Photos by Ryan Benoit

Make Your Own: Almost-Invisible Air Plant Cage

Photos by Ryan Benoit

It only occurred to us after we received our wholesale order of 50 air plants that we had no place to put them! I had ordered the lot for my new acrylic air plant habitats (coming soon) — and I guess we got too excited to see Tillandsia nursery Airplants4u offering wholesale prices to the general public on orders totaling over $75. Can one really have too many air plants, we asked ourselves? Are we tillandsia hoarders?

When the box of air plants arrived we scrambled to figure out a temporary home for our investment. Well, the temporary home that we came up with has now become a permanent one. It’s been over a month and the plants are happy as clams. Green, velvety, epiphytic clams.

Ordering air plants in bulk is a lot of fun. When they arrive you’ll want to unwrap them immediately and follow the care instructions provided.

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The 50 air plants that came Priority Mail receive a breath of fresh air upon delivery.

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They quickly scattered across the picnic table.

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Chantal admiring the blushing Tillandsia brachycaulos green, one of our favorite air plant species. Many air plants blush when in bloom.

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We felt it necessary to take inventory. From left to right, (10) Tillandsia brachycaulos green, (10) Tillandsia floridiana, (10) Tillandsia xerographica x brachycaulos, (10) Tillandsia caput-medusae and (10) Tillandsia velutina. In the background, Monstro the monster rejoices.

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We love the color gradient across the picnic table.

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After inventorying we thoroughly soaked the plants for 10 minutes. We used a concrete mixing tub for the task.

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We added the flowering airplants last, keeping their flowers above the water.

What exactly was this temporary home turned permanent habitat? As a quick fix, we took a wire mesh trellis and suspended it from a limb of our guava tree, whose large canopy provides consistent bright filtered light in this location. Being suspended up high also allows the plants to take in nutrients from the coastal breezes.

I initially constructed two wire mesh trellises back in 2010 — one was for our then-juvenile passion flower plant and the other for a grapevine that didn’t quite take. Back then, we wanted these trellises to be nearly invisible in an effort to showcase the vines. The passion flower trellis is still in place, but we stowed the grapevine trellis behind the house after the plant died. After being out of sight for nearly three years, we raised it up again, figuratively and literally. Having lost its initial shine from the weather, the trellis seems even more invisible.

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We hung the nearly invisible wire trellis (made four years ago) from a large guava tree branch.

Passion

We made these vertical wire trellises back in 2010 for our passion vine (above) and a grapevine. This cage is still in place today, but we stowed the grapevine trellis on the side of the house for 3 years after the plant died.

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This time, we suspended the trellis horizontally from a guava tree branch as an impromptu home for our bulk order of air plants.

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Nestling in the airplants.

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We placed the little T. floridianas at the bottom of the frame since they weren’t large enough to be secured in the 2-inch wire grid.

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Airplant cage

Air plants are fond of bright filtered light provided by the canopy of our guava tree at this location. We mounted the cage up high so it can catch a good breeze. The more air circulation the better!

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Tillandsia bliss.

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One month later…they’re as happy as can be.

DIY Quick Airplant Cage

This idea is as simple and inexpensive as outdoor garden projects get. With biweekly watering and monthly fertilization (except in winter), your tillandsias will be the talk of the town. (Or at the very least, amongst your friends.)

Here’s how easy it is to make your own cage:

Gather:

– Mesh: 28″ x 104″ single paper welded wire lath with 2-inch square grid (zinc-coated, made from galvanized wire), commonly available at Home Depot or construction supply stores. This material is typically used in stucco repair.

– 17 gauge aluminum wire (electric fence wire)

– Garden wire (available extensively online, like on Amazon)

– 2 x 4 x 8 stud

– Wire cutter

Method:

1. Remove all paper from wire lath (i.e., your mesh).

2. Cut lath to length desired with a wire cutter.

3. Using your stud, bend lath into a cage of desired dimension.

4. Twist and bend excess wire inward.

5. Use 3-inch wire ties every 12 inches to keep shape of cage.

6. Hang or position cage up high using garden wire.

7. Place plants.

28" x 104" Single Paper Wire Lath

Look for wire lath with a 2-inch grid of zinc-plated galvanized wire. We like the clean aesthetic of the grid. Each grid square is 2 inches wide, which is perfect for cinching in medium-sized air plants.

28" x 104" Single Paper Wire Lath

Decide the desired overall length of cage and cut across with wire cutters. We used the entire 104-inch length.

28" x 104" Single Paper Wire Lath

Wire lath is a stucco reinforcement product.

28" x 104" Single Paper Wire Lath

Remove all paper from the mesh.

28" x 104" Single Paper Wire Lath

Bend the mesh using a 2 x 4 x 8 stud for a straight and long bend.

28" x 104" Single Paper Wire Lath

The second bend is similar to the first.

28" x 104" Single Paper Wire Lath

Position the stud for the third and final bend. Pictured above is how to bend a 2-square-by-5-square grid cage. Other possible sizes are 3-square-by-4-square and 1-square-by-6-square.

28" x 104" Single Paper Wire Lath

Roll the stud over with the mesh to form the third and last bend.

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Twist wires together at corners and bend all wires inward.

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Cut 3-inch ties of electric fence wire.

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Tie off cage every 12 inches or so.

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Ready to hang.

28" x 104" Single Paper Wire Lath

Suspend cage from tree using garden wire, which is a bit more gentle on the bark.

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Or…just stand the cage upright for a column of plants! The possibilities are endless. Just remember to keep the plants up high.

Water your plants two to three times a week, fertilizing every month (except in winter) with a liquid or water soluble fertilizer at 1/4 the recommended strength. We use a pressurized sprayer to thoroughly drench our plants.

Could an air plant chandelier — suspended over the picnic table — be next? It’s all up in the air…

—TH

Air plant mister.

Our preferred method of watering air plants is using a portable mister like this one from Exo Terra. We like that we can add a liquid or water-soluble fertilizer at 1/4-strength to the sprayer tub once a month.

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Make sure to thoroughly soak the plants. We use tap water and spray twice a week.

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  • nanci51

    I do’t quite understand how the air plants STAY hanging out on the wire cage. Don’t they blow off easily with a breeze or just fall off?

    • Good question, Nanci51! We make sure each plant is properly anchored by strategically tucking the leaves under and between the lines of the grid. The air plants we use are large and dense enough to stay in place that way. (Plus we don’t get very strong winds in our mild climate.)