Why Is My Air Plant Growing Roots

All people adore tillandsia, often known as air plants, for their aesthetic appeal and reputation as soil-free houseplants. But hold on, why are they setting down roots? Yes, air plants actually do have roots. Roots from air plants are entirely organic. Due to constraints on the import of live plants, air plants must be trimmed at the original export farm, which is often in the West Indies, Mexico, or South America. Your air plants typically arrive without roots because of this, but it doesn’t hurt the plants. However, when the roots reappear after appearing to have disappeared, it might be confusing.

How do Air Plants Get Nutrients Without Roots?

The peculiar plant family known as epiphytes—from the Greek words “epi” (meaning “upon”) and “python” (meaning “plant”)—includes air plants. Plants known as epiphytes grow or adhere to other plants to provide support. They are not parasitic plants, which are those whose nutrients come entirely or in part from another living organism. Unlike other plants, which obtain nutrients from the soil through their roots, air plants solely use their root systems to cling to and anchor themselves to objects like tree trunks, branches, rocks, etc. Air plants need roots to survive in the natural because they keep them off the ground and away from predators, bad weather, and other dangers! However, when used as decorative plants, roots are not necessary and can be cut out without harming the plant. Imagine roots as hair! Although it is officially dead, it is nevertheless constantly developing. And exactly like the roots of an air plant, folks can choose how long or short they wish to keep it!

Light and moisture in the air provide nutrients to air plants, which receive them through their leaves. Trichomes, which allow air plants to capture and absorb nutrients, evolved on their leaves over time. The white, crystal-like hairs on the leaves that are present on the majority of air plant species are referred to as trichomesGreek term “trichoma (meaning “hair growth”)”. Don’t consume or smoke your air plants, though! Marijuana is another well-known plant with trichomes.

How to Trim Your Air Plant

Thus, you now have a choice. Do you want to trim your air plants for a neat, defined look or leave them au naturel with developing roots? Most gardeners who keep their plants indoors prefer a cleaner appearance, but those who live in hotter, more humid areas have the choice of keeping their plants outside, where they can grow naturally into trees. The roots will continue to expand, just like the plant itself, and if you decide to trim them sometimes, they will need to be done. With little kitchen shears or cuticle shears, you can easily trim your air plants, but be careful not to get too close to the base of the plant as this could harm it. To clean out the base and help prevent moisture and water from being trapped, which leads to rot, dried leaves can be removed while pruning the roots.

Air plants are the best indoor plants due to their soil-free nature and unparalleled adaptability. There are countless options! Will you cut the air plant roots or let them grow longer now that you understand how they obtain nutrients?

Can you snip the roots off an air plant?

We all adore air plants since they require little maintenance, but as with any plants, you may need to trim or prune them sometimes to keep them looking beautiful. We frequently receive inquiries about how and when to prune these unusual plants, so we have put together some advice to help you maintain your air plants’ best appearance and spot any problems.

Dead Leaves: It is normal for an air plant to shed some leaves while new ones sprout as it develops or adapts to a new or changing environment. As with any living thing, your plant may experience some dead leaves, which is typical and does not always indicate an issue. You may notice some wilted or dried-out leaves towards the base of your air plant; you can remove these leaves by gently pulling on them. A pup may occasionally be growing behind one of these dead leaves, in which case it is best to leave the leaf on until the pup has reached a size of approximately 1/3 that of the mother plant and can be safely removed.

A little pup grows at the base of this Tillandsia ionantha plant beneath some leaves.

Browning Leaf Tips: You could also notice that the tips of your airplant’s leaves have started to brown slightly. This could be a sign of either too much or not enough water. As a matter of fact, more “varieties that are thin, such the ionatha or argentea. These browning tips can be delicately pruned off without hurting the plants. As a general guideline, trim the air plant leaf at an angle rather than straight across to give it a more natural appearance. We also advise you to check your air plants’ leaves for browning or curling as these signs may indicate that they require more water or less light “Paying attention to your air plants’ needs and modifying your care as necessary. Depending on the amount of water provided and the habitat they are in, some xeric cultivars, such as the xerographica and streptophylla, may naturally develop curly leaves (read our post on mesic vs xeric air plants).

The shape and curl of the Tillandsia xerographica’s leaves vary naturally based on their moisture, habitat, and how they are presented.

Broken Leaves: Like all live plants, air plants occasionally have a leaf that is broken or injured. These plants can still be maintained in excellent health by trimming the broken leaves at an angle to improve the plant’s appearance.

Make sure not to remove too much of the length of the healthy leaves while trimming or pruning the leaves of your air plant. The air plant is resilient and tolerant, but if the leaves are cut too much, there will be less surface area for the plant to absorb nutrients.

Roots of an Air Plant: Tillandsia (air plants) are epiphytes, which means that they get their nutrients from the trichomes on their leaves and that they use their roots to anchor or connect to a rock or tree limb. They technically do not require the roots to thrive because they are not required for nutrition absorption. If kept as indoor plants, you can prune out these roots for aesthetic reasons or utilize them to hold the plant firmly in place on a wreath or a picture frame. If you do choose to clip the roots, be careful to do so without damaging the air plant itself by trimming only the roots.


I only recently learned about air plants, and I’m in love! It’s incredible how few people are aware of these wonderful little plants. I appreciate the helpful information you provided, but I do have a question about one of my plants that is currently in the flowering stage. I once read that doing so would encourage pup production. Is this a fact? I think it would look prettier if I cut off the browning portion where the blooms formerly were, but I don’t want to harm the plant.

I love these air plants more and more as I learn from you, Ryan! Make preparations for them both indoors and outdoors for the upcoming summer. Having to purchase more substantial ones! adore them

Do air plants produce offspring?

Let’s speak about having babies, namely air plant babies! Tillandsia, often known as air plants, are notoriously difficult to produce from seed, hence most Tillandsia nurseries prefer to grow air plants through propagation. In order to extend our supply of air plants and create some very robust Tillandsia specimens, we at Air Plant Design Studio rely on propagation.

This Tillandsia streptophylla pup, which we recently detached from a huge mother plant, is enormous and appears to be in good health.

An air plant will generate offsets once it has completed the blooming cycle, or “pups under ideal circumstances. The offsets develop differently depending on the Tillandsia species; some air plants produce pups near the base or root system, while others sprout them from beneath one of, but this air plant really acts as protection for the young Tillandsia pup that has sprouted beneath it.

Following blooming, air plants often produce 1 to 3 pups. Many, many more can be produced by some types.

Puppies being separated from the mother plant:

When offsets have grown to a size that is roughly one-third that of the mother plant, you can carefully remove them. With the right conditions and care, the pup will then proceed through its own lifespan, developing into a larger animal that eventually blooms and gives birth to its own offsets. While holding the mother plant, carefully pull on the pup’s base to remove it. If you must use excessive force to separate an offset that is ready to be removed, we advise leaving it intact. This offset should be able to be removed without harming mother or child.

clump formation in air plants:

The offsets will continue to develop as a mother air plant if not separated from it “It is possible for clumps to become quite spectacular. The formation will be somewhat influenced by how you keep them; for instance, by hanging clumping ionantha air plants, the pups will be given room to grow in all directions and should eventually form a spherical clump. These air plant clumps can create several blooms under the correct circumstances as the individual pups develop through maturity, bloom, and continue to produce their own pups.

promoting pup development

In most cases, air plants produce pups or offsets after blooming. At some time in their life cycle, every Tillandsia will go through this process, however certain species, like the xerographica air plant, bloom and produce pups much more slowly. Tillandsia need a lot of water, air flow, light (your air plant’s preferred level and intensity will vary according on type), and light in order to bloom and generate offsets. To hasten flowering and pup production, you can also use a fertilizer made specifically for Tillandsia (like this one), but bear in mind that fertilizer can only be used sparingly and should not take the place of adequate care or circumstances.

In our articles on the air plant blooming process and what happens after the bloom, you may find out what happens before an air plant produces pups.

In soil, can air plants grow roots?

In soil, an air plant won’t flourish. Never even attempt it. Above: a picture taken by John Merkl. Tillandsias are epiphytes, which means that in nature air plants grow on other plants rather than by establishing roots in the ground, clinging to tree trunks, for example.

Where do air plants have roots?

To be clear, however, air plants are both real and fascinating. What you should know is as follows.

The bromeliad or pineapple family includes the genus tillandsia, which includes air plants as members. Since tillandsia have epiphytic roots, they don’t grow in the ground; instead, they cling to rocks and trees. There are various types, but Spanish moss—which isn’t a moss at all—is the most well-known. In the humid south of the United States, vast amounts of it can be observed clinging to trees. Although some of these plants also flourish in dry mountain forests, the majority of these plants are native to warm, temperate regions of the Americas. As an example, electrical lines in Jamaica are one surprising location where air plants might be seen growing. It is a plant genus that is remarkably adaptable. The roots of tillandsia are at the top of the list of distinguishing characteristics. They serve the main function of securing the plants to tree branches. Air plant roots can be simple or nearly nonexistent, and they don’t do anything to help the plants absorb water and nutrients. Instead, tillandsia have developed the ability to draw out water vapor and organic matter from the air in the form of detritus and dust. They do this very cleverly by skipping the root-absorption stage and using their absorbent, hairy scales to trap the nutrients needed for growth. Even though tillandsia only get their nutrients from the atmosphere, all plants take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into complex carbohydrates. What can be essentially created out of thin air is astonishing.

What are air roots used for?

Aerial roots are those that develop on a plant’s above-ground components. Woody vines have aerial roots that act as anchors to attach the plant to trellises, rocks, and other supports.

Similar to underground roots, some varieties of aerial roots also take up nutrients and moisture. Although they have underground roots, bog and marsh plants are unable to take gases from the atmosphere. These plants produce above ground “breathing roots to help them with air exchange.

Do I need to bury aerial roots?

In rainforests, where there is high humidity and temperature, orchids can be found. Since orchids are epiphytic plants, they can survive on a variety of different plants, including trees, shrubs, and even rocks.

In order to attach to the host plant and grow to the light, these plants have aerial roots. The aerial roots also assist the orchid in absorbing sufficient amounts of water and nutrients from its surroundings, such as rain or the surface of tree branches.

Therefore, even if you don’t like the way your plants look, you shouldn’t cut off the air roots because they are crucial for orchid survival. By cutting them off, your plant may struggle to acquire enough water and nutrients, which may result in your orchid dying.

However, you can remove these aerial roots with sterile scissors if they have been injured or are already dead.

A lot of aerial roots on an orchid may indicate that it needs to be replanted. This could mean that the orchid’s subterranean roots are unhealthy and are preventing it from absorbing enough nutrition. In order to obtain the necessary nutrients from the environment, plant develops aerial roots.

The stability is another factor in an orchid’s propensity to develop numerous aerial roots. The plant develops air roots when it tries to cling to anything when it is seeking stability, such as when a spike full with lowers is tipping the entire plant off balance.

Even if an orchid needs to be replanted, aerial roots shouldn’t be buried. If you put these roots under the potting media, they may decay because they are not accustomed to being buried. Typically, air roots are not irrigated; instead, they draw moisture from the surrounding atmosphere.

Because of the moister climate and reduced airflow, buried air roots are decaying. However, by immersing them in water each day for a time, you can “teach these roots to be potted.