Friday, March 4, 2011


I just came back from a week in sunny Florida. It was great to be somewhere where the flowers are blooming and the grass is green! I am always fascinated seeing plants grow in the landscape there that I would normally consider tropical or indoor plants here on Long Island. But the group of plants that fascinate me the most are the epiphytes.

Epiphytes (aka "air plants") are plants that grow on other plants. The word epiphyte comes from the Greek 'epi' (meaning 'upon') and 'phyton' (meaning 'plant'). They are not rooted in the soil - they typically grow above the ground surface using another plant or object for support. They are not parasitic, only using the host plant or structure for support and they gather moisture and nutrients from the air and rain.

Some epiphytes include Bromeliads, Orchids, Lichens and some species of Ferns, Cacti and Succulents.

A prominent native Bromeliad of Florida is Spanish Moss. Everywhere I went, whether walking in the neighborhood or on a boat ride in a state park, I saw Spanish Moss draping the trees. It was gorgeous and mysterious at the same time.

I was so taken with these, I'm half thinking of trying to grow some in a terrarium. Have any of you done this with success? Which plants have you found work best?


  1. Many of the Epiphytes are such common plants here that we do tend to take them for granted and don't pay them the respect they deserve. You are so right when you say they are a fascinating group of plants. Great post.

  2. I just photographed Spanish moss and Epiphytes today, what a coincidence. Mine was at the Botanical garden, like you, not going to find them here in the Falls. Nice images.

  3. Hi Kate. These are gorgeous but I don't grow them. Is your last question referring to plants in a terrarium? I have some cactus and agave in there.

  4. hi kate, lucky you going to florida! it is one of my favorite places, especially this time of year! i'm always fascinated by the epiphytes, too. not many in north carolina, though we do have spanish moss. i never thought of trying to grow it in a terrarium, but maybe it's possible. it's easy to grow rhipsalis or schlumbergera just in a pot even though they are epiphytic in nature.

  5. Kate
    My garden is missing a few cool Epiphytes... must remedy that!
    aka Alice's Garden Travel Buzz

  6. These look so cool, I've never grown epiphytes but I'd like to know how it goes.


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