How to Propagate Air Plants

tillandsia air plant pup propagation

There are over 300 varieties of air plants around the world. They belong to the bromeliad family and are categorized as epiphytes. They have been given the name because of their distinct characteristics of growing in air. Air plant roots don’t need soil to grow and instead, get their nutrients from water and air.

Propagating pups is quite easy. You’ll need to peel back the leaves of the plant or cut them off to get to the pups at the base. Make sure you feel the area where the plants connect to locate the pups before cutting the leaves.

How Do You Propagate Air Plants?

There are several ways to propagate air plants, but dividing the pups takes the lead. It’s recommended that you carry out the procedure during the morning or early afternoon. The procedure is simple.

Make sure you leave the air plant in water for 2-3 hours to hydrate it, as this will make your work easier. Place the air plant on a flat surface and gently spread the leaves. Some people use pliers for this step, but it’s always better to use your hands because that helps you locate where the plants are connected.

Once you have located the pups, separate them from the parent plant. Again, you can use pliers for the job or do it by hand. Just make sure you pull them apart at the base. If you pull the pup from its leaves, you’ll end up ruining the plant. When you have safely separated the pup, keep it hydrated by placing it in a bowl of water.

Place the pups on a growing board and use crafting wire to mount it securely. Set them in a bright indoor area. You can also place them outdoors. Just make sure they are not in direct sunlight. If you are propagating air plants during winter, keep the newly separated pups indoors so they stay warm.

How Long Until Air Plants Produce Pups?

If your air plant has had its first bloom cycle, then the pups aren’t far behind. Tillandsia takes up to 6 months to produce pups; however, other varieties of air plants can take even longer to bloom.

How Many Pups Does An Air Plant Produce?

If you want to know how many pups an air plant produces, you’d need to be sure about its species. The number differs for each plant; however, Tillandsia plants produce 2 – 8 pups. Even the time when the pups are produced depends on the species. Some plants produce pups before their blooming cycle starts, while others make you wait even longer and only produce pups after their first blooming cycle is over.

How Do You Separate Pups?

The longer the pups stay attached to the parent plant, the sooner they’ll get mature. However, it’s better to remove the pups when they are still smaller. This helps the parent plant to focus their energy on growing more pups, hence providing you with more air plants. You can decide when you want to separate the pups and then follow the steps given below.

You’ll need a sharp knife to carry out the procedure. Make sure you cut as close to the parent plant as possible. Use a sharp knife and steady your hands so that the parent plant doesn’t get injured. In some air plant species, there are outer leaves that shield the pup from harm. You can cut it to reach the pups, but it is better if you gently pull it away for a clear view of the pups. Once the entire base is revealed, use the knife to separate the pups.

It’s safer to remove pups when they are about 1/3 the size of the parent plant. You can also look at its roots to know the best time for separation. If there is significant root formation, then carry on. However, smaller pups don’t always sprout roots early on, so don’t be alarmed by this. The pups don’t need roots to survive on their own, so you can easily separate them without worrying about ruining your plant.


Air plants are beautiful and add to the beauty of your home. Some species bloom flowers that last for months, while others die away within a few days. Propagating air plants ensures that even when the parent plant is gone, you have several plants that’ll soon bloom.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I don’t separate the pups?

In the wild, the pups stay attached to the parent plant until it dies. You, too, can take this route if you don’t want to separate the pups. There’s no harm in this and it’ll give you a large ball of plants, which is quite rare. If you want something unique for your garden, just leave the pups attached to the parent plant and wait.

How often do air plants produce pups?

Once the blooming cycle of the plant is complete, it starts to produce pups. During this time, the plant may wilt or turn brown. It’s common and means that the parent plant is spending all its energy on growing the pups.

An air plant produces about 2-8 pups. However, if you remove them while they’re still small, the parent plant might produce more. This entirely depends on the species of air plants that you have.

The most important thing to remember here is that air plants take time to bloom and produce pups. You’ll have to be patient if you want to see great results. Once the flowers have wilted, it’s better to cut them off as it’ll help redirect all the energy to the pups. If you have a stem air plant, then it’s recommended that you cut off the parent plant once it dies so your pups can grow easily.

How do I get my air plant to bloom?

Some species of air plants take years to bloom, but if you have Tillandsia, it will bloom after 3 weeks. Since the whole species grows slowly, you’ll have to look after them before you see some results. Here are a few steps that’ll help your air plants bloom.

Place them in bright, indirect sunlight as that is the best source of fertilization. The plant will take its sweet time to bloom, but giving it a water bath once or twice a week helps immensely. Immerse the whole plant in water for 5 – 10 minutes. Make sure you use room temperature water. Lay the plants on a towel for a few hours until they are completely dry. Use epiphytic or bromeliad fertilizers for the best results.

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