Up Your Plant Game With Some Epiphytes!

By Sarah A

The more houseplants you bring into your home, the more adventurous you’re sure to become when it comes to plant choice and species. 

If you’re looking to spice it up a little right now and learn a few new gardening skills, what about introducing some epiphytes here and there?

These are really intriguing plants that don’t actually grow in soil. Instead, they grow on other plants, typically trees - but you’ll find that you’re able to grow them on lots of other materials, including driftwood and shells, so you can bring your indoor garden to life in a whole new wonderful way. 

They get their moisture and nutrition from the environment they’re in, so there’s no need to plant them in soil. What’s more, they can even grow on their own without the use of a host plant, so you could do a bit of experimenting with different design ideas.

You’re probably familiar with some epiphytes already… did you know that fiddle leaf figs and Swiss cheese plants fit into this category? Both of these are incredibly popular houseplants, but this is perhaps a little known fact! 

In the wild, fiddle leaf figs (which are native to West Africa) behave very differently to when they’re brought inside. They’re a type of banyan fig and start off life as an epiphyte, landing as a seed at the top of another tree where there’s lots of lovely sunlight.

The seed then germinates and grows down back towards the ground… often to the detriment of the host plant, which is then forced to compete for light.

As for the monstera (or the Swiss cheese plant), this grows in the crevices of large trees in South America - and, in the wild, it bears some very delicious fruit indeed! The beautiful glossy leaves have lots of holes in them because the plant grows in jungle shade, with the gaps allowing the light to reach the leaves below.

Other common epiphytes include orchids, bromeliads, mosses and some types of fern, so you could have a great time putting together a truly interesting epiphyte collection.

How to care for epiphytes

The best way to ensure your epiphytes enjoy a long and happy life is to do some research into their natural habitat and try to replicate this as best you can.

It’s important to make sure that the growth medium you use encourages root growth and promotes nutrient retention without having an impact on the root system.

Also take light into account and make sure you’re providing the appropriate amount for your chosen epiphyte. They’re tropical plants and grow on the branches of much bigger trees and plants, so they can get away with not having much light. Indirect light or even partial shade may be fine for your new plant.

As for watering, you’ll likely benefit from doing it differently to your other plants. You don’t want to constantly drench the roots. Instead, soak them in some room temperature water for 15 minutes every seven to ten days.

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