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In Singapore, An Increasing Appetite for Indoor Air Plants

By Guan Tan

 Tillandsia Andreana

The T.andreana, available at S$10 from Pick A Plant, pictured on a piece of display wood.

 Spiking Large Tillandsia Bulbosa

In gardening jargon, 'spiking' also means the air plant is flowering. The hints of red signals at the fertile Bulbosa. In every air plant's lifetime, they only bloom once. The large Bulbosa is available at Pick A Plant for S$18.

 Tillandsia Funckiana

 The T.funckiana pictured on a piece of wood, available at Pick A Plant for S$19.

 Tillandsia Funckiana var Recurvifolia

 Three T.funckiana var recurvifolia, each priced at S$12, available at Pick A Plant.

 Tillandsia Seleriana X Circinnatoides

 A T.seleriana X circinnatoide, available at Pick A Plant for S$35.

 Tillandsia Ionantha Rubra

A T.ionantha Rubra in full bloom. The red leaves first appear before the purple tubular flowers bloom. Available at Pick A Plant for S$10. Photographs by Tung Pham. Styling by Felicia Yap.


On a Thursday morning in the western end of Singapore, cars steer off tar roads into a cluster of plant nurseries. You won't find these roads registered on the maps, so much so that it would take a few trips to familiarise yourself with the off-beaten tracks. But many of the visitors are regulars seeking out the newest and most exotic air plants for their homes.

The growing trend for indoor air plants is not confined within these nurseries; it's evident on the digital realm as well, with communities on Facebook and Carousell such as the Urban Farmers group.

Kevin Cheong, founder of air plant nursery, Pick A Plant dissects the trend. For 15 years, Cheong has been importing air plants from South America and the United States to Singapore. Back then, the local gardening landscape was dominated by high-commitment potted plants. It was only in the last three years that consumers learned about low-commitment air plants. Cheong attends to both wholesale and retail requests, acting as a valve for the growth of the air plants industry. Other than Cheong, majority of wholesalers buy air plants from Malaysian importers based in Cameron Highlands

In this time, Cheong has amped up his inventory from ten air plant species to a staggering 600 now. Cheong has a birds' eye view of the ongoing trend. He explains, that Facebook or Carousell resellers are often hobbyists who have an existing arsenal of air plants. When their plants bud and procreate, they sell these baby counterparts. If not, they are hobbyists who decided to start their own air plant businesses. "That is what is happening nowadays," Cheong quips. 

He observes young homeowners dropping in, asking for green home decor suggestions. To Cheong, plants are an escape from technology-ladened lives. 

"Air plants are a lot easier, that's the main draw. Imagine, potted plants come with fertiliser, sand and soil," Cheong adds. "Yet, air plants only require wind, sun and water."

According to Cheong, air plants need sunlight, and "need to be placed in the right place with good airflow – window, corridor, balcony, gardens." Later, water them once a day. "The intention is just to wet the plants thoroughly – whether you mist it, shower it, or you dip it, soak it."

"Put it back to the airy place. They need to dry – naturally after two to four hours." It's the complete opposite of potted plants, where the roots have to be kept moist. Air plants need to dry up, else they will decay from what the industry calls, "wet rot". Even if the owners were to leave for a three or five-day-long vacation or business trip, these plants will still survive. 

These air plants are generally native to South America, "countries like Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala". It's a growing home decor trend from a faraway land. Even with its rising popularity, Cheong still hopes to educate more consumers about this passion of his. His colleague told us that on some occasions, Cheong even make trips to buyers' homes to help them with their air plants. When asked why, Cheong laughs, "It's an addiction!"