Home Plants Tillandsia Harrisii – A Unique Specie of Air Plants

Tillandsia Harrisii – A Unique Specie of Air Plants

by gardeningit
Tillandsia Harrisii

Tillandsia Harrisii is another unique specie of air plants from the genus Tillandsia. It is known for its interesting foliage and beautiful flowers. It has symmetrical, green leaves that curve like a rosette. To top it all off, it is very easy to take care of. All of these reasons together make this plant a well-loved ornamental houseplant.

Tillandsia Harrisii Classification

  • Family: Bromeliaceae
  • Subfamily: Tillandsioideae
  • Genus: Tillandsia

About the Genus Tillandsia

These plants are called “air plants” due to their ability to survive on moisture and nutrients from the air. They do this with the help of tiny trichomes on their surface which are special cells that help them absorb whatever water and food that falls on their leaves. They are lightweight and have a body shaped like a parachute which helps them move around.

These air plants can bloom and they grow red, purple, or yellow flowers in spring or summer. Their major pollinators are hummingbirds, moths, and, occasionally, bats.

Tillandsia has over 700 species such as Tillandsia Fuchsii, Tillandsia Magnusiana, and Tillandsia Juncea. All of them are adapted to diverse conditions. Some of them are found in tropical areas, while others like to live high in the mountains or down in the swamps. To make the differentiation easier, just remember, the greener plants are more likely found in the tropical areas with warmth and shade, while the ones that look grayer are found under high humidity and direct sunlight.

Origin and Distribution

Tillandsia plants originate from North Mexico and South-East of the United States. They are found in the forests, mountains, and deserts of this distribution as well as Mesoamerica and the Caribbean.

However, Tillandsia Harrisii is native to the forests and mountains of Guatemala, Central America. It was first discovered by Renate Ehlers in 1987 but was named after Bill Harris who was a passionate American air-plant collector. He was, unfortunately, murdered in 1985.

Tillandsia Harrisii Features

Foliage and Stem

The Harrisii air plant has beautiful, soft foliage that has a velvet feel to it. It consists of long, spikey, symmetrical leaves that grow inwards and curl like a rosette.  They are green-white and have lots of trichomes on their surface to absorb all the food and moisture. These plants have a thick stem which is about 40 centimeters long.


Fortunately, if you give these plants the right Tillandsia Harrisii care, they stay beautiful all year long, unaffected by the seasons that pass.

Tillandsia Harrisii Height

These air plants are relatively small and grow up to 4 to 8 inches tall and spread 2 to 3 inches wide. Their adorable size makes them easy to display and take care of.

Temperature Tolerance

The Tillandsia Harrisii is a relatively temperature tolerant plant that can bear a few degrees of extra heat. However, do not push its limits. Try to shift it to a more suitable spot as soon as the temperature gets too high or too low.

Humidity Tolerance

Because it is an air plant and feeds off the water in the air, this plant never complains about a little extra humidity in the air. Misting is highly appreciated but make sure you don’t leave too much water on its foliage for too long. Allow the plant to dry between watering or misting sessions.

Tillandsia Harrisii Flowers

Not only does it have interesting foliage, but it also flowers beautifully. It grows purple-blue flowers on a red inflorescence and the flowers are unscented. These flowers have a tubular structure and grow about 6 centimeters long.

Tip: When you water a blooming Tillandsia Harrisii air plant, don’t soak the plant along with the flowers.  The flowers may dissolve when they come in contact with water. Instead, rinse the plant.


Since these plants are water-loving, they cannot survive in dry, water-deficient circumstances.

Pressure Tolerance

Harrisii air plants have soft, delicate leaves and will not tolerate excessive pressure like being walked over.

Disease and Pest Resistance

If you spot honeydew on your plant’s foliage or the leaves start to become distorted on an otherwise healthy plant, suspect that there may be an underlying disease or infection. Spraying a commercial insecticide might help you get rid of any pests. Just make sure you don’t overdo the spraying as it is a poisonous chemical and may end up killing your plant.  Also make sure you are wearing protective garments, especially over your hands, nose, and mouth while you use it.


If given the right Tillandsia Harrisii care, these plants grow relatively faster than their fellow Tillandsia plants.


Luckily, these air plants are generally safe to be kept around animals and humans as they are not toxic. However, if you do keep them near your pests and children, make sure you keep the plants clean and free of any dust, bugs, and poisonous chemicals.


As they have a perennial life cycle, these plants do not die early and you do not need to worry about their expiry for at least 3 to 5 years.


One of the many reasons this plant is so popular is because apart from being gorgeous, it is relatively easy to maintain. It does not have any special needs and requirements and can be grown effortlessly.


These plants go into a state of dormancy every winter and autumn. This means that they stop growing and basically “sleep” throughout the season. Make sure you don’t over-feed or over-water the plant during this time. It will not make your plant grow any faster but might end up killing it.

Tillandsia Harrisii Care

Tillandsia Harrisii care requires moderate temperatures and bright, indirect lights to thrive. A little added moisture to the air and frequent watering help it grow healthy and beautiful. To boost growth, even more, fertilizing is a good idea every once a month.

Water Requirements

As mentioned earlier, this specie of plants is water-loving. There are three ways you can water it.

  • You can mist it 3 to 4 times weekly. Make sure you mist the plant generously until it is completely drenched.
  • The plant can be soaked in water twice a day.
  • You can submerge it in water 2 to 4 times a week for 1 to 2 hours each time.

Its watering needs also depend on the environment, for example, you will want to water your Harrisii air plant more often during the warm, sunny days of summer and the growing days of spring, however, lowering the amount and frequency of water during the winters and humid days will be a good idea.

Also, after you soak or submerge your plant in water, make sure you turn the plant upside down or shake it thoroughly so that all the excess water can flow out. It is essential that your plant is dry in a few hours and does not have any water hiding in the crevices. Air-dry the plant and put it in good air circulation to prevent any microbial growth and diseases.


What’s amazing about air plants is that they do not need soil or a pot to grow. They get all their food and water directly from the air.

Tillandsia Harrisii Sunlight Requirements

Bright but indirect sunlight is the way to go with these plants. They can tolerate the direct sun for a few hours every day, preferably during early mornings and late afternoons, but too much exposure to direct, unfiltered sunlight can damage the foliage and make them look dry and unwell.

It is best to put these plants in a bright room or under artificial growing lights. If you must put them outdoors, remember to use shade cloth or put it behind other, bigger plants to filter the sunlight that hits your Harrisii air plant.


The best temperature to grow these plants is anywhere from 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you don’t leave them directly under sources of extreme temperatures like fans, air conditioners or heaters.


Because of their tropical origins, they love low to moderate amounts of humidity in the air around them. You can mist them 3 4 times a week or install an indoor humidifier in your place to ensure an optimum level of moisture in the air. However, make sure it doesn’t get too humid, especially on the plant’s leaves, since it can be an open invitation to microbes and pests. Air-dry your plant and ensure proper aeration for your Tillandsia Harrisii.


To boost their growth, you can fertilize your air plants every month. This will be especially helpful during the growing phase of the plant and the growing seasons of the year (spring and summer).

You can feed them moderate doses but make sure you don’t over-feed them since that could damage your plant’s fragile leaves. Avoid cheap fertilizers as well and invest in good quality plant food for your Harrisii.


Because these plants do not need a pot or soil to live, re-potting is one job you can check off your list of responsibilities. However, make sure you keep the pant’s container clean and wash it thoroughly every other day.

Grooming and Pruning

Every once in a while, you must clean up and groom your Tillandsia. The lower leaves of these air plants can become dry and fall off as they grow. If they don’t fall off naturally, you can gently pull off the dry, withered leaves from the base. Trimming and cleaning up the plant regularly is an important part of keeping your plant looking good and staying healthy.

Tillandsia Harrisii Propagation

The basic mechanism of reproduction of these plants is pollination. However, it is very simple to propagate these plants.

  • Start by removing your Harrisii air plant from its container and submerge it in water for a couple of hours till it is completely soaked.
  • Next, remove the plant from the water and shake it to make sure all the excess water drains out.
  • Place the plant on to a flat surface and spread its leaves until its base is visible.
  • Gently pull the plant apart to expose the pups lying at the bottom.
  • Separate these pups from the base of the plant and place the parent plant back into its container.
  • Place the pup in a new container and set it in a warm spot with lots of indirect light.
  • Mist it twice a day and make sure they stay nice and hydrated.

Just remember that it is very important that the air plants are dry during the night because these are nocturnal plants that breathe during the night time. If the leaves are covered with water, they will not be able to respire properly.


  • Week 1: Place your chosen pup in its allocated container and water it frequently. You can also mist the plant when it seems appropriate.
  • Months 12-20: Even though this particular species is relatively faster than other air plants, you should expect your seed to grow up to 1 inch in the first two years of being planted.
  • Years 2-4: After the first two years, growth is relatively faster. However, the plant fully develops in about 3 to 4 years to reach its full size.

Some Common FAQs

Why is My Harrisii Air Plant Turning Brown?

If your air plant is turning brown, it is a clear sign of being thirsty and dehydrated. Touch the plant’s foliage and feel its texture. If it feels dry and crispy, it needs hydration. Immediately soak the plant in a bowl with water in an upside-down position and let it absorb the moisture as much as it needs. Take it out of the water and shake it to get rid of excess water. Now, let it dry completely. Also, mist it between watering sessions.

How Do I Know That My Air Plant is Dying?

The most common signs of a dying air plant are the following:

  • Soft leaves
  • Pale leaves
  • Dry, wrinkled leaves
  • Curling or rolling up of leaves

Why is My Harrisii Air Plant Dying?

There are several reasons why this could be happening, the number one reason being an under-watered or over-watered air plant. To take care of this, monitor your watering sessions and make sure you are giving your plant an adequate amount of water, an appropriate number of times a day. Also, make sure that you are letting it dry afterward.

Other most common reasons for a dying Harrisii plant are extreme temperatures or lights. If this looks like a probable cause, make sure you didn’t put your plant under direct sunlight, an open window, an air conditioner, a ventilator, a fan or a heater, etc. Put it in a moderately warm spot of the house with lots of indirect lights and it will come back to life.
Too much fertilizer is yet another common reason behind a dying air plant. Excessive fertilizing, especially with cheap, low-quality fertilizer, can burn your plant’s roots and stunt its growth dramatically. Make sure you only give it an appropriate amount. If you are not sure about how much to feed your plant, the most suitable amount is often mentioned on the package. You can get an idea from that suggested quantity to make sure you don’t over-feed your plant.

Also, sometimes, these plants naturally start to die when their natural life cycle comes to an end. If you are giving it everything it needs and there is no underlying disease, then it might just be dying of old age. In that case, it’s a good idea to say goodbye to it.

Displaying Tillandsia Harrisii Plant

The size and unique structure of these plants make them very easy to be displayed and moved around the house. You can grow them on mounting surfaces like barks, rocks, and shells. Just make sure you don’t keep them near absorbent substances like soil or moss. You can glue them to a mounting base or wire them to secure them in place.

For containers, you can use beautiful glass bowls and jars and place them on tables, shelves, and desks. You can opt for terrariums that can be both, closed and open from the top. You can even hang these containers and they look beautiful displayed in your balcony or patio.

Another great option for display is an aerium. These have more varieties in terms of shapes and you can put sand and pebbles in these to make your plant look more aesthetic. Like terrariums, these can also be suspended with the help of decorative strings and ribbons.

Final Thoughts

Tillandsia Harrisii plants are small, beautiful air plants that originate from Guatemala. They are easy to take care of, easy to propagate, and even easier to display. As a bonus, they can be kept around your pets and children too. When it comes to low-maintenance, ornamental houseplants, this one is high in demand.

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