Tillandsias, often known as air plants, are a common and simple to grow plant. They’ve become incredibly popular and are frequently utilized in homes and workplaces. They naturally grow on another host, tree, or item and are considered an epiphyte, along with orchids and bromeliads, without taking nutrition from its host. They need water, light, and nutrients but no soil to flourish. Through microscopic capillaries on their leaves known as trichomes, air plants can absorb moisture and nutrients from the atmosphere. What a cool thing!
Despite being incredibly easy to maintain, air plants nevertheless require some care in order to flourish. Tillandsias can live for several years with proper care and give birth to “pups” (baby air plants) for added enjoyment. We’ve provided highly detailed care advice that is supposed to be helpful. We merely want to arm you with the knowledge you need to take excellent care of your tillandsias. Keep in mind that air plants are quite simple to maintain.
- Any plant needs light to survive, but fortunately, air plants may survive with filter sunlight or even artificial light.
- Place your air plant between three and five feet from a window or close to a source of artificial light.
- An air plant should not receive too much sunshine, even inside. Choose a spot that is only somewhat shaded if you are growing outside. Few plants can withstand full-day sun.
- The most crucial thing to keep in mind is that each air plant will need a different amount of water depending on its variety, size, and environment of growth. These are recommendations, not unalterable laws.
- Watering air plants at least once a week is beneficial when growing them inside. The location’s humidity affects frequency. In comparison to a plant grown in a more humid environment, an air plant grown close to a heater will dry up considerably more quickly and require more frequent watering.
- Place your air plant face down in water, in a container or in your sink, and let it soak there for 10 to 20 minutes to hydrate it. Alternately, you might repeatedly submerge plants in water. To avoid rotting or damage, gently shake off extra water after soaking.
- Water should ideally be applied early in the day so that moisture can evaporate. After four hours, they should be dry enough to be put back in a container or on display.
- While spraying your tillandsia sometimes can be helpful, it is not always advised.
- Use a houseplant or orchid fertilizer with a low copper content if you want to feed your air plant because they are extremely sensitive to copper. Don’t fertilize your plant too frequently because it’s quite easy to overfeed it; diluting your fertilizer can help.
- You can soak your air plants in water (in a bowl or sink) for several hours or overnight if they ever appear “thirsty” or like they are having trouble. This frequently aids in reviving your tillandsia.
- Rainwater or pond water work best for watering tillandsia. Never use distilled or artificially softened water to water your plants.
- Dehydrated plants’ leaves are closed and coiled, while healthy air plants have wide, open leaves.
- An air plant’s flower or blossom should never be submerged because doing so can cause rotting.
- Your air plants will thrive in a bathroom or kitchen window, where the steam and moisture will make them extremely content.
- The growth and water requirements of air plants can be impacted by temperature. Between 10 and 32 degrees Celsius, air plants thrive (50F-90F). Since tillandsia are extremely sensitive to cold, freezing temperatures are one thing they do not enjoy.
- It makes sense that air plants need clean, healthy air to grow. They require considerable air movement after watering so that they can dry out in 4 hours.
- Although it is fairly common to place tillandsia in containers or terrariums and they have thrived there, it is not advised that they be completely enclosed in them. No air circulation means your plant won’t have any moisture or nutrients.
- Keep your plants away from heater and air conditioner vents so they don’t dry out too quickly and require additional watering.
- Do not ever submerge an air plant in soil. They don’t need soil because it will just make them decay.
- In addition to gaining new leaves, your air plant will also shed some. You can use scissors to clip off any brown or dead leaves for aesthetic purposes. Cut at a sharp angle so that the leaves still have a natural appearance to “conceal” this trimming.
- Although they are not necessary and just serve to anchor the plant to a host, roots may already be present or continue to grow. Depending on your preference, you can either leave the roots on or chop them off.
- You can use E3000 super glue (other glues can come loose over time/when wet or harm your plant) or string to secure your air plant in place on decorative “hosts.” With your air plant, stay away from pressure-treated wood and copper.
- As air plants develop, they can produce both blooms and pups, which are their young. Pups can either be removed when they are 1/3 the size of the mother plant or left on the mother plant to form a “clump” that hangs in a longer string.
Is it possible to over-soak an air plant?
Most air plants with plenty of trichomes (xeric plants) should be often misted or soaked, whereas mesic plants, which have bright green leaves and less trichomes, prefer to be drenched only once a week. In our blog post Mesic Vs Xeric Air Plants, we go into further detail regarding the differences between Xeric and Mesic plants. However, there is one exception to this rule: air plants with bulbous bases, even those with bright green, smooth leaves, should frequently not be wet for extended periods of time as well. Because of water buildup in their bulbous bases, plants are susceptible to internal rot.
Instead of being wet, Xerographica air plants should be sprayed or submerged. These plants, which are xeric in nature, are indigenous to arid areas. These plants can survive more sun and less water. A xerographica should be submerged in a basin or pail of water, then gently shaken to let the water drip off the leaves. To prevent water from getting stuck in the leaves, let the item dry upside-down.
The Tillandsia tectorum is an air plant that you shouldn’t wet because it has a lot of fuzzy leaves. The tectorum’s large trichomes on its leaves aid in absorbing moisture from the surrounding atmosphere. These plants have evolved to survive without much precipitation and are naturally found in arid areas of Ecuador and Peru. Depending on how hot and dry it is where you live, we advise spraying these guys every other week or so. They also favor open air and strong light.
The distinctive feature of bulbous air plants is that they have what are known as “pseudobulbs.” In the natural, ant colonies construct their nests inside of these hollow onion-shaped bulbs, which are essentially hollow themselves. When watering these plants, especially when soaking them, exercise caution. These so-called pseudobulbs are susceptible to water intrusion, which can cause the plant to rot from the inside out. You can either submerge them in water and shake off the extra afterward, or you can hold them under running water while avoiding their bases. The T. caput medusae, T. bulbosa, T. pruinosa, T. pseudobaileyi, T. butzii, and T. seleriana plants are included in this group.
Another reason not to soak T. pruinosa and T. seleriana is that they both have a lot of trichomes. They could decay from soaking because of too much water.
You shouldn’t immerse air plants with delicate leaves like T. fuchsii v gracilis and T. andreana. These plants benefit more from light misting or rapid dunks. You may need to spritz these plants as frequently as every couple of days to make sure they are receiving enough water because of their thin, wispy leaves, which can cause them to dry out more quickly between waterings.
The Tillandsia magnusiana should be misted or dipped rather than soaked because it has a lot of trichomes. These plants’ form and trichome content can make them more prone to decay.
When watering air plants that are in bloom, exercise caution to avoid getting the blossom itself wet. While it would be acceptable to soak the plant’s bottom leaves, we frequently advise pouring water over them or immersing them to avoid wetting the blossom. A bloom that has been moist for a long time may develop rot, which may eventually spread to the leaves and kill the plant.
How to Water an Air Plant
The most challenging aspect of caring for air plants is watering them. Some individuals use misting religiously, others immerse their air plants, while yet others utilize a mix of misting and soaking.
In our experience, watering air plants is challenging because the plant’s requirements differ significantly depending on the environment. Additionally, some species need particular care. Assessing your environment is the first step in watering your air plant. How much light is reaching your plant? What’s the temperature like inside your house right now? Is there a lot of dry air there (is your plant close to a heater or fireplace)? Is it also really humid?
Following your responses, you can modify the air plant watering schedule to meet your specific requirements. Here is what we suggest as a place to start:
- Every one to two weeks, give your air plant a 5- to 10-minute soak in room-temperature tap water (or, if you can get it, rainwater or pond water).
- Once your plant has soaked, gently shake off any extra water. It should be placed on a towel upside down in a well-lit area. This is very crucial. If extra water is allowed to stand, air plants will quickly decay.
- The plant should be able to dry completely in 3 hours once the soaking process is finished. More time than this could cause your plant to decay. Try putting it somewhere brighter with better airflow to encourage quicker drying.
- Mist your plant well once a week (instead of watering it). Make sure the entire surface is saturated (but not so much that there is water dripping down into the plant).
- You need to water more when the air is hotter and dryer (summer, early fall). Your air plant will require less water during the cooler and more humid seasons (winter and spring). Just be mindful of your plant because heaters and fires dry out the air.
- Water everything in the morning. Evening sopping or sprinkling interferes with the plants’ ability to breathe at night and prolongs the drying process.
Is My Air Plant Getting Enough Water?
The tops of your air plant’s leaves may turn brown or crispy if you’ve been neglecting to water it. When an air plant is under-watered, its leaves’ inherent concavity tends to become more pronounced.
Unfortunately, it’s frequently too late to save an overwatered air plant. Your plant has certainly succumbed to rot if the base of the plant turns dark or black and leaves are falling out or off from the center.
Regarding temperature, air plants are fairly tolerant. They thrive between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal temperature difference between daytime and nighttime is roughly 10 degrees.
To maintain your air plant healthy, include orchid or specific air plant fertilizer in your watering routine once or twice a month. Simply sprinkle some in your water, then carry on as usual. Your air plant will blossom and propagate if you fertilize it (or pup — more on this later)
Why soak air plants, exactly?
Because tillandsia grow in the air without soil, they are more commonly referred to as “air plants.” The belief that Tillandsia are air-only organisms is one of the most widespread misconceptions about them. However, what it really means is that they must consistently absorb moisture through their leaves. This is either the result of frequent soaking or extremely high humidity (like in a greenhouse).
They have incredibly cool-looking spiky tendrils, and since they don’t require soil to survive, there are countless inventive ways to show them, such as by placing them inside seashells or terrariums. They can also be used to create jewelry! The most frequent issues individuals have with air plants are brought on by improper watering; otherwise, they are hardy and simple to care for.
Since we often keep Tillandsia inside, where the air is significantly less humid than it is in the wild, we must soak them in water to rehydrate them. However, it must be carried out correctly or the air plant may decay.
How frequently do air plants need to be watered?
I wanted to go into more detail about this because our Facebook Page gets a lot of questions about how to water air plants. Although tillandsia, often known as air plants, are simpler to maintain than many other plant species, they still need some care and attention, and water is crucial to their general well-being. Here are some frequently asked questions about watering air plants along with our suggestions:
This mostly relies on your climate, where you’re keeping the air plants, the Tillandsia species itself, and the environment in which it naturally grows (learn more about mesic vs. xeric air plants here). Since most of the year is humid where we live in Tampa, Florida, we don’t run the heat in our home as often as our friends in the north do (I’m not trying to pick on them, I swear!). We typically water our plants twice a week, but drier climates require more frequent watering. Depending on the season, you may discover that you need to water your plants less. Additionally, it depends on where you put them at your house or office. The plants will stay more wet in a humid bathroom, but you’ll probably need to water them more frequently if they’re close to an air vent or a heat source. (Note: We don’t advise keeping your plants close to heat sources.)
It should be noted that while humidity might slow down drying, it in and of itself is insufficient for watering.
Again, you should modify your watering practices according to your climate and the species of your air plants, but for the majority of air plants and surroundings, we advise that you immerse your plants in water at least once a week. Use something that allows you to totally submerge the air plants, like a bowl, bucket, or your sink. Give them a lengthier bath for an hour or more every other week if you live in a dry area. Soak for 30 to 60 minutes at least once a week. You might wish to shorten the soaks if you reside in a location with higher humidity or if your air plant is more xeric in nature.
You should allow the air plants to completely dry after soaking. They can either be let to dry with their leaves facing down or turned over and gently shaken. If water is allowed to sit in the leaves, the plants risk rotting. The plants should be placed in an area with sufficient airflow, and they should be able to dry entirely in less than four hours. Before bringing your plants back home, ensure sure they are entirely dry if they are in a globe or terrarium.
You will observe how open and wide the leaves are after soaking your plants, as well as how much more “happy” they seem. A well hydrated air plant should appear like this! You’ll learn over time that if the color starts to look a little dull and the leaves start to close or curl, your tillandsia are thirsty and you should give them another nice wash. Try soaking your air plant for several hours or even overnight if it is really struggling to see if you can rehydrate the plant. Always allow them to totally dry off before soaking or spraying them once more.
Between waterings, you can spray the plants. If you live in a dry region, this might be a terrific method to keep plants healthy and offer them some additional care. However, unless you have one of the few species of air plants that appreciate low moisture, such as T. tectorum (for which we only advocate misting) or T. xerographica, misting is not a replacement for a thorough soak (which we recommend dunking instead of soaking).
When it comes to water, air plants aren’t particularly finicky; most tap water is suitable, although it depends on the water quality in your location. The most nutrient-rich types of water to utilize are rainwater, aquarium water, or pond water. If utilizing one of these types of water, don’t add any more fertilizer. Allow the water to rest for several hours to allow the chlorine to dissolve if you’re using tap water (maybe 24 hours in some areas.)
Use water that is not distilled since it is too “pure” and will deprive the plants of the nutrients they require. Additionally, artificially softened water should not be used since Tillandsia cannot tolerate its high salt concentration.
We advise soaking your air plants in the morning so that they can dry completely over the day. Additionally, air plants utilize the nighttime hours to breathe carbon dioxide, so if they are wet in the evenings, they won’t be able to do so effectively. This method is known as CAM; to learn more about CAM, read our page on how air plants breathe. You can check on them before you go to night and place them back in their terrariums or displays. Some indirect sunlight will help them dry more rapidly.
These are the queries about watering air plants that we encounter the most frequently. Did we respond to yours? If not, just inquire! Need advice on caring for air plants? Visit our page on air plant care.
Regarding watering the plants with blooms, I have a query. How do you water them if, as I understand it, you don’t moisten the bottoms or the blooms? Do you bring all of your indoor air plants inside during the winter? Although it doesn’t get very cold very often where I reside in Largo, Florida, it does occasionally. Since we don’t have snow, I believe the wind to be the main issue with the cold. Please lend me any assistance you can.
I recently purchased an aquarium, and in order to ensure that my three air plants receive continuous moisture in the office, I planned to tie them to a branch and let them sit on top of the tank. Do I still need to sprinkle and soak them as usual if the water that has evaporated from the tank should be plenty for them to receive?
Our well water passes through a water softener, which I should have mentioned in my previous query. They would be set up here if they could just survive on smoke.
Since we live in north-eastern Washington, rain has not been an option for us. Instead, we use well water, which I won’t even drink. I use spring water to water my air plants because I purchase it and drink it. I haven’t had them long, but they seem to be doing fine. Is using spring water for irrigation problematic?
Due to hydration issues, I do not advise attaching air plants to driftwood. In retrospect, it sounds apparent, but I was new to air plants and lost five of my six because the wood kept too much water when I first gave them a soak.