If you’ve been bitten by the air plant bug but don’t have the time or space to grow and care for potted plants, your life’s about to change all thanks to air plants. Air plants, or Tillandsia, are native to the southern regions of the United States, Mexico, Central, and South America. With over 650 different species, these plants survive without soil.
Depending on the species and growth conditions provided to the plant, a single air plant may live for a few months to a couple of years.
Air plants use their unique leaves to get moisture and nourishment from the air for survival. Although they are super easy to maintain, they do need proper care to live a long and healthy life. Constant air circulation, frequent watering, and some sunlight are essential for healthy growth.
In this article, you’re going to learn everything about their growth cycle and how long they can survive.
How Long Do Air Plants Live?
Most air plant species bloom once during their lifetime and blooming represents the peak of their life. This is when most air plants change color and display beautiful shades of deep red and pink.
The resulting flowers can last for several months, depending on the species. Once the flowers start to fade and wilt, you should know that the plant won’t last for too long.
Before they die, air plants produce pups or offsets to continue the same growth cycle. They can be removed from the mother plant and grown individually.
How Fast Do Air Plants Grow?
Many home gardeners get discouraged because they think that their air plant isn’t growing as fast as they want.
The truth is that air plants generally grow at a very slow pace. Depending on the type of air plant, it can take several years for the plant to grow to maturity and start blooming. If you’re growing air plants in your home, you have to have patience.
Here are a few tips that will help you take proper care of them and ensure good growth.
- When you’re soaking the plants in water, make sure you don’t use distilled or soft water. It’s best to use tap water but you need to take care of the chlorine content as well. Let the water stand overnight so that chlorine dissipates from it and then use it to soak your plants.
- Every time you spray or soak your plants, you have to give them a good dry as well. Keep them in a well-aerated place and let them dry for at least 3-4 hours before you put them back to where they were. Soggy plants are prone to rot which can be fatal.
- Ensure that your air plants have good access to filtered sunlight.
- When blooming, rinse the plant instead of soaking.
- Keep trimming off any dry or withered leaves.
- Don’t over-fertilize the plant as that may burn its delicate leaves. Once a month is more than enough during the growing season.
- In winters, you can skip fertilizing.
Air Plant Growth Cycle
Air plants can come into existence in two ways. One is by means of seeds that develop when air plant blooms are pollinated. The second way an air plant may come into existence is by pups or tiny offspring that the mother plant produces. Growing from seeds is definitely the slower way of growing air plants.
Pups can show good growth and get larger within a few months. You can separate them from the mother plant or leave them connected to form an air plant clump. These pups will continue to grow even if the mother plant dies.
The first stage of the air plant growth cycle is the beginning of the reproductive process. This is marked by the appearance of an inflorescence – a flower stalk. Air plants usually begin to blush during this phase with leaves towards the top of the plant turning red or pink. Some inflorescences are soft and round while others can be sharp and spiky.
The flowers emerge as a single bloom or a cluster with varying shapes and colors. This is the most beautiful stage of the air plant’s life cycle. Some flowers are very long-lasting such as Tillandsia Xerographica’s flowers.
Some air plants can live for as long as several years. Most air plants have matured at the time of flowering and will survive for a few months to a year after they have bloomed.
Pups and Clumps
After the air plant has finished flowering, it won’t grow any further but it will produce baby plants known as pups. This marks the next stage of the air plant growth cycle. Air plants can produce up to 1-3 plantlets or pups. They are usually found at the base of the plant but may also be seen finding shelter under drying leaves of the mother plant.
You can carefully remove the pups when they are about 1/3 the size of the mother plant by using a sharp pair of scissors. The pups will grow and begin their own life cycle. You can also leave them as it is and they will form clusters or clumps
After flowering, some air plants may also produce seeds. This process usually occurs during the dry season so that rain doesn’t wash them off. Then when it begins to rain, the seeds are prepared to germinate and grow into plants.
Growing air plants from seeds is a long and tedious process and can take many years. Therefore, most gardeners prefer pups instead of seeds. However, air plants grown from seeds are hybrid plants that show more vigor and are healthier.
As you can see, even if your air plants appear to be growing slowly or not changing at all, there’s a lot going on inside them. With the right care and attention, they will reward you with striking and colorful flowers and an ongoing colony of baby plants.
Do Air Plants Die After They Bloom?
They do not die right after they bloom. Some may even live for up to several years after flowering. However, the process of flowering signals that the plant has reached its peak and will soon begin to wilt.
On the bright side, they grow little pups before they die.
How Big Do Air Plants Get?
If your air plant is a pup then it will get bigger and reach its full size depending on the species. The size range is vast starting somewhere around 2 inches to nearly 7 feet. If you’ve bought a fully grown air plant, you will not notice any difference in its size over time.
How Many Times Do Air Plants Bloom?
Air plants bloom only once in their life when they’ve reached maturity. The next stage of their life cycle starts when a blooming air plant starts producing pups.