Tillandsia Baileyi and Xerographica Air Plants

Mesic Air Plants Vs Xeric Air Plants

10 comments by Jamie Beck

Mesic vs Xeric Air Plants

We talk a lot about air plant care but as there are many different Tillandsia varieties from a range of different native habitats. The care that your air plant will require will vary significantly depending on the species. Air plant care is not “one size fits all”. One of the key determining factors in the type of care and environment your Tillandsia will prefer is whether it is a Mesic or Xeric air plant – or somewhere in between. But what exactly does this mean? Mesic and Xeric both refer to the type of native environment that the Tillandsia originates from, and will prefer.

Brachycaulos air plantMesic, from the Greek word mesos, meaning “middle”, refers to a habitat of moderate humidity. Many Tillandsia species fall under the Mesic category, originating from from moderately humid habitats like South American forests, and these plants prefer moderate humidity and more frequent watering. They will also be more used to thriving under the canopy of a forest, and therefore prefer bright indirect or filtered light.


Duratii air plantXeric, from the Greek work “dry”, are from drier, desert-like climates and can often be rock dwelling. Characterized by their abundance of trichomes, these air plants like more light – and can even handle direct sunlight – while they prefer less water. We normally suggest just misting or dunking these plants in lieu of soaks, and some plants like the Tectorum Ecuador really only like the occasional mist. In their natural habitat these Xeric plants will normally collect sufficient moisture from the dew or moisture in the air.

Xeric or Mesic: How can you tell?

The color, texture, and leaf shape of your air plant can give you some clues as to whether it’s a more Mesic or Xeric plant.

Mesic plants tend to:

-Have darker green leaves

-Have smooth leaves with little appearance of trichomes

-Often will have leaves that are tightly curled or cupped.

Tillandsia Bulbosa in greenhouse


Semi Mesic plants:

-Have bright green leaves

-Have less abundance of trichomes but may show some

 Caput Medusae air plant

Xeric Air plants:

-Have silvery leaves

-Often have flat leaves that can soak up the sunlight

-Often display an abundance of fuzzy trichomes.

 Tectorum ecuador air plants

Questions about your air plants? Curious as to which plants will do best in your space? Contact us!