Living Picture Frame

Make an eye-catching vertical display of plants that seem to float in the air. Tillandsia air plants get all their moisture and nutrients from the air, making them perfect for creating some living art.

TIME IT RIGHT Air plants aren’t frost hardy so make your living picture frame inside during late spring, which will give plants time to anchor onto the support wires. Put the frame outside for summer, bringing it back indoors in mid-fall.

A Rootless Life

Tillandsias are known as air plants because they are able to grow without soil, getting moisture and nutrients from the air through specially adapted leaves. Plants that are watered and fed well will reward you with flowers and new plants, which appear in the form of offsets or “pups.” Leave the pups to form clumps or remove them when half the size of the parent plant for use in other displays.


TOOLS & equipment

wooden box-style picture frame, ideally 2in (5cm) deep and with an overlapping front, painted with a 2:1 mix of emulsion paint and PVA glue, finished with a coat of clear marine varnish (see page 120)

pencil & tape measure electric drill & drill bits

screw eyes

strong metal hanging brackets screws

galvanized wire pliers

wire cutters florist wire


selection of small air plants, such as: Tillandsia aeranthos Tillandsia bulbosa Tillandsia circinnata Tillandsia filifolia Tillandsia ionantha Tillandsia ionantha scaposa Tillandsia ixioides Tillandsia juncea Tillandsia melanocrater tricolor Tillandsia tectorum

*3h "Project Steps


Measure and mark points for holes for the screw eyes all the way around the inside edge of the box frame, about 34in (2cm) behind the front frame and at 4-6in (10-15cm) intervals. Match a drill bit to the width of the screw eyes and drill shallow holes at each of the marked points.


Take one end of a coil of galvanized wire, thread a short length of 1U-2in (3-5cm) through one of the screw eyes, and twist it back around the wire to secure it.


Twist in screw eyes by hand at each of the drilled starter holes. Screw heavy-duty metal hanging brackets in the four corners of the box frame, plus a third bracket in the center of each long edge, if preferred, for additional security.


Uncoil enough wire to reach an eye hook diagonally opposite on the frame, leaving 1M-2in (3-5cm) excess. Cut with wire cutters. Thread the loose end through the eye and, using pliers, pull it so that the length of wire is taut across the frame. Twist off and secure; there should be no slack.

3 Repeat to create an abstract “mesh” with areas of fairly closely overlapping wires where the air plants can easily be attached. Affix several wires to each screw eye, if required.


Wrap florist wire

around the plant stems to secure them to the mesh structure. If a plant has a short stem, gently slide the wire between the bottom pair of leaves.

Care Advice

Where to site Air plants like

warmth but not direct sunlight and are happy outdoors in spring, summer, and early fall. Bring your frame inside when temperatures fall below 46°F (8°C), somewhere with good light levels and air circulation; do not place near registers.

Watering and feeding Air

plants absorb moisture and nutrients from the air through their leaves. Plants generally need spraying 2-3 times a week (ideally using rainwater), more frequently during summer or dry conditions. Feed with a diluted air plant liquid fertilizer misted on leaves once a week in spring and summer, twice a month in winter.

General Care Remove dead, diseased, or dying foliage throughout the year. Do not let water sit in the base of the plant.


Pea and Broad Bean

Updated: October 9, 2015 — 12:33 am