How To Care For Air Plants

how to care for air plants and tillandsia in a terrarium

Air plants have already become favorites of modern home gardeners and plant lovers. This is due to their ease of care and the several creative ways they can be displayed.

These free-living plants bring a sense of uniqueness to your indoor space. That’s why you will find so many of them filled in glass globes or wooden frames no matter which nursery you head to.

Just because they don’t need to be potted and can survive without soil doesn’t mean that air plants don’t have specific care requirements. Their plant care routine may not be too complicated but is quite specific. In this article, we’re going to give you a roundup of all the necessary requirements to ensure your air plants stay healthy and happy.

How to Care for Air Plants

Air plants belong to the large Tillandsia genus that contains over 650 different species of epiphytic plants.

In their natural habitat, they use their small roots to attach themselves to the branches of trees and shrubs. These plants are native to the southern US and Mexico.

Since they absorb moisture and nutrition through their leaves, air plants prefer humid environments.

Let’s look at their specific care requirements.

Water

The first step to perform good air plant care is to ensure that they receive enough water. Since most homes are not as humid as the tropical forests, you will need to water them to meet their moisture needs.

Air plants are usually watered via two methods: misting or spraying and soaking. For misting, you will need a plant spray bottle to spray your plants every day or every other day. When you’re done, you should shake the damp plant and gently place it on a soft towel to let it dry for a few hours before putting it back in its place.

Most air plant species can also be watered via soaking. This is a good way to ensure that the maximum amount of water is absorbed by the plant. To do this, you will need to a bowl, tub or sink with water and float the air plants in it for about 15-20 minutes.

Then take them out, hold them upside down, and shake a little so that any excess water can be drained. Put them on a soft towel and let them dry for a few hours before putting them back in their place.

Be sure to use the right quality of water as well. Distilled or soft water cannot be used to water air plants, nor can you use chlorinated water. When using tap water, allow it to sit for 24 hours so that the added chlorine is released.

How Much Water Do Air Plants Need?

This entirely depends on the humidity levels of your house or the location where they are placed. Misting 3-4 times a week and soaking once or twice a month works well in most conditions.

How Do I Tell If I Overwatered My Air Plant?

If air plants are not allowed to dry after getting water, signs of rot will start appearing. The base of the plant will turn brown or purplish-black and leaves will start falling off from the center.

Air

After each watering, air plants should be given enough air circulation so that they dry within 3-4 hours. However, very hot or dry air is not suitable for the plants and may overheat them.

Light

Providing the right amount of light is the next step in air plant care that is critical for their optimal growth.

How Much Light Does an Air Plant Need?

Air plants are sunlight lovers and bright but filtered light suits them the best. So, you can place them near west, east or south-facing windows but be careful as very intense light can fry the leaves. During summer months, you can take them outdoors in partially shaded places.

As a general rule, the higher the humidity in your space, the better the air plant will be able to tolerate light. So, if your air plant is receiving loads of light, you need to mist it more often.

Artificial Light vs. Natural Light

Air plants can survive in artificial light as well but it must be fluorescent (full spectrum) light. You will have to get fluorescent bulbs for this as the regular ones don’t emit that quality of light. A minimum of 12 hours of fluorescent light is required by the plants to grow.

Temperature

Air plants prefer warmer temperatures. The ideal range is 50-90 °F (10-32 °C). Anything below 40 °F will prove to be fatal. They can’t survive in the winter frost.

Fertilizer

Fertilizing air plants is neither difficult nor essential. They can even do well without fertilizer. However, fertilizing with a Bromeliad fertilizer (17-8-22) a few times a year can help with faster growth and better flowering. Alternatively, you can use general-purpose houseplant liquid fertilizer diluted to one-fourth strength.

The best time to fertilize is during summer months when you’re planning to give a nice soak to your air plants. Add the fertilizer to the water in which you will soak the plant.

Grooming and Trimming

You may want to trim or prune your air plants periodically to maintain their beauty. If you notice any dead or wilted leaves, pull them off gently from the base to remove them. Some leaves may show browning at the tips which can be trimmed using sharp pruning shears.

Make sure to trim them at an angle to give a more natural look and so they can blend in with the healthy ones.

Caring for Air Plants after Shipping

Shipping may put air plants under stress as they are usually packed in boxes and have to withstand darkness and no water for several days. Therefore, when you receive your package of air plants, open the box right away and soak them in the water at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. After that, let them dry and provide bright light while they are drying.

Caring for the Pups

Air plants will produce little offspring, called pups, each year provided they are being taken care of. The number of pups your plant produces may vary depending on the type of air plant. The usual range is 1-3 but some species can produce up to a dozen pups.

When you see the pups growing, let them stay attached to the parent plant until they are at least a third the size of their parent plant. After that, you can remove them and start caring for them as a new plant. They make wonderful gifts too!

Conclusion

Air plants are low maintenance plants but that doesn’t mean you can ignore them completely. With these specific tips, you will be able to provide the essential air plant growing conditions to enjoy their beauty for many years to come.

FAQs

Do Air Plants Grow Bigger?

Air plants are usually slow growers but their growth also depends on the particular species of air plants. However, if you’ve bought a mature air plant, you will notice only a little increase in its size after a year or two. The leaves may show greater spread over time.

Can You Plant Air Plants in Soil?

Air plants don’t need soil to grow and their roots only act as an anchor to provide them support while anchored to branches or mounting objects. It’s best not to plant them in the soil as it may result in fungal growth.

Why Did My Air Plant Fall Apart?

The most common cause of a dying air plant is wet rot. This is when you’re overwatering your plant and not letting it dry completely. The water that’s behind sitting on the leaves causes them to rot. This is because fungal or bacterial growth begins on the damp plant resulting in irreversible damage to the plant.

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