Succulents or Air Plants

Succulents or Air Plants

Air plants, or tillandsia, can survive by taking all of the nutrients they need from the air, hence their name. They do not need to be planted in soil to survive. They require very minimal maintenance and are perfect as ornaments for places where they can be left for long periods without supervision. Air plants are not succulents.

Succulents are a family of plants that have adapted to arid climates and are drought-resistant. They are able to store plenty of water in their leaves and bodies to tide them over until the rainy season returns. Unlike air plants, they need to be planted in soil in order to survive. This is their only way of taking in water and the nutrients they need.

Air Plants

Air plants only grow on tree branches or on other plants in nature. There are hundreds of different kinds of air plants. They can come in different shapes and sizes, but they usually have triangle or strap-shaped leaves that grow from the center of the plant outward in a rosette pattern. Some varieties of air plant can be resistant to drought, especially the ones with silver foliage. The ones with green foliage are more susceptible to the absence of water. Most air plants have funnel-shaped or tubular flowers that come in different colors.

Succulents

Succulents have thick and fleshy leaves that contain the water they store in their bodies. Their leaves can either look berry-like, ruffled, needle-like, spiky, or rounded. They are able to survive with minimal water, and they can even go dormant in order to preserve life until they can get more water. They are very low-maintenance plants which are difficult to kill, no matter how forgetful their owner is. Succulents also come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. They do not attract insects, and they are easy to prune and trim.

Is there a difference between air plants and succulents?

Yes. These two plants are different despite people confusing them sometimes. You can own both of these plants at the same time because they are both low maintenance. But keep in mind that they each have specific care instructions that may not be applicable to the other type.

Variety

Air plants are a much smaller group of plants compared to succulents. The genus Tillandsia has about 650 different species that all have similarities in their phenotypes.

Succulents, on the other hand, are a much more varied and bigger group of plants.

Growth

Air plants do not need soil to survive. Instead, their roots are exposed and wrapped around branches or anything sturdy to keep them from falling. The way these plants are watered is by placing them in a container with water and allowing them to soak for 30 minutes. After the soaking, you remove them from the water and allow them to air dry upside down. Once a plant is dry, set it upright and place it back in its container.

Succulents need to be planted in soil and watered regularly in order to survive. They do not take well to being overwatered, as this will cause root rot and possibly death. Their pots need to have drainage holes for the excess water to drain through. Most succulents need direct sunlight for several hours a day to help their colors come out. They love to be outside or at least by a window.

Maintenance

Air plants are quite resilient, which makes them low maintenance plants that need minimal care. They can be owned by almost anybody and would have no problem. You simply need to soak them in water for 30 minutes once a week. Allowing them to dry after soaking them in water will prevent the growth of mold.

Succulents are also quite easy to look after. They just need to be around sunlight for six hours a day. Make sure you alternate the sides of the plant being hit by sunlight in order to prevent the plant from leaning to one side. They are desert plants, so they know how to survive with very little water. It is easy to overwater them, especially if you are used to other plants that love water. Soil composition is also important. There are commercial succulent soil mixes that are specially designed for succulents. They have ingredients like sand and perlite that help make the soil porous and drain better.

Variety of Colors

Air plants come in many different colors. Even the same species of air plant can have different colors. They mostly come in varying shades of green, but they can also come in deep red, burgundy, and violet. These colors can be affected by the plant’s life cycle or the amount of light it gets. Air plants prefer to be shaded by the leaves of the trees they are attached to. When the light is filtered, this encourages the different colors to come out.

Succulents also come in different colors. When you make a succulent arrangement, it always looks visually pleasing when you mix and match different colored succulents. They can come in yellow, pink, burgundy, red, chartreuse, white, blue-green, and variegated.

Conclusion

Air plants are not a kind of succulent. They are their own family of plants. The two do have a lot of similarities in that they are both low maintenance and drought-resistant. Air plants need very minimal watering and get their nutrients from the air. Succulents retain water well so you do not need to water them often. But they need to be planted in the ground because that is how they absorb the nutrients they need to survive.

Both plants are recommended for beginner plant owners because they are easy to look after and very hard to kill. They also happen to both be very striking ornamental plants.

Image: istockphoto.com / Mumemories

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