looking for Love Tillys?

Thank You For Support - Business as Usual

Welcome to Key Essentials

Key Essentials is the UK’s leading air plant supplier. With over 40 years experience - quality and service are at the heart of everything we do. All our plants are nursery grown, and cared for at our own nursery in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside.

Our aim is to keep things simple and bring you the best Air Plants that can be enjoyed by everyone! Popular collections include...

Who we cater for...

You’ll find that we cater for everyone, from those just starting out, to the seasoned Air Plant collector looking for something really special to try. If you are looking for something special, visit the 'Most Wanted' section of the shop to see what we recommend this week.

Have you got any Air Plant questions? Get in touch and we will be happy to help, better still come and visit! Our nursery is open from 9am – 5pm on weekdays and from 9am until 1pm on Saturdays.

About Air Plants (Tillandsias)

An Intoduction to Tillandsia - Air Plants
Tillandsias, commonly known as Air Plants, are found anywhere and everywhere from dry deserts to humid rain forests and harsh mountain regions of southern parts of the United States, Mexico, Central and South America. In these, often difficult, habitats they have developed into plants that don’t need much water. These curious plants come from the Bromeliad family, which also includes a wide range of other plants, including the Pineapple. The bromeliad genus Tillandsia is named after the Finnish botanist Dr Elias Tillands and they the most widespread type of bromeliad. With over 600 species currently known even more species are being discovered today as dedicated plant hunters seek them out. Tillandsia are epiphytes, they do not have roots, live without soil, and take in water and nutrients through their leaves. If they are happy where they are, they will send out small, wiry anchor roots to hold them in the favourable situation that they find themselves in. They can live quite happily on trees and other plants without taking anything from them, and are just as happy to live on nothing, rocks or in the case of Spanish Moss, even telephone wires! Taking water in through the leaves, air plants have adapted hair-like scales known as ‘trichomes’ to help them. Air Plants adapted to living in hotter and dryer areas havemore of these trichomes, which gives them a more silvery appearance. As well as helping plants take up water they also help prevent it drying out by dispersing sunlight away from the leaves and shading the minute pores in the leaves, by which gases and water enter or leave the plant. The more silvery, or ‘fluffy’ the plant appears, eg. T. Tectorum ‘Snowy’, the more sunlight it can take. The final part of the secret to their survival on such meagre water rations is the way they photosynthesise. Almost all other plants do this during the day, during which time gases and moisture will be released. In extreme temperatures it is not ideal to release essential water vapour during the day, so Tillandsia have developed the ability to keep their pores closed during the day, and releasing their gases and moisture during the night when there is less risk to them, due to lower night time temperatures. (As a benefit to us, if they are releasing precious oxygen through the night, it makes them ideal for the bedroom, where they could very well help with a better nights sleep!)
Air Plants vary greatly in size, shape and texture. Beautiful (sometimes fragrant) flowers are another remarkable feature of these plants. The flowers vary in colour, from purples, reds, pinks, yellows and whites. The blooming cycle for some rapidly growing species may be only a few months. As a rule of thumb, the longer the flowering cycle, the longer the flower lasts, for example Xerographica may only flower once every few years, but the flowering process takes a whole year. Ionanthas can flower every few months, but their flowers last a matter of days.
Air Plants reproduce by seed and offset. In their native habitats, they have adapted to conditions of often brisk air movement and intense sunlight. The plants have evolved a fuzzy, cottony attachment on the seed coat, this parachute-like apparatus allows the seed to travel on air currents for long distances. For this reason, you will find them high in trees and telegraph wires, where they rapidly colonize new habitat sites. Tillandsia offsets, are called pups and can be left attached to the parent plant, eventually forming an attractive clump, or they can be separated and attached to something else to become a single plant. Air Plants are very adaptable, tolerating a wide climatic range of conditions, which makes them suitable for any room in the house, and even outdoors in Summer. Once established in their new surroundings, they will grow, flower and thrive, given the right amount of water and feed.