Comparison: Air Plants vs Succulent Plants

Comparison Air Plants vs Succulent Plants

So you’ve just been at a store and bought a plant but can’t tell whether it’s a succulent or an air plant. You’re not alone …

Every succulent enthusiast has been there. Hordes of plant lovers mistake air plants for succulents, and we understand why.

Both have massive decorative powers adding a natural spice to your home décor design. Quirky and unusual in looks, you’d be forgiven to think they hail from a different planet.

Despite the confusion, there is a world of difference between succulents and air plants. Several factors differentiate the two, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, right? What exactly are air plants and succulents?

Differences Between Air Plants and Succulents

Tillandsia, commonly known as Air plants, get most of their nutrients from the air, which is the origin of their name. They are quite a sight to behold due to their beautiful appearance. They are straightforward to maintain and upkeep, making them the obvious choice for many environments like offices, schools, homes, restaurants, and other settings at all seasons.

If you want to brighten any area, these beauties, which grow without dirt and come in various colors and sizes, will be helpful.

Air plants do not need soil to grow or depend on frequent watering like traditional plants. These make them a popular choice for indoor plants and home décor.

Air plants have thin, spiky tendrils. At the same time, succulents possess thickened and fleshy leaves or stems, a feature that helps them retain water. If you are a forgetful gardener, these plants will serve you as they can survive in limited water areas for extended periods. They are easy to care for and maintain; if well handled, succulents can brighten any indoor space and make it beautiful.

Succulents can be planted alone or with a combination of their peers to create a stunning look. They come in various colors and have an attractive quality that encourages you to touch them. These beauties do not attract bugs, and it is tough for most of them to overgrow. Their leaves may be rounded, spiky, needle-like, ruffled, or berry-like.

Distinguishing air plants from succulents can be pretty confusing. The following pointers will prove valuable if you decide whether to go for the alluring succulents or the delicate and wispy air plants.


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Air Plants

Air plants are a small group of one genus known as Tillandsia. The genus has approximately 650 species, all showing marked similarities in their phenotypes.

On the other hand, succulents are a much more extensive and varied plant group. Although succulents are not recognized as a plant group, they’re part of more prominent families in the plant kingdom. With about 25 families and tens of genera, succulents offer a wide variety for gardeners.

See a wide variety of popular succulent types here, or check out the rare ones.

Growing Air Plants

Air plants are epiphytes, which means that they don’t need the soil of any kind for them to grow. Their roots are exposed, and their primary purpose is to attach or wrap themselves on objects to keep the plant from moving.

Since they do not need soil, all you have to do is soak them in a water container for 30 minutes, then allow them to dry completely, preferably overnight, while placed upside down. Once dry, flip the plant to its proper position, then place it in its container.

On the other hand, succulents, just like any other plant, need soil and water to grow. When growing them in pots, ensure they have drainage holes to allow excess water to drain out.

Succulents also need direct sunlight to develop their best colors. Therefore, ensure that wherever you place them, they can get access to a few hours of direct sunlight. A south or west-facing window is your best bet when growing indoor succulents.

Read our more in-depth article 7 Fantastic Succulent Care Tips .

Maintenance for Air Plants

Air plants are challenging, making them easy to care for and a good choice for many. These low-maintenance plants do not need regular watering so that you can water them once a week.

To water them, soak them in water for anywhere between fifteen minutes and an hour, then allow them to dry completely before putting them back in their container. This is done to avoid molds.

On the other side of the ring, to keep your succulents healthy and happy, ensure that they get enough sunlight for about six hours a day. Rotate them often to ensure they get sunlight on all sides to avoid leaning on one side. They tend to lean towards the sun – a phenomenon popularly known as etiolation.

They do not need to be watered too often since they have water-storage tissues that store water for a long time. However, if the weather is too dry, you may need to increase the watering frequency. Ensure that the soil is dry before watering, as too much water can kill the plant. The best soil to use is commercial cacti mix which is well-draining to ensure the plants don’t sit on wet soil for a long time. They hate it.

(If you want to see more gold-tinted planters like the picture above, view more here).

Follow Succulent City on Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram for more informative & interesting content about succulents & cacti 🙂 Join the discussions at our Facebook Group, “Succulent City Plant Lounge.” Happy planting, and live the moment!

Colors of Air Plants

Depending on the species, air plants come in a variety of colors. A particular species can also have a variety of colors, so the color range is almost endless! Although air plants are typically green, they have beautiful multi-colored hues. Some colors include bright red, violet, deep burgundy, deep red, and more.

The colors change depending on factors like sunlight and lifecycle. Indirect sunlight is the best for air plants, and the gentle morning sunlight, diffused by the clouds, encourages color changes.  These plants change colors during their lifecycle as they bloom, and most of them change colors as they start to bloom.

Succulent plants come in various colors; you can mix them to create a stunning appearance in your space. Some of the colors you can find include blue-green, variegated, white, chartreuse, red, burgundy, pink, yellow, almost black, and more. To get your succulent plant to produce better colors, ensure that they get enough sunlight.

Watering Air Plants

Contrary to the thought that air plants do not need water, they need some water to have the proper moisture for their leaves.  You can water your air plant by misting, using a spray bottle to sprinkle water on the plants every two days.

The other method (better) is to soak the air plants in a bowl of water for about 30 minutes.  After watering, allow the plant to dry before returning it to its container.

While air plants must be dipped in water and soaked, succulents only take up water from the soil. The “soak and dry” method is an excellent way to do this. Let loose a deluge and let the excess water drain off. Good thing most pots have drainage holes, so the excess water runs out without much fuss. Do not water them again until they are scorched.

Houseplants are a great way to liven up homes, and while there are many options, succulents and air plants are top on the list.

They are both low- maintenance, easy to upkeep plants, making them ideal for most people. They are hard to kill and easy to use in various spaces to provide a beautiful look and feel. Moreover, you can have these plants together, as the air plants only require a place to wrap their roots around for support.

Air plants can be displayed in diverse ways like hanging from the ceiling, on branches of larger houseplants, on driftwood, on the walls like art, and many more. Succulents can only be grown on soil, meaning they have to remain upright, though you can place them in different parts of the house.

Whether you’re an air plant or succulent plant fan, we hope you now realize some of the significant differences between these two plants after reading this article.


Did you enjoy learning about Air Plants vs Succulent plants? If so, you’ll enjoy the ebook about All the Types of Succulents for Indoor & Outdoor. With this ebook, you’ll find more detailed answers to help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works best to grow your succulents.

Please let us know what you’re favorite is.

And, like always, happy planting!

Succulent City chief editor


Richard | Editor-in-chief at Succulent City

Hey everyone! I’m Richard. Welcome to my blog, which is all about succulents, cacti, and a bit about air plants. Ten years back, in 2013, I began my journey with succulents. It started as a simple hobby, crafting and selling charming succulent-themed pins and decorations. But as time passed, my fascination with these remarkable plants grew, and I gained extensive knowledge about them. Therefore, Succulent City is the blog as you see it is now. Enjoy your visit and happly planting!

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Posted in Air Plants