Mastering the Art of Air Plant Care: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Care for Air Plants

how to care for air plants featured image

Have you ever seen those interesting creepy crawlies that try to pass for a fly on the wall?

You might see them dangling precariously off the edge of a bookshelf or encased in a geometrically arranged glass globe. They have green, tentacle-like extensions that twist and curve, making them look like a sea creature that came up for air. These living creatures are not bugs. They are air plants!

Did we trick you?

Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? No, it’s an Air Plant

Part plant– part creature, air plants are fascinating in their appearance and behavior. They are called air plants because they seem to thrive while hanging in the air and their roots have no real connection to soil. In the botanical world, they are known as Tillandsia.

They are classified as Epiphytes, which grow on other plants but are not parasitic to the host plant. These perennial plants get their nutrients from the rain, air, dust, and moss surrounding the host, and they use their roots to attach themselves to things rather than to absorb nutrients.

There are over 650 species of air plants that can be found naturally basking in the cracks of trees, shrubs, and rocks, maybe we’ll list them all somewhere! Air plants thrive in forests, mountains, and deserts and have been initially discovered clinging to tree trunks in Mexico, Central and South America, and the West Indies. They are closely related to Bromeliads and appear in different shapes and sizes. Don’t wait. Get started on this air plant kit with everything you need!

How to Grow Air Plants
@melissamlo

It’s All About the Look and Feel

Air plants are full of personality, and you can easily find one that matches yours! The ones with furry-looking or fuzzy silvery leaves are from dry climates and can handle extended periods without water. Air plants with glossy leaves are from tropical rainforests and are not very drought-resistant.

Most air plants have thin, triangle-shaped leaves that can be rounded or long, like a ponytail. Tiny scales on the leaves called Trichomes absorb water and nutrients from the air. Air plants only bloom once in their lifetime, and most of them produce bright-colored, funnel-shaped flowers. If your curiosity is piqued, we have an article about popular air plants.

Read more: The Ponytail Palm Plant ‘Beaucarnea Recurvata.’

Whether a Green Thumb or Brown Thumb, Air Plants are for All Thumbs

The greatest thing about these charming creatures is that they do not need you to fuss over them like other house plants. These low-maintenance beauties only need air, light, and water to flourish.

How to Grow Air Plants
@sgfloraandfauna

Let There be Light

Air plants are lovers of warm weather, but they are not sun worshipers, and they do not appreciate direct sunlight. They prefer air temperatures between 50 °F to 90 °F (10 °C to 32 °C) and are troubled by frost. There is a high possibility that your air plant will die if left in temperatures below 45 °F (7 °C).

If your air plant is dwelling in a glass globe like this, please do not place it directly on the window sill. Glass intensifies the heat and sunlight from outside, and can give your plant sunburn or dry it out completely. (Like a magnifying glass beaming light!) They enjoy bright filtered light, and they are content to hang around under fluorescent light bulbs.

Being air plants, they prosper in humid environments and cherish air circulation.  A little breeze helps the plant to breathe, but crazy winds will blow things out of proportion. Try and avoid housing your air plant under a fan or near an air conditioner vent.

They May Like Water, But They Are Not Good Swimmers

How to Grow Air Plants
@ary_plants

Like most succulents, air plants are not too enthusiastic about water, although they do need it in their diet. Spray misting on its own might leave your air plant hanging on to dear life, especially in the summer or if you live in areas with dry atmospheric conditions. Some people think that using a spray bottle will suffice, but that’s far from the truth!

They need a good soaking bath once a week during the hot weather and every other week in winter. Air plants do not really have roots that can search for replacement water and their leaves do not store internal reserves like other succulents.

Avoid using distilled or softened water for your plant bath time. They benefit more from tap water left to sit overnight for the chlorine to evaporate. Air plants are partial to the essential nutrients found in water from a lake, pond, or aquarium.

Bath time should be a fun time for your air plant. Either fill a sink or a wide bowl with water and let the roots of your air plant be submerged in the water with the leaves resting out of the water. For our watering needs, we like to use a bowl like this unless you have a ginormous air plant, of course! Let the roots soak overnight or for at least 3 hours. When bath time is over, take your air plant out of the water, turn it upside down and gently shake off excess water. Your plant should then be given 4 hours to air dry before putting it back in its home.

Is Airflow Important for Air Plants?

Yes.

Air plants are created so that they thrive in environments with a free flow of air. This is simply because they absorb nutrients and water from the air in their native environment.

Side note: Air plants in glass terrariums look absolutely fabulous, just take a look at our favorite golden terrarium for air plants.

However, ensure the mouth is wide enough to ensure the plants are not suffocating inside. You definitely don’t want to end up with an empty terrarium.

Stuffing tillandsia plants in an air-deprived environment is only preparing them for failure. And hey, we’re not saying you buy a blower or a fan just for your air plants. That would be outrageous!

Just ensure they’re getting adequate airflow wherever you display them. In other words, they shouldn’t feel as if they’re claustrophobic. They’re called air plants for a reason, right?

air plant guide
garden of air plants @airplanthub

Feed Me

Air plants fancy a spot of fertilizer every now and then, especially just before blooming. Pond or aquarium water acts like a natural fertilizer and helps relieve distressed plants. Once a month, a little Bromeliad fertilizer can be added to the bath water (following the manufacturer’s instructions) to boost your plant’s confidence.

Here’s a tillandsia fertilizer you can use straight from the bottle if you’d like, it makes life much easier.

How to Grow Air Plants
@sgfloraandfauna

What’s All This Blooming Business?

As mentioned earlier, air plants only bloom once in their lifetime. They produce flowers at different times of the year depending on the species, and the blooms can last from a few days to a couple of weeks. There are some species that produce one delicate flower while others produce multiple flowers.

You can also find air plants that grow flowers on a bloom spike or inflorescence. The blooms will vary in color, ranging from brilliant blues to bright purples and yellows as well as delicate pinks and fiery reds and neon orange.

Caring for Mommy and ‘Pups’

After blooming, air plants produce at least 3 offsets from the mother plant called ‘pups’. These are new plants that form at the base of the mother plant. These pups can be separated from the mother and grown as individual plants or left to form a clump, although the mother plant will eventually die after producing pups. If you want to create a clump of air plants, remove the mother plant gently when she dries up. If the leaves are still fleshy and soft, then she still has life in her. Otherwise, she will break off easily.

The pups can be separated from the mother and transferred to their new homes when they are about 1/3 the size of the mother plant. With a sharp, clean knife or gardening scissors, you can cut off the pups downwards but as close to the mother as possible. The pups can also be gently twisted away from the mother plant.

How to Grow Air Plants
@sgfloraandfauna

Grooming Tips

Air plants are versatile and can easily adapt to new environments. As an air plant parent, you can literally go nuts mounting your air plants on colorful glass, jagged rocks, creative corals, seashells, wood planks, ceramics, even driftwood!

Trending interior designers have been creating jaw dropping air plant chandeliers using water proof glue, wires, fishing lines or twisty ties. Keep in mind that using copper wires or super glue to attach your air plant to its host will kill your plant. Try to use natural fibers to tie the plant and avoid stapling or nailing the leaves as this will crucify your plant. 

If you are thinking of glass baubles for your air plant, then consider that size matters. Your plant should not be squashed in a glass prison but should have enough room to stretch and do some yoga. If the globe is too small for the plant, it will reduce air circulation causing the plant to retain moisture for longer, which is not good.

Air plant terrariums and hanging wire baskets make a spectacular difference for those with small space living. Air plants are great companions for orchids and cacti.

To maintain the beauty of your air plant, you may occasionally trim the roots and dry tips.  Dry tips are an indication that your plant is getting too much direct sunlight and you can tell your plant’s thirst level when the leaves start curling inwards. When misting, concentrate the nozzle of your spray bottle on the roots and not the leaves. Remember to shake off excess water!

How to Grow Air Plants
@levitera_ru

What Temperature/Climate is Good for Air Plants?

Frost and freezing cold temperatures? No way.

Air plants just won’t survive in such conditions. Let temperatures be above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and that shouldn’t be a biggie if you’re growing your tillandsia plants indoors.

Bring those outdoor plants in when temperatures go below 32 degrees.

Conversely, subjecting your air plants to extremely high temperatures will make them dry and parched, yep even air plants need adequate hydration like us too!

Ultimate guide on taking care of air plants at home
air plant terrarium @planties_in_a_twist

Is Fertilizing Tillandsia Plants Okay?

Air plants do get hungry. The air that is supposed to be a source of nutrients for them is undoubtedly full of pollutants and toxins. Tillandsia plants will appreciate feeding once a month or four times a year.

Use air plant-specific fertilizer or bromeliad fertilizer. You can also use diluted regular houseplant fertilizer. Add the fertilizer to the water and soak your air plants in it. This is also applicable in misting or dunking.

Your plants won’t die if you fail to fertilize them. But if you want vivacious and healthy plants, some feeding would go a long way. Don’t be excessive on the frequency though, a little here and there goes a long way!

How Do I Display or Mount Air Plants?

There are dozens of ways to display air plants. You can stick their roots on a wood or a stone using super glue. Popular air plant designs also feature glass baubles which give a stunning aesthetic. Additionally, you can set them on seashells and wire baskets.

When displaying your plants, ensure the display surfaces are free from chemicals, rust, or toxins which may be detrimental to your plants’ health.

air plant guide
pair of air plants @arbora.verd

Air Plants Don’t Have Pests Right?

False.

Fortunately, air plants are hardy and robust and are usually not susceptible to many pests. But, you may have to deal with a few mealybugs and scale insects from time to time. But that shouldn’t be a huge deal. Simply use 70% isopropyl alcohol or neem oil to knock them off their socks!

Ultimate guide in taking care of air plants at home
mounted air plants @planties_in_a_twist

Feel Good Inside and Out

Air plants will not only look pretty in your home, but they also have health benefits. Scientists have proven that the air plant, Spanish Moss, can detect and absorb mercury.

By having one air plant for every three people in your home, you can eliminate toxins and reduce carbon dioxide by 50%, thus improving the air quality! No need for an air purifier, right? The likelihood of sneezing and coughing also decreases as pollen particles get trapped in the plant’s trichomes and reduce allergic reactions.


Final Words

Now that you know more about how to grow air plants, how about looking for one online or at your local farmers’ market? We would love to hear about your experiences with these unique plants in our exclusive Facebook group, Succulent City Plant Lounge.

Also, subscribe and check for new activity on our Succulent City Youtube channel. We will be releasing some quality-packed videos sure to delight all succulent enthusiasts.

Did this article help answer your succulent care questions? Succulent City is devoted to aiding all succulent lovers, and that’s why we created a line of ebook guides! Check out our in-depth tips on Essential Tools for Planting the Best Succulents or even Best Lighting Practices for Succulent Growth today!

Have fun and happy planting!

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Succulent City chief editor

ABOUT ME

Succulent City

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

3 thoughts on “Mastering the Art of Air Plant Care: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Care for Air Plants

  1. I have recently purchased air plants for the first time. Your article was very helpful. If I am successful with growing them I will happily get more.

  2. I loved ur quirky way of writing! People forget plant r ( living) things. I just started collecting air plants. ?

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