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TILLANDSIA usneoides

Image of Tillandsia usneoides

Mark A. Miller



Botanical Name

TILLANDSIA usneoides

Plant Common Name

Graybeard, Spanish Moss

General Description

Large trees draped with Spanish moss bring to mind beautiful landscapes of the American South. Often mistaken for a lichen, Spanish moss is in fact a tiny bromeliad. It is an epiphyte (tree dweller) that produces long, hanging strands of wavy, pale gray-green foliage that dangles from the branches of trees without doing them harm. Spanish moss is an evergreen, perennial that exists across a very broad geographic area, from the southeastern United States southward to Argentina.

The long, dangling leaves of this bromeliad are narrow, tubular and wiry. They have a felt-like surface and no roots. It obtains moisture from ambient humidity and rain and gains nutrients from runoff from the branches and leaves above it. In early summer it produces tiny, difficult to detect chartreuse flowers on its leaves. In winter, or the tropical dry season, the plants tend to become a more ghostly grayish white. Central American forms of Spanish moss have slightly larger leaves that are more ornate.

Grow Spanish moss in partial sun to partial shade. Air circulation is important to prevent rotting. Strands can be pulled away and relocated to new trees or hanging baskets. If humidity is high the plants can tolerate more direct sunlight. Protect it from harsh winter cold and drying winds and refrain from planting it where summers are arid.

Use Spanish moss as a decoration on tropical tree branches, orchid boxes or hanging baskets. It also looks great as topdressing for floral arrangements. It can become quite large and form heavy clumps on trees that can be easily thinned out to lessen the load. Trees covered in Spanish moss are usually old. When they begin to deteriorate, it is common for onlookers to mistakenly blame the Spanish moss.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    8 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type


  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Southeastern United States, South-Central United States, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, South America, Argentina

Growing Conditions

  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color

    Yellow Green, Chartreuse

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Gray Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Light Green, Gray Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Light Green, Gray Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Gray Green, Silver, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Flower Petal Number


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Foliage Texture


  • Foliage Sheen


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Dried Flower/Everlasting, Hanging Basket, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Self-Sowing