Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is an epiphyte or air plant related to bromeliads, that grows on trees in its native forest habitats of southern United States and some parts of central and South America. It bears long, cascading stems of silvery green foliage. Over the years it's had several common names, with Native American people calling it “itla-okla”, meaning 'tree hair'. However, 'Spanish beard' became popular after the apparent resemblance of the plant to the beards of Spanish conquadistors.
Spanish moss makes an excellent house plant in the UK, and is perfect for growing in a light, humid environment such as a bathroom.
How to grow Spanish moss
Grow Spanish moss in a light, humid environment such as a bathroom. Avoid direct sunlight as this can scorch and dry out the leaves. As it's an epiphyte, the plant doesn't need compost to grow, so fix it to a piece of wood or other frame, from which it can hang down like it would naturally from a tree. If its growing environment is humid enough, you shouldn't need to water it. Be mindful, however, that central heating can dry out rooms in winter. You can mist or occasionally soak the plant in rain water to hydrate the leaves.
Where to grow Spanish moss
Grow Spanish moss in a bright, humid spot out of direct sunlight, such as a bathroom. Avoid direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves.
How to care for Spanish moss
In a good, humid environment, you shouldn't need to water or fertilise your plant. However, conditions may not be humid enough and you may notice browning of the foliage. If this happens, mist the plant weekly, and occasionally with a very dilute mix of house plant fertiliser, to give the plant a nutrient boost. Alternatively, completely submerge your plant in a bucket of warm rainwater for a few minutes, then rehang it where it can dry out again. Do this far less often than misting, allowing the foliage to completely dry out between soakings.
How to propagate Spanish moss
Like most bromeliads, Spanish moss can be propagated by offshoots. Sideshoots develop from the main stem – simply trim these off and fix them to their own piece of wood. They should flourish independently, given the right environment. In the right conditions, your air plant will grow at least 10 to 20cm a year.
Spanish moss: problem solving
Spanish moss has no known pests or diseases. However, browning of the leaves suggests a lack of moisture: water or mist accordingly.
Advice on buying Spanish moss
- Always buy from a reputable supplier. It is sometimes available from garden centres but you may have more choice if buying online
- Check the foliage for signs of bowning before hanging – it's important to buy a plant that is fully hydrated