Published on July 28, 2020

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For anyone who prefers to take a hands-off approach to plant parenthood, the genus Tillandsia—aka air plants—makes for an easy pop of greenery. With between 600 and 1,000 species to choose from, the soil-free plants come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some look like balls of curled ribbon, others like spindly puffballs, and still others like they could exist in the world of Pokémon. There are countless types of air plants to discover—but there are a few in particular that are worth adding to your collection.

Though various air plants may look different, they all require the same kind of care: They need bright, indirect sunlight (not complete shade) and a good soak every two to four weeks. As long as you ensure they get both sun and water, they’re pretty resilient—and they make for great decor, too. Here are a few types of air plants you should consider adding to your space. 

Ionantha

What it looks like: “He’s a little colorful,” says Erin Marino, director of marketing at The Sill. “The more sun he gets, the more dark red he turns.” Think of it as the edgy one with pink tips.
How to style it: Nestle it together with a group of other plants, allowing it to stand out as a pop of color. 

Bulbosa 

What it looks like: This air plant is sturdy and slightly alien-like. “Its foliage sprays out and almost looks like tentacles,” says Kristin McLaughlin, founder of the new Oregon-based traveling plant shop, Soft Opening West.
How to style it: Set it up in a hanger or terrarium and let it dangle in front of a window that doesn’t get direct light. 

Xerographica

What it looks like: One of the most popular air plants, this is a robust, softball-size tangle of curled-under leaves, which, McLaughlin notes, is harder to kill than some flimsier species.
How to style it: Consider this a key accent piece on an end table or shelf. Marino also recommends nestling it in a decorative bowl or dish. 

Brachycaulos

What it looks like: Not unlike the top of a pineapple, this plant has sturdy, bright leaves that extend outward from a single point. It comes in a variety of sizes, with larger ones developing a curling effect, though not as dramatic as the xerographica.
How to style it: Place it in a tiny stand or pot so it can stay upright. 

Fasciculata

What it looks like: “This one is referred to as the cardinal air plant, because it has a bright red flower when in bloom,” says Marino. It can come in larger sizes, and the tips of its leaves can also take on a pinkish color, similar to the ionantha.
How to style it: Arrange it in a glass vessel that holds it up and lets its stunning flower stand out.

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