10 Plants You Didn't Know Were Epiphytes

10 Plants You Didn't Know Were Epiphytic Plants

Table of Contents

Before we go on with the list of plants that you didn't know were epiphytes, it's important to understand exactly what epiphytes are. They may seem like something but rest assured, they're symbiotic in nature and do not suck the life out of other plants. 

Confused? Read on to know more about epiphytic plants!


• What Are Epiphytic Plants? 

At the core of their existence, epiphytes are essentially plants that live on other plants. The origins of the Greek word "Epiphyte" lie in two different words: "Epi" meaning "in addition to" in English and "phuton" meaning "plants" in Greek. 

graphics depicting what epiphytes are
Epiphytic plants are generally defined as plant-like organisms or plants that grow on other plants. The first thought that may come into your mind might just be, "but if these plants grow on other plants, they must be parasites." But we're here to tell you that epiphytes are indeed, not parasites.

These plants grow on other plants just for physical support and not nutrients. So, some of these plants can even grow on inanimate objects when trained to do so. Apart from that, they have no attachment to these plants, called "phorophytes." Very often, epiphytic plants are also called air plants, seeing as they practically grow in the air. 
Essentially, these plants do not feed or derive nutrition from the soil. So, how do they feed?

 How Do Epiphytes Feed If Not From the Soil?

graphics depicting how epiphytic plants feed
Epiphytic plants, such as Orchids, Bromeliads, and some Ferns, obtain nutrients and water from their surrounding environment rather than soil. They absorb moisture and nutrients through specialized structures: some have roots that cling to surfaces and absorb water and nutrients directly from the air and rain, while others have leaves designed to funnel water to their bases. Epiphytes often form symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi, which help them access nutrients more efficiently. These adaptations allow them to thrive on trees or other supports without harming their hosts.

Now that you know a little more about epiphytes and how they are not parasites, let's look at some plants that we're almost sure you didn't know where epiphytic plants in the wild!

•  10 Different Kinds of Plants You Didn't Know Were Epiphytes

Here are a 10 different types of epiphytes, from flowering to foliage plants, that you commonly see but you don't actually know! 


1. Orchids

white orchids that are epiphytic plants

As epiphytes, Orchid plants and flowers grow on trees or other support objects in the wild, absorbing moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and debris. They have specialized aerial roots covered in velamen, which helps in water absorption and retention. Orchids rely on mycorrhizal fungi for nutrient uptake, thriving without soil while using their host solely for physical support.

At home, Orchids can be grown on bark or moss, ensuring good air circulation, humidity, and indirect light. Regular misting and careful watering can easily help you replicate their natural environment, allowing them to thrive.

✻✻Velamen refers to the outer, empty layer of cells specifically found in aerial roots of air plant


2. Bird's Nest Fern

Ugaoo Bird's Nest Fern Plant

Buy the Bird's Nest Fern Plant

Bird's nest ferns (Asplenium nidus) are epiphytes that thrive on tree trunks and branches, capturing moisture and nutrients from the air and organic debris. They have large, leathery fronds that form a nest-like rosette, collecting rainwater and fallen leaves for nourishment.

For growing epiphytes like these at home, mount you Fern on a piece of bark or place it in a well-draining, humus-rich medium. Also provide high humidity, indirect light, and regular misting to mimic their natural environment.


3. Monstera Plants

Ugaoo Monstera deliciosa plant XL

Buy the XL Monstera Deliciosa Plant

Surprised much? Well, it's true - Monsteras are epiphytes, very large ones in the wild! Monstera plants, like the Monstera deliciosa, are epiphytic plants that grow on trees in tropical forests, using aerial roots to cling and absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. Their large, fenestrated leaves maximize light capture and water collection.

Growing these epiphytic houseplants for the first time? Remember to always support them with a moss pole or trellis, use a well-draining soil mix, and maintain high humidity and indirect light. Regular misting and occasional fertilizing during their growing season can help replicate their natural conditions.


4. Bromeliad Plants

Ugaoo Red Bromeliad Plant

Buy Red Bromeliad Plant

Bromeliads are epiphytic plants that grow on trees, absorbing moisture and nutrients from the air and rain through specialized trichomes on their leaves. Their rosette-shaped leaves form a central tank that collects water and organic debris.

At home, you can mounted your Bromeliad plants on barks or grow them in well-draining, airy soil. Ensure that they receive always bright, indirect light, high humidity, and regular misting. Keep the central tank of the plant filled with water, refreshing it periodically to prevent stagnation.


5. Christmas Cactus

Ugaoo Christmas Cactus

Buy the Christmas Cactus Plant

Christmas Cacti (Schlumbergera spp.) are epiphytic plants native to Brazilian rainforests, where they grow on tree branches, absorbing moisture and nutrients from the air and rain. They have flattened, segmented stems and produce colorful, vibrant flowers in winter.

To grow them at home, use a well-draining, organic-rich potting mix and place them in bright, indirect light. Maintain high humidity and water moderately, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings. Support their growth by misting regularly and providing good air circulation.


6. Anthuriums

Ugaoo Anthurium Red Plant

Buy Anthurium Red Plant Online

Anthuriums are also epiphytic houseplants that grow on tree trunks and branches in tropical rainforests, absorbing moisture and nutrients from the air and organic debris. They have glossy, heart-shaped leaves and striking spathes with a central spadix.

To grow them at home, use a coarse, well-draining potting mix like orchid bark or sphagnum moss. Provide bright, indirect light, high humidity, and regular misting. Ensure good air circulation and water when the top inch of the soil feels dry, avoiding waterlogging.


7. Philodendron Plants

Ugaoo Philodendron Brasil Plant

Buy Philodendron Plants

Not all but many Philodendrons are epiphytic plants in the wild. These are found in tropical rainforests, often growing on trees and branches. They absorb moisture and nutrients through aerial roots and unique, specialized structures. With heart-shaped or deeply lobed leaves, they also effortlessly add green lushness to their surroundings.

At home, Philodendrons plants thrive in well-draining soil, such as a mix of peat moss and perlite. They prefer bright, indirect light and high humidity. You must water them moderately, allowing the top inch of soil to dry between watering sessions, and provide occasional fertilization during their growing season.


8. Hoya Plants

Ugaoo Twisted Hoya Plant

Buy Hoya Plants

Hoya plants, also commonly known as Wax Plants, are epiphytic vines native to tropical regions of Asia and Australia. They cling to trees and also other inanimate structures, absorbing moisture and nutrients their through specialized aerial roots. Hoya leaves are often waxy and succulent-like, with clusters of star-shaped flowers.

At home, you can grow your Hoya plants in well-draining soil mixtures like orchid bark or perlite, or well-drained potting mix. Provide these plants with bright, indirect light, moderate humidity, and allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings for optimal growth.


9. Air Plants

Air Plant Tillandsia in a small glass jar

Air plants, scientifically known as Tillandsia, are unique epiphytic plants that thrive without soil, absorbing moisture and nutrients through specialized trichomes on their leaves. They attach themselves to trees, rocks, or other surfaces, often in tropical and subtropical regions.

At home, air plants can be mounted on driftwood, shells, or other decorative elements. To ensure that they thrive, you must provide them with bright, indirect light, regular misting, and soak them in water for 20-30 minutes once a week to ensure proper hydration.


✻✻Fun Fact: The Ball Moss (Tillandsia recurvata) is one of the only kinds of Air Plant that is found in deserts and not tropical regions. These plants derive nutrients from the marine fog around them.   


10. Peperomia Plants

Ugaoo Peperomia Green Plant

Buy Peperomia Plants

Peperomia plants are small, epiphytic species native to tropical and subtropical regions, often growing on decaying wood or tree bark. They have thick, fleshy leaves that store water and are adapted to absorb moisture and nutrients from the air.

To grow Peperomia at home, use a well-draining potting mix like orchid bark or a blend of peat moss and perlite. Provide bright, indirect light, moderate humidity, and water sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.

Loving the idea of epiphytic plants? Now, you can grow them in your home new and creative ways!


Buy Plants