It can find a site that will help you earn a college degree, learn a foreign language, provide instruction in a musical instrument, or inspire you to start a new business.
Louis Davis, a Marshall County resident and full-time employee for FedEx, was “surfing the Net” one day about 16 years ago when he came across a website that intrigued him. It advertised the sale of Tillandsia or air plants.
“I had never heard of air plants,” he said. An amateur gardener, his curiosity was piqued by the idea that a plant could not only grow, but survive many years in an environment that required no soil. To satisfy his curiosity, he ordered an assortment of species that were in bloom. The rest, as they say, is history.
He tells how collecting Tillandsias developed into a business plan, as he learned that there are hundreds of species, miniature in size to several feet tall. Realizing there would be a market for plants that were easy to grow, inside or outdoors, reasonably priced, and attractive year round, he began selling them at flea markets, reptile shows, and garden events. He marketed them as individual plants that could be placed in containers, hung from trees, or mounted on wood pieces or driftwood.
Today, he lives on an 11-acre plot in Paducah where he runs a satisfying and profitable business from his home. Most of his sales are transacted on the Internet, which makes it possible for him to work from home, which, he says, is far more enjoyable than driving a truck.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s great making a living and not having to leave the house.”
Business is thriving, thanks to an article featuring his business, Plant Oddities, in House and Garden magazine last fall.
“I grow a few (Tillandsias),” he said, “but I mostly buy and sell from other growers. I’m primarily a retailer.”
To say “a few” is putting it mildly. There are more than 300 species growing among the thousands of Tillandsias in his greenhouse on Old Cairo Road. Visitors are welcome, but should call for an appointment at 270-519-1428.
Examples of these unusual and beautiful plants can be seen on Davis’s website email@example.com.
A caveat: one should not be fooled by the popular nomenclature, air plant. The plants are epiphytes, meaning they grow above the ground and obtain their nutrients from rain, dust and air.
“They need everything any other plant needs,” Davis explained, “just not the soil. They can be mounted on anything — driftwood, cork bark, rocks or minerals.”
Tillandsias can be supported by another plant or object. Think Spanish Moss.
When growing indoors, they require moisture, such as occasional spritzing. They will thrive in bright, indirect light, but not in direct sunlight.
Davis said he has no idea how many plants he has shipped; some shipments have been sent as far away as Australia, New Zealand and Norway.
A popular seller is a specimen displayed in a glass orb, selling for as little as $10. An arrangement of five different species is priced at just under $20. More elaborate Tillandsia species mounted on boards range from $30 to $40. Top price is $50, and this is surprising when you see the miniature specimen of no particular appearance.
“It is a Brazilian species, very rare,” Davis explained. “Among collectors, it’s a ‘gotta have’ species.”