Air Plant Care Guide

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What are Air Plants?

Air plants (Tillandsia) are all the rage! Gardeners of all experience levels are drawn to their unique ability to grow without soil!

They are tropical and will not survive freezing temperatures, so they are grown as houseplants in much of the United States.

Air plants are epiphytes, meaning that in the wild, they grow on other larger plants rather than in the ground.

For example, they use their roots to anchor to the crooks and crevices of trees and shrubs without harming them.

Air Plants (Tillandsia) on Driftwood

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Air plants absorb moisture and nutrients from the air through their leaves.

This unique quality makes them easy to grow and adaptable to many locations throughout the home and office.

For instance, they can be grown in terrariums, shells, grapevine wreaths, and wireframes (however, don’t use copper as air plants find it toxic).

Air plants can also be placed in cups with a magnet to display on a filing cabinet or refrigerator.

This flexibility makes them a stylish way to add plants and greenery to almost any room.

Air Plant In a Magnetic White Cup on a refrigerator in Bloom
Air Plant In a Magnetic Cup on a refrigerator in Bloom

Air Plant Care

It is estimated that there are 450 varieties of air plants.

So there is a wide array of leaf shapes and styles to collect.

Regardless of the variety, their care is very similar.

Air plants are very forgiving of neglect, which has added to their popularity.

Below are care tips that will keep your air plants healthy and vibrant for years to come.

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Light Needs

Air plants perform best when they have plenty of indirect sunlight.

Fluorescent light is also sufficient.

Generally, full sun is too strong, so avoid locations near windows that face south or west.

Air Plant Displayed in A Metal Plant Hanger against black and white back drop

How to Water Air Plants

When watering houseplants, it is best to allow tap water to sit in an open container overnight.

This allows the chlorine to dissipate and will help prevent brown edges on leaves.

If your tap water or well water is considered “very hard,” it’s best to use distilled water.

Hard water may interfere with the plant’s ability to properly absorb water.

There are two main ways to water air plants.

The first is by removing the air plant from its display and placing it in a bowl of water for 30-60 minutes once a week.

Then, place the air plants upside down on a towel until dry.

This allows excess water to drain from the base of the leaves.

Any water left in the base of the leaves will promote rot and decay.

The other method of watering is by misting the leaves.

An all-purpose mister works well. Depending on the humidity level of your home, air plants will need to be misted several times per week.

For air plants that are permanently mounted on a home décor piece, this is the best option for watering.

Air Plant Temperature Needs

Air plants grow in temperatures ranging from 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

They can be displayed outdoors in the summer months; however, they will need to be watered thoroughly several times per week.

As noted above, they do best when not in direct sunlight.


Air Plant Flowering & Reproduction

Air plants flower once in their lifetime, so it is a notable occasion.

One of the signs that it is preparing to bloom is the formation of baby plants (known as pups) at the base.

Allow these pups to grow until they are about a third of the size of the mother plant.

They can then be removed from the mother and grown as a new individual plant.

In some cases, the pups can be gently pulled away or use a knife to remove them from the mother.

Note that when an air plant is flowering, adjust your watering routine to keep water off the blooms.

The petals are too delicate to be submerged in water.

Air Plant Grooming & Maintenance

Air plants are relatively easy to maintain.

Gently remove any discolored leaves at the base.

Fertilizing isn’t necessary but can help promote blooming.

Liquid fertilizers specifically designed for succulents can be added to the water once a month.


Click here for more easy-to-grow houseplants!

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