Air Plants, also known as Tillandsia, are one of the easiest plants to care for. Yes, it’s easier to care for than succulents. Okay, maybe not, but air plants don’t need soil at all to grow, but it doesn’t mean that they can thrive on air alone. They do require the proper amount of care and the right environment to thrive.
So, if you’re planning to add low-maintenance houseplants in your collection, then go for air plants. Trust us, they are hardy houseplants that require less attention. Plus, they’re perfect as decor to your home. Follow the air plant care tips below on how to care for your air plants. But first, what are air plants?
What Are Air Plants?
Tillandsia, commonly known as air plants, are low-maintenance plants that get their nutrients from the air around them. These little beauties are epiphytes, which means that in nature they grow on other plants, usually on tree branches.
There are hundreds of species and varieties of air plants. Some are furry, fuzzy, spiky, and trailing. According to Better Homes & Gardens, air plants usually have strap-shaped or slender triangle-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette pattern with new growth appearing from the center.
Also, air plants with silver foliage tend to be the most drought-tolerant, while greener types dry out faster. There are also colorful species, like Tillandsia maxima, that can have coral leaves. Most air plant species produce attractive, funnel-shaped or tubular flowers.
Planting Air Plants
Here is a short guide on how to properly plant air plants in your home, according to HGTV:
- Never plant your plants in dirt. Ever. Remember, they’re epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants, not in the ground.
- Since air plants don’t need dirt, you can put them in creative containers or places. Place one in a shallow bowl or vase filled with rocks or sand, place one in tiny container with a magnet and put it on the fridge, or tie them to driftwood with translucent fishing line.
- Avoid placing them in an enclosed terrarium. Yes, they look cute, and there are photos of terrariums of air plants all over Instagram, but air plants need circulation of air. A closed vessel will keep them too wet, causing them to rot or get a fungal disease.
Air Plant Care Tips
Question: How much light does an air plant need? According to Pistil Nursey, air plants need bright, indirect light to thrive. It’s best to place your air plants in rooms with southern or eastern facing windows because these areas of your home will be brightly illuminated with the sun for most of the day. As much as possible, avoid placing your air plants in the western area of your home because the light tends to come late in the day, and can be very hot and intense. You might burn your air plant under the sun.
Another air plant care advice of Pistil Nursey is the higher the humidity in your space, the more light is tolerated by the air plant. So, as a general rule of thumb, if you’re planning to put your air plant where it will receive loads of light, you should plan to mist it more often, like twice a week or even daily. A perfect place in your home would be your bathroom (if the space receives a LOT of light) because the humidity from your shower will take care of most plant misting for you.
Air plants are perfect low light indoor plants. Yes, if you have a light-starved home, you can still care for an air plant as long as you place it under a full spectrum light or fluorescent light no further than 3 feet away. Pistil Nursey advised that if you’re going to use fluorescent light, the plants will need, at minimum, 12 hours per day, so your plant gets all the light it needs to be healthy and alive.
Water your air plant thoroughly like 2-3 times per week, especially if you live in a hot, dry environment or season (spring and summer). Water it less often in a cool, humid season (autumn and winter).
According to Air Plant City, in conditions of extreme drying, and consequent moisture loss, your air plant cannot get replacement water from their roots like a terrestrial plant, or draw on internal reserves like a succulent. However, you may notice that your new air plants appear to be fuzzy. These are trichomes, a coating of special cells that helps air plants absorb water and nutrients.
The type of water you use in your air plant is important. Do not use distilled water and softened water because it will harm your air plant since it has too much salt content. Air Plant City recommended using filtered water or tap water that has sat long enough for the chlorine to dissipate. You can also use bottled water for your air plant. Aquarium water or pond water can be used too as long as they aren’t overcrowded with fish or reptiles.
As a general rule of thumb, the hotter and drier the air, the more you need to water your air plants. If you place your air plant in a container, make sure to empty the water because air plants will not survive in standing water.
Air Plant City added that under-watering is evidenced by an exaggerating of the natural concave curve of each leaf. After watering your air plant, turn them upside down and gently shake them to release the water that collects near the base. Another air plant care tip is to water your air plant in the morning than at night because most plants absorb the carbon dioxide from the air at night.
After watering your air plant, it’s important that you give it enough light and air circulation to dry in 4 hours or less, according to Air Plant City. Remember that if the plant dries within a very short period, it is not hydrating at all. Also, do not keep plants constantly wet or moist. Lastly, Air Plant City added that if the air is hot, a breeze acts to cool the plant and keep it from becoming overheated.
An important air plant care tip to keep your plants alive is to maintain the temperature between 50-90°F.
Air plants, just like other plants, need essential minerals like Potassium, Nitrogen, and Phosphorous. However, fertilizers for air plants are a bit different than regular fertilizer since they don’t have soil to break down nitrogen.
It’s best to use Bromeliad fertilizer (17-8-22) twice a month. Plus, it’s great for blooming and reproduction, too. Also, there are ammoniacal and nitrate nitrogens that are perfect for air plants.
However, take note of this air plant care tip, if you use pond water or aquarium water, you don’t have to use fertilizer because the water itself is a natural fertilizer and can help revive plants that are in distress.
Air plants have a life cycle of one plant growing to maturity and blooming. Air Plant City added that before, during, or after blooming, your air plant will start producing 2-8 offsets or pups that will bloom usually from mid-winter through mid-summer depending on the type of air plant.
Take note of this air plant care tip: if you leave your air plant to clump, gently remove the leaves of the mother plant as she starts to dry up either by pulling the leaves out or by trimming any dried areas. Don’t be scared because the gap that’s left will quickly be filled in by the other plants growing & spreading, according to Air Plant City.
If you wish to remove the pups, they should be at least 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the mother plant. There are two ways wherein you can separate the pups from the mother air plant. Air Plant City advised that, first, gently hold both mother and pup at their bases and twist in a downward motion.
However, if this method doesn’t work, you can remove the pup by cutting downward as close to the mother as possible. Keep the mother air plant, as long as she is still alive, she will continue to produce more pups for you for several years before she finally dies.
Mounting Your Air Plant
Air plants are versatile plants that can be grown anywhere, literally. You can attach it to natural wood, in ceramic or pottery, on rocks, or in a seashell or on coral. No wonder it’s one of the most popular indoor plants because it adds life and style to a place.
Remember, air plant terrariums are nice, but it collects water, which is dangerous for your air plant. If you decided to place your plant in a container, make sure to empty the excess after watering your air plant. Plus, do not surround your air plant with moss since it also holds too much water and will cause your air plant to rot and die.
Another air plant care tip by Air Plant City is to use glue such as E-6000 or hot glue that’s been cooled down for 5 seconds, wire, fishing line, twisty ties, nails, or staples when attaching your air plant, but avoid using staple on its fleshy parts as it will kill your air plant. Also, never use superglue or copper wire as these will kill your air plant, as well.
Caring for Your New Air Plants
Lastly, in our air plant care is to soak your new air plants for 30 minutes to 1 hour, submerge upside down. After that, shake gently to remove excess water. Place it under bright, indirect light and let it dry. Do not fertilize your air plants for 3 weeks from the day that you bought it or received it. Simply place it in a spot where it will receive the right amount of light and water it accordingly.
That’s a wrap for our air plant care tips. Quite easy and simple, right? Grow your plant knowledge by visiting our Plant Care page to learn more tips on how to keep your plants alive and healthy!