How to Care for Air Plants

How to Care for Air Plants

Air plants, also known as tillandsias, are a popular plant and are very easy to grow. They’ve grown massively in popularity, often used in homes or offices. A member of the epiphytes family, like orchids and bromeliads, they naturally grow on another host, tree or object but don’t steal nutrients from their host. They require no soil to grow but do need water, light and nutrients. Air plants capture moisture and nutrients from the air through tiny vessels in their leaves called trichomes. How cool is that?

While very easy to care for, air plants still need a bit of attention to thrive. If properly cared for tillandsias can live for several years and produce ‘pups’ (baby air plants) for further enjoyment. The care tips we’ve outlined are meant to help and are very thorough. Remember, air plants are super easy to care for, our aim is simply to give you all the knowledge you need to take great care of your tillandsias.

Information courtesy of Heeman`s Garden Centre   

Light
Light is essential for any plant, luckily air plants can make due with filter sunlight or even artificial light.
Try to place your air plant 3-5 feet from a window or near an artificial light source.
Too much sunlight is not good for an air plant, even indoors. If growing outside, make sure to select a partially shaded location. Few varieties can handle all day sun.

Watering
The most important thing to remember is, just like other plants, each air plant will require different amounts of water based on the variety, size and location it’s grown in. These are suggestions, not fixed rules.
When growing air plants inside, they benefit from being watered at least once per week. Frequency depends on the humidity of their location. An air plant grown near a heater will dry out much faster and need more frequent watering than a plant grown in a more humid environment.
To water your air plant, place it face down in water, either in a container or your sink and let them soak for 10-20 minutes. Alternatively you can dunk plants several times in water. After soaking, gently shake off excess water to prevent rotting or damage.
Ideally, water in the morning so moisture can dry off through the day. They should dry out within 4 hours, them place back in container or display place.
In a pinch, misting your tillandsia can help but is not recommended all the time.
If you’re looking to fertilize your air plant, use an orchid or houseplant fertilizer that’s low in copper (they’re very sensitive to copper). It’s very easy to over fertilize your plant so don’t do it too often, diluting your fertilizer can help.
If your air plant is ever looking ‘thirsty’ or like it’s struggling, you can soak them in water (in a bowl or sink) for several hours or overnight. This can often help to revive your tillandsia.
When watering your tillandsia, rainwater or pond water are best. Do not water with distilled or artificaially softened water.
Healthy air plants have wide, open leaves while dehydrated plants leaves are closed and curled.
Do not submerge the flower or blossom of an air plant, it can lead to rotting.

Environment
One of the best locations for your air plants is in a bathroom or kitchen window where the steam/moisture will make them very happy.
Temperature can affect how air plants grow and how much water they need. Air plants grow best between 10°C and 32°C (50°F-90°F). One thing tillandsia do not like is freezing temperatures, they are very sensitive to extreme cold.
Air plants need good clean air, go figure, to grow. After watering, they need to have enough air movement to dry out within 4 hours.
Putting tillandsia in containers or terrariums is very popular and they have thrive in them, it’s not recommended though that they be completed enclosed in them. No air movement means no moisture or nutrients for your plant.
Avoid placing your plants too close to heater and A/C vents where they may dry out sooner and need more watering.

Other Tips
Never, ever put an air plant in soil. They do not need soil, it will only cause it to rot.
Your air plant will grow and produce new leaves while losing some too. For aesthetics, you can trim off any dead or brown leaves with scissors. To ‘hide’ this trimming, cut on a sharp angle so leaves still have natural look.
Roots may be present or grow but they are not needed, they’re sole purpose is to anchor the plant to a host. You can leave them or cut the roots off based on your preference.
You can fix your air plant in place on decorative ‘hosts’ by glueing them with an E3000 super glue (other glues can come loose over time/when wet or damage your plant) or string. Avoid using copper or pressure treated wood with your air plant.
As air plants grow they can produce flowers and babies, commonly referred to as ‘pups’. Pups can be kept on the mother plant to create a ‘clump’ that hangs in a longer string or can be removed when they’re 1/3 the size of the mother plant.

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