once daily with filtered water. Situated in a south facing greenhouse with good light.

From these examples where the plants would grow, flower and die over a period of years. I recommend:

  • any substrate: glue them to anything, more natural things like bark or cork are traditional
  • light: high light
  • humidity: the more light the higher the humidity. A sunny bathroom comes to mind as a good place
  • water: spray or mist daily with dechlorinated water
  • temperature: the higher the temperature the more a high humidity level or air circulation is required

I would remove the plant from the container it is in and attach it to something you like in a location that gets high light and where you will remember to mist it daily. A bathroom or kitchen could be perfect. The container it is in is not suitable because:

  • does not retain humid air
  • not enough air circulation
  • This is good general advice, however it doesn't really address the issue of the container. Just because you didn't use this type of container doesn't necessarily mean such a container is unsuitable. – augurar May 14 '15 at 6:28

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