Tillandsia xerographica is a fascinating specimen to have in your home. This air plant gets unusually large. It makes a popular centerpiece in an air plant garden where the dusty shades of gray and green enhance more striking plants.

The Tillandsia xerographica air plant produces curly new growth that gives this plant a unique look.

Keeping this plant alive is no small task. Despite seeming like a simple plant, air plants must be kept in the right conditions for them to thrive.

Learn to avoid the common pitfalls many people experience by using this guide to grow Tillandsia xerographica in your home.

What Is a Tillandsia Xerographica?

Tillandsia xerographica comes from parts of southern Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala. The plant is a species of bromeliad that is adapted to live in the canopy of trees. The name translates from Greek to mean “dry brush” or “dry painting,” but most people call them Xeros.

The Xero has wide, thick leaves that curl underneath and wrap around, presenting a plant that is nearly spherical in shape. The leaves are a dusty gray color. Witnessing the Tillandsia xerographica flower is a rare sight to behold.

This is one of the largest of all air plants, and the giant Tillandsia xerographica can reach three feet across and just as tall. The flower stalk can reach more than one foot and explodes in paintbrush-like flowers of orange, red, and yellow.

One of the biggest challenges in raising Xero plants is getting them to flower. This guide will give you the best information available to help you encourage Tillandsia xerographica to produce a beautiful flower that will last for months.

Tillandsia Xerographica Care Guide

Even though air plants seem like the ultimate low-maintenance house plant, they have specific care requirements to be healthy. These plants are slow-growing, so it is essential that you give them ideal conditions.

The best way to prevent having problems growing Xero plants is to give them the right care according to the plant’s requirements.

Light Requirements

In nature, you’ll find Tillandsia xerographica high in the canopy of dry forests. Where these plants live, the amount of light is extreme, but it is diffused by the upper canopy of leaves. You will want to provide a similar amount and type of light for your Tillandsia xerographica.

At home, you will want to place these plants near an east or west window in the brightest, indirect light possible. South-facing windows will also work, but you will want to monitor the plant for signs of sunburn-like brown tips of leaves. These plants generally don’t like bright, direct light, but if you acclimate them over a long period by slowly introducing more light, you can have success.

Temperature Requirements

In the wild, the Tillandsia xerographica lives in places with relatively high daytime temperatures that are fairly stable at night. They grow best when the temperature doesn’t fluctuate much, either throughout the day or between seasons. This can be a challenge for many gardeners at home.

The best conditions for this plant are normal house temperatures, though it tends to do best above 75 degrees. Do not allow this plant to be in conditions where temps drop below 65 degrees. They cannot handle cool or cold temperatures.

It is also important to pay attention to where you put your xerographica plant in your home. During the summer, drafts from the AC may drop the temperature too much for your large air plant, potentially killing it.

Water Requirements

Air plants are unique in the world for the ability to get most of the moisture and nutrients they require from the air. In nature, various scenarios provide perfect moisture, including the relative aridness of the dry forest and moist breezes that provide plenty of humidity.

In your home air plant garden, you will need to provide some water for these plants to have any chance of growing. The best way to water them is to submerge the plant in lukewarm (75-85 degrees) water for about two hours at least once per month. After the plant comes out of the bath, make sure to gently shake excess water from the leaves. Rest the plant upside down to allow water to drain.

Air plants don’t require watering like many other types of plants, and this is a source of stress for many people new to keeping them. One of the mistakes people make is overwatering air plants. These plants prefer a nearly dry condition most of the time with infrequent watering. Overwatering will harm the growth of the plant.


You will find that keeping the humidity up is more important than regular watering. It is a good idea to mist your plant every day to ensure humidity stays high. The natural humidity these plants experience in their native region is 70 to 80 percent, about twice that of the average US household.

You can use an evaporation tray beneath or near your air plant to increase humidity levels. Just fill a shallow tray with stones or pebbles and add water to just below the level of the rocks. Place the air plant on the rocks above the water level to provide an attractive display and proper humidity levels.

Common Problems With Tillandsia Xerographica

You will find that a number of the most common problems with keeping air plants alive involve improper care. Using this gardening guide gives you the best information to avoid the most common problems.

Look for these certain signs that indicate your plant isn’t doing well.

  • Purple or Black at the Base of Leaves: Air plants are highly susceptible to rot, and this is what it looks like. Often, leaves will rapidly fall out when rot sets in. Once it starts, the plant is likely a lost cause. There is no cure for rot or way to reverse the damage that is done. Rot is usually the result of leaving the plant sitting in water or allowing water to pool inside the center of the leaves.
  • Dry, Crispy Leaves: This is a sign of a dehydrated air plant. A serious dehydration episode will result in most or all of the leaves falling out, and the plant will probably die. Remember that air plants need to be submerged in water periodically, then allowed to dry out completely.
  • Toxins: Air plants cannot tolerate many types of metals like copper, iron, and zinc. These elements can cause burns to the plant. Don’t use a fertilizer that isn’t specifically for bromeliads or air plants. Exposure to toxins will cause the plant to look scorched, and leaves will fall out. Flush the plant with a good lukewarm bath for several hours to try and reduce the toxins, then allow it to dry completely.
  • Brown Tips: This is an indication of sunburn and shows you the plant is getting too much sun. You should move the plant to bright, indirect light to correct the problem.
  • Plant Falling Apart: This terminal problem is the result of not enough air circulation. These plants must have air circulating around them at all times. In a closed or partially blocked environment, the plant may disintegrate. Simply provide plenty of air circulation around the plant and add a gentle fan if necessary.
  • Fuzzy Spots: Mealybugs like to set up shop in air plants. The best way to eradicate these sap-suckers is to use a homemade insecticidal soap. Simply mix a few drops of dish soap in water and apply with a spray bottle. Wipe the leaves and as many nooks and crannies as possible with diluted isopropyl alcohol to kill mealybugs.

Flowering Guide

One of the best things about growing air plants is seeing them flower. It is a rare experience, as each plant will only bloom one time over the course of the plant’s life. For your Xero plant to produce an inflorescence (the name of the flower), it must be perfectly healthy and mature.

The best way to encourage your plant to bloom is to follow the guidelines on this page. You can also add a specialty fertilizer just for blooming bromeliads or air plants to encourage the bloom. A large xerographica plant may produce an inflorescence that is over a foot tall and produces massive flowers that can last for several months.

When the flower spike begins to form, you will want to pay attention to the watering of your plant. It is likely to require more frequent watering, but you must take care not to get the flower wet or damage it in any way. It will never flower again, so you want to take advantage of the opportunity to see the magnificence of the Tillandsia xerographica for yourself.


After your plant has a flower, you will see small plants growing where the flower stalk was. These are called pups, and they are little baby air plants. You can use a sharp, sterile knife to carefully remove the pups from the mother plant. Place them in a dry, well-circulating area, and they will continue to grow. Water them just like your mother plant.


  • Tillandsia Xerographica is a bromeliad that grows high in the canopy of dry forests in Mexico and Central America.
  • The plant requires bright, indirect light, and lots of it. Artificial light is acceptable.
  • Air plants need to be submerged in water periodically and regularly misted to provide ideal humidity.
  • They only flower once, so providing the perfect conditions for optimal growth is vital.
  • You can propagate these air plants from the pups that form after flowering.
  • The most common problems are the result of overwatering, while too much light and cold temperatures are also responsible for killing air plants.

If you are considering a Tillandsia xerographica as your first air plant, or if you want to add this unique specimen to your collection, they are easy to care for once you know the right way to do it. Keeping an air plant healthy and happy doesn’t have to be a challenge.

The most important thing is to pay close attention to the plant and learn to spot problems before the plant is severely harmed.

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