Tillandsia usneoides, otherwise known as Spanish Moss, is a fantastic plant that can be found swaying from tree branches in tropical parts of the world, but it also makes a fantastic houseplant.
Unlike most bromeliads which have an upright stalk, this plant has cascading foliage in striking silver, looking like long strands of hair.
It’s an unusual plant that will make a statement in any home, whether that’s as part of a bigger display, or on its own as a focal point, giving any space a curious look.
It’s one of the easiest air plants for beginners, so it’s the perfect ‘gateway’ air plant to getting to know the rest of the Tillandsia genus, though it has some different care requirements to the rest of the plants in the genus.
Interested in growing your own Spanish Moss, but not sure if it will work in your home? Here’s everything you need to know.
How To Care For Spanish Moss
Spanish moss goes by many names, including Spanish Beard, Old Man’s Beard, Tree Hair, and Black Moss. Whichever one you see, it is all the same plant!
While the name would suggest it is a type of moss, it is a Bromeliad that grows on the surface of other plants, native to many warm parts of the world. It just happens to look like moss, but it isn’t related to moss at all.
As long as you get the conditions right from the get-go, Spanish moss is not a hard plant to take care of, but it is probably very unlike plants you have taken care of in the past, so it’s worth knowing what you’re getting into.
Is Spanish Moss Toxic?
It is not explicitly mentioned in the ASPCA, which is always a good starting point, but that doesn’t mean it is completely safe, so it’s worth keeping it out of reach for peace of mind.
It’s also worth keeping this plant well away from pets and children for its curious appearance, otherwise, it may suffer some damage!
Where To Grow Spanish Moss
Spanish moss, in the right growing condition, will grow about 20cm a year, which is quite prolific when you think about it!
This means that it needs plenty of space where it can trail without the foliage touching the floor!
Sunlight And Position
When it comes to light, Spanish moss isn’t the fussiest plant. As long as the plant gets some level of light (or even very little natural light) it will grow just fine.
Just avoid direct sunlight, as this will burn the plant. If you think about it, this plant naturally grows in the shade and shelter of large trees, so it doesn’t get a lot of light outside, which translates to an indirect position inside.
In terms of temperature, average room temperatures will be fine for this plant, as long as it isn’t in the path of cold spells or heat.
In temperatures that are too low, the plant will go dormant, but this is well below average household temperatures, so don’t worry too much.
Should You Increase Humidity For Spanish Moss?
Yes. Higher humidity levels are beneficial for Spanish moss and will prevent the leaves from turning brown in lower humidity, and if you get them high enough, the plant will never need watering.
So it’s worth thinking about where you want to put this plant.
A humid bathroom or kitchen helps, or you could grow this plant above other foliage houseplants, as when those below lose moisture through their leaves, the Spanish moss hanging above will benefit.
Do You Need A Pot For Growing Spanish Moss?
Nope. This makes it perfect for creative displays, whether that’s mounted on wood, a decorative hook, over stairs, bathroom curtain rails, hanging pots, or other plants.
It’s worth noting that Spanish moss does need plenty of air circulation to get to all the strands, otherwise those parts that don’t, die back.
When To Water Spanish Moss
This plant is so low maintenance that if you get humidity levels right, you don’t even need to water the plant.
As an epiphyte, it extracts moisture from the surrounding air and the plants it grows on.
You’ll know if the humidity levels are too low, as the plant will start to go brown. It’s okay if the conditions aren’t humid enough, as you can water it to compensate.
Mist the plant every so often, or submerge it in lukewarm rainwater for a minute or two. If you decide to dunk it, this needs to be done infrequently, as you need to let the strands completely dry out before doing it again.
Bromeliads don’t like to be continually soaked (with the exception of the urn plant), so make sure you let Spanish moss dry out in between soaking.
Always shake off any water clinging to the leaves, and let it dry as much as possible before you return the plant to its usual spot.
Be careful not to use tap water with air plants, as they are vulnerable to the chemicals in tap water, and have no resistance against them, which can cause damage over time.
Under no circumstances should you use tap water that’s treated with a water softening system, as it contains salt, and this will kill your plants, Spanish moss included.
How To Propagate Spanish Moss
Spanish moss, like most Bromeliads, will grow plantlets or offshoots when conditions are right.
This means that propagation is largely done for you, all you have to do is to trim the side shoots from the main stem and treat them as separate plants.
While it is possible to raise Spanish moss from seed, it can be very difficult to do so, and this is much easier to propagate an existing plant.
If you still want to try it, a thriving Spanish moss plant will produce small flowers occasionally, and if they are pollinated correctly, they will form seed heads similar to those on clematis or dandelions.
Remove the seed pods from the plant when they are ready, and place them in a tray where they will be easily visible, on top of bark or something similar, and mist them lightly every day.
Put a propagation lid over the top to lock in humidity, and place the box somewhere bright and warm.
With a little luck, and provided that you don’t let the seeds dry out, you may soon see miniature Spanish moss leaves developing, but they are slow to get started, so don’t give up.
Should You Feed Spanish Moss?
It’s a good idea to feed your Spanish moss occasionally, using a tillandsia-specific fertilizer.
These come in spray form, so all you need to do is mist the plant with it, following the instructions as to the frequency.
This fertilizer will work for all air plants in the Tillandsia genus, too.
Some people claim to make use of aquarium water to fertilize their Spanish moss, as the fish feces is said to be beneficial for them (and it doesn’t contain the chemicals that tap water does), though this is something I have not tried.
Spanish moss is a striking plant that is extremely low maintenance but don’t let it dry out completely in dry environments, as this will not do it any favors.
Be mindful of increasing humidity, as without the proper air circulation, this can lead to fungal infections, so be sure to run a fan if you increase the humidity.
It also helps to regularly propagate the strands, as this improves the airflow between the leaves.
When it comes to buying your Spanish moss, if you live somewhere where it grows naturally, resist the temptation to just harvest it instead of buying it.
Harvesting wild plants to keep indoors is never a good idea. It can introduce all sorts of pests and diseases to your current houseplant collection, and it will probably upset your skin, too.
It’s worthwhile trying to find it in a local store, especially if you have a houseplant store nearby, as they will often order any plants you might be searching for when you ask!
If you’d prefer to buy it online, there are lots of different options. Just be mindful not to order during winter or cold spells, as this can damage the plant while it is in transit.