Why Your Succulents Keep Dying (Newbie Guide)

Why Are You Succulents Dying

Whether you’re a newcomer to the succulent world just looking for a pop of color or a long-time cactus convert, succulents and cacti can often be NOT quite the low-maintenance dream they’re cracked up to be. From root rot to mealybugs, the culprits can be varied and often times confusing. But with these quick tips to help you identify and remedy whatever issue arises, you and your succulents will be happy and healthy again in no time! (That Crassula Ovata or Jade Plant will grow like no other).

Watering Your Succulents

Overwatering Succulents

Succulents are frequently native to hot, dry climates, and therefore have evolved to take advantage of every drop of water they can. (Talk about thirsty plants).

This means that when they get too much water they are at risk of developing root rot, a condition stemming from roots sitting in standing water or high-retention soil. An overwatered succulent will start to wrinkle like a finger after too long in the bath or become spongy and yellowed.

Luckily, if caught in time it is easy to fix — all it takes is not watering your plant for several days until the soil dries out completely. In order to prevent overwatering, however, you should be sure to water your succulents only about once a week and plant them in pots with plenty of drainage and soil that doesn’t retain water for very long. 

Cactus and succulent friendly soil is readily available at hardware stores, nurseries, and even some grocery stores, and can also be made at home. Below is our general recommendation and one of the soil products we prefer to use.

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Under Watering Succulents

While over-saturation is by far the more common issue, it is also possible to water your succulents too little. This can occur both if your succulents are watered too infrequently, or if they are in too tall a pot. We recommend short and stubby succulent pots. We prefer planters like this 6″ Ceramic Pot, this will give you an idea for what to look for when purchasing planters for your succulents!

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Succulent and cactus roots are very shallow, so tall pots with what would generally be considered healthy drainage can draw water away from roots before they have a chance to soak it up. Under watered plants are generally relatively easy to identify, as cactuses tend to shrivel up and pucker while succulent’s upper leaves will begin to dry out and get crunchy.

The solution here is pretty clear: simply water your plant more, aiming for a good soak about once a week. It is often easiest to pick a day to be the succulent watering day, thereby making it a routine that is easy to remember and work into your lifestyle. (Plus, your succulents will look forward to this day).

Watering Succulents from Above

While this is less of an issue for cactuses, succulents often have lots of nooks and crannies near the base of the plant that will catch and retain water if watered from above. This can begin to decay the base and stem of the plant and can be challenging to notice until it is too late and the core of the plant is rotten.

If you notice leaves starting to rot from the base up it is best to pluck those leaves and attempt to remove any standing water or rotten foliage.

However, the best way to avoid this issue is to water your succulents at the base rather than with a spray bottle and avoid letting water land on the tops of the leaves.

Mineral Build Up

Tap water can be full of all manner of minerals from calcium to fluoride to chlorine. While these are all beneficial for their human uses, depending on the levels in your local tap water they can be downright harmful to succulents.

If you begin to notice a white crusty build up on your leaves or the soil around your plant, you may want to consider either switching to watering with distilled or filtered water, which can sometimes be a hassle, or simply letting your water sit for a day or so before use to let any sediments or minerals filter to the bottom of the container.

This practice, while not always necessary, can limit the amount of contact these minerals have with your succulents.

Diseases & Parasites in Your Succulent Plants

Mealy Bugs

Mealybugs are similar to the aphids that appear in outdoor gardens in that they usually show up in large numbers and leave what looks like little bits of dirt on the leaves of your succulent. Unlike aphids, however, mealybugs are generally a whitish-grey and can appear on indoor plants.

They spread quickly, so how can you get rid of mealybugs from your succulents?

The first step in quelling an infestation is always to quarantine any infested succulents. As long as that step is taken first, the follow-up treatment is relatively easy. Simply mix up a solution of three parts isopropyl alcohol to one part water and spray your succulents daily until the mealybugs clear up, usually only a couple of days.

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While this may sound dangerous, this solution will not burn your plants and as the alcohol evaporates quickly, you shouldn’t run into any issues with root rot. More often than not mealybugs are attracted to succulents that have been overwatered or over-fertilized, so they are also a good sign to reassess how you’re caring for your succulent.

Having a mealybug problem? Check out our guide on How to Get Rid of Mealy Bugs

Scale Insects

Scale bugs or insects are small shelled bugs of a dark brown color that attach themselves to stems or leaves and suck the moisture from your succulents. While it is best to treat them in their larval stage, they are often hard to locate and are readily treatable in adulthood too.

Unlike mealybugs, scale insects can simply be picked off by hand if you have some time. They can also be treated with the same three to one isopropyl alcohol to water solution as the mealybugs, although they may take more time to respond to the treatment due to their protective shells. (It’s like armor to them).

If you find that the alcohol solution is simply not working you can also use neem oil, which is usually available at your local hardware store. Neem oil can be very concentrated, so be sure to follow the directions on the container to avoid burning your succulents as well as the scale bug. (We definitely don’t want to hurt our baby succulents).

Luckily scale bugs are not a time-sensitive pest as long as you begin to treat them before your succulent plant starts to shrivel, so attempting several treatment methods won’t harm your beautiful succulents.

We like to use something like this for our own succulents.

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Other Succulent Pests

There are a variety of other, less common insects, fungi, and diseases that can make your succulent home, but more often than not the three to one isopropyl alcohol to water solution will kill an insect infestation and neem oil will target insects, mites, and fungi.

If you are unsure what category your infestation falls under, begin with the alcohol solution, as it can’t damage your plant. If that doesn’t work, move on to a neem oil solution while being mindful of the directions on your particular container to avoid burning your succulent.

Always begin by isolating the affected plant to avoid the issue spreading. If neither of those solutions work, consider bringing the plant into your local nursery. Like a trip to the doctors! They may be able to identify the issue more specifically and suggest another viable solution.

Succulent Home

Succulent Planter

@theurbanoasisshop

A thriving cactus or succulent will eventually outgrow its pot, either above or below the soil. Why is that? Because they are adapted to dry environments, succulents, and cacti roots are shallow and tend to grow horizontally, so they can quickly outgrow a pot that is too small or narrow.

If you notice that your succulent isn’t growing anymore, or is beginning to die, it might be time to consider repotting. Rehoming your plant into a slightly larger, and specifically wider, pot can do wonders for growth and the overall health of your plant. Here’s an article we just wrote about the tips and tricks in repotting succulents, it’s quick and easy!

Succulent Climate & Temperature Tolerance

Succulents can be sensitive to extreme cold, so keeping them in above freezing temps is an important part of keeping your plant happy. A succulent that has gotten too cold can look burned, with parts of the upper leaves beginning to brown, droop, or shrivel up.

If you like to sleep with your windows open in the winter and you live in a colder environment, perhaps consider keeping your succulents in a different room when the weather begins to drop below freezing at night.

Succulent Lighting

Succulents thrive in bright sunlight, so housing them in places that don’t receive much natural light can cause stretching as they seek the light they need.

A stretching succulent will get much taller, with leaves spread widely up and down the stem to maximize the amount of light each leaf receives. If you begin to notice stretching simply move your plant to a location with more light, as once stretching has occurred it’s impossible for the plant to return to its original height.

Here’s a highly reviewed indoor grow light on Amazon we’ve found that is perfect for your indoor succulents. You can customize many things with this light and it has become one of our favorites.

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When your succulent is in bright sunlight, it is also important to avoid leaving water droplets sitting on its leaves after watering, as the water can focus the light and it risks burning your leaves. This is another reason to be sure to water your plants from below the leaves.

It is also important to remember that it is completely natural and healthy for some leaves to die as the plant grows. So leaves at the base of your plant drying up and falling off is NOT in any way a poor reflection of your care for your succulent family.

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Did this article help answer your succulent-care questions? We sure hope so! If not, no worries. 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 Succulent Drainage Requirements or even The Most Common Issues Amongst Succulent Growers today!

If you’re new in the succulent world, here are some beginner succulents that are quite easy to take care of when you first begin. Happy growing!

Your Ultimate Guide on How to Care for Air Plants

The Ultimate Guide on How to Care for Air Plants

Racking your brains trying to come up with the best ways to care for air plants? Or just want to learn how to care for air plants before committing to buying some?

Make no mistake about it –air plants are not your ordinary kind of house plants. Although caring for air plants can’t get any easier, there are specific conditions that ensure tillandsia plants grow healthy.

Air plants are generally hard to kill and this makes even the most inexperienced gardeners seem like a gardening connoisseur when growing these plants. And that’s not all. Air plants have ridiculously few requirements not to mention the endless, creative ways to display them.

If you’ve been looking for something unusual to grace your living room décor, then you might find lots of luck with air plants. Terrariums, aeriums, bowls, seashells and even wire crafts are some of the many display ideas to show off your air plants.

So whether you’re a busy gardener or a recent house plant convert, caring for tillandsia plants is quite a snap. Let’s learn how!

But first…

What exactly are air plants?

Ultimate guide how to take care of air plants
air plant on driftwood @airplantartisan

What are Air Plants?

Air plants are naughty rule breakers. They don’t give a succulent about soil and pots with drainage holes!

These weirdos can grow anywhere as long as there is air, water and light. They’re epiphytes –a cool name to refer to plants that grow on hosts but don’t obtain nutrients from them. Air plants just use these plants for anchorage and support using their roots. Talk about clingy plants!

Yes, they got roots but they don’t use that to absorb water and nutrients. The roots are simply to attach to the host plants. So how the heck do these plants get their water and nutrients?

Leaves.

Wait, those thin, spiky tendrils? That’s right. These leaves possess fine hairs on the surface known as trichomes which actively absorb water and nutrients from the air.

Cool, right?

Also known as tillandsia, air plants hail from the tropical forests of Mexico where they grow on other plants as epiphytes. These have now been tamed and are popular living room aesthetics due to their fascinating looks. And since they don’t need dirt, they can be displayed in a myriad of ways.

Although mostly green in color, they usually come in different shades including silver which are believed to be more drought resistant. If all go well, they produce showy, teensy flowers during spring or summer.

air plant guide
pink & green air plant @tillandsia_bangkok

5 Reasons Why You Need a Tillandsia Plant

  • Your living room or office décor will love it! They’re quite unlike any plant. The spiky tendrils set them apart and makes them look just so awesome! And beautiful.
  • You don’t have to worry about what type of soil or potting mix is required. Air plants are dirt independent! Air plants can be displayed almost anywhere! Tillandsia plants are not bound by anything.
  • They’re extremely low maintenance. Any forgetful farmer can have a whale of a time growing air plants. It’s super simple!
  • Air plants take up very little space. These dainty plants economize on space and one can have many of them without worrying about where to place them.
  • Air plants pair up gorgeously with succulents and other house plants.

Caring for air plants is a breeze if you ask me. Take note of the following pointers to have outstanding tillandsia plants all around your home, office, or room.

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Ultimate guide on how to take care of air plants
hanging air plant @airplantartisan

Is Airflow Important for Air Plants?

Yes.

Air plants are created in such a way 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.

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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

How to Water Air Plants

A common air plant faux pax is that these plants absorb all the water and nutrients from the air and so they don’t need to be watered. That’s a big fat lie.

Don’t fall for it!

Living room and office environments are nothing compared to the forests where these plants are native. The former has dry air while the latter is humid and a perfect environment for air plants to thrive in.

Watering air plants doesn’t have to be college algebra, who remembers those days? However, doing it the wrong way may kill your tillandsia plants. It’s much harder to kill these plants by under watering rather than overwatering. 

Ultimate guide to taking care of air plants
tiny air plant @reipy_s

What type of water is good for air plants?

Since tillandsia plants get most of their nutrients from water, it’s paramount to feed them with nutritious water. Of course, the best bet is rainwater as it contains a lot of nutrients and minerals. Take a look at this highly-rated rainwater collection system from Oatey if you want to give this a shot.

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Unfortunately, this might not be readily available in many households. An awesome alternative may be spring water as it contains numerous nutrients. If that seems far-reaching as well, you can go for well water, creek water, pond water or lake water. Tap water is a good option too.

Avoid distilled water because it is deprived of all minerals and nutrients, your air plant definitely doesn’t want this.

air plant guide
colorful air plant @airplanthub

Misting your air plants

Air plants growing in a dry climatic environment will benefit greatly from regular spritzing using a normal spray bottle. If you’re not normal, check out this really cool vintage glass spray bottle, it could be a great decoration item too! Keep in mind though, spritzing your air plant occasionally can’t be used as a sole watering method, there’s a better way.

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It must be complemented with other watering methods as trichomes can’t absorb adequate water from misting alone. Think about it, on hot summer days a good misting will cool us down normally but not until we get a refreshing bottle of cold water will it help dramatically.

Same thing with air plants, misting will help alleviate dehydration for only a few, use more adequate watering techniques below to compliment misting.

air plant guide
flourishing air plant @sgfloraandfauna

Dunking your air plants in water

The Perfect on-the-go watering method for busy times.

If you don’t have enough time to give your plant a soak, then this is the best way to water your plants until you get time to properly water them. Simply dunk your plants several times in a pool of water for about 20 minutes and you’re done. Using bright colored buckets like these might make the watering process more fun!

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Ultimate guide on taking care of air plants at home
air plant sprouting @ryokumouzoku

Soaking your air plant for an hour

The most recommended watering method to end up with healthy plants.

Submerge your plants in a bowl or sink full of water and let them sit for an hour. Don’t submerge blooms as they can get destroyed. After the bath, pull them out and set them upside down so that all water can dry out before returning them to their displays.

Placing them on a drying rack of some sort will make it easier to achieve full dryness, don’t let your air plant sit on a counter in its own water bath, it won’t dry properly.

Also in terms of frequency, give them a soak once a week.

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air plant guide
flowering air plant @fruitfulnmultiply

How Much Light do Air Plants Need?

Tillandsia plants prefer bright, indirect light for a few hours every day. In the jungle, these plants grow on rocks, woods and other trees away from direct sunlight. Although you can subject them to the morning or evening sun for a few hours, avoid hot direct sun as this will lead to sunburn.

Any window in your house can get the job done in regard to lighting especially west or south-facing windows. Poorly lit spaces will lead to deformed and ugly looking plants. In case natural lighting may not be sufficient, then go for artificial grow lights. We prefer these lights.

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air plant guide
family of air plants @liezestockmans

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 no doubt 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.

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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

Do Air Plants Bloom?

Yup.

Air plants can reward you with brilliant blooms if you treat them nicely. With lots of varieties to choose from, it can be a bit tricky to offer a generalized formula to follow for these blooms to occur. Several factors come into play but mainly it all boils down to the variety and the environment.

Tillandsia plants bloom only once in their lifetime. They do this at maturity. The mother produces pups that eventually grow and flower while the mother plant dies off, unfortunately.

To get your air plants to flower, look for plants with a couple of pups. This is because the plant in its maturity stage and will soon bloom.

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

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Think you can handle the air plants now? We think so. If you have any questions be sure to ask our exclusive group at Succulent Plant Lounge, our members here help each other almost daily!

Did this article help answer your succulent-care questions? We sure hope so! If not, no worries. 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 The Most Common Issues Amongst Succulent Growers or even Succulent Drainage Requirements today!

Let us know here on Succulent City if you plan to buy some air plants and which one you want to buy. Thanks for reading with us and of course, happy air planting!

 

How to Water Air Plants

How to Water Air Plants

I know, I know—these cute little plants are just to die for! Don’t have soil? No worries! They don’t need it anyway. They absorb nutrients and water through trichomes which is just a fancy name for the fine hairs located on the leaves. (Kind of like our fine hairs on our arms).

This presents endless possibilities on creative ways to display them. From those adorable teensy terrariums to seashells, or anything really, air plants don’t mind at all.

With their attractive spiky tendrils, these epiphytes are no doubt a got-to-have in every living room. And if you’re a brown thumb looking for some bragging rights, air plants got you covered.

These trendy plants are low-maintenance and so you can get away with some little negligence. Less maintenance and easier to take care of than your traditional succulent plant, count me in!

Losing an air plant is a sad affair. Though hard to kill, these plants will collapse on you due to several reasons. The most common however, is in regard to watering. To have a healthy air plant, the following watering best practices are valuable.

Watering air plants
@ary_plants

What are Air Plants?

Air plants are part of the Tillandsia genus which consists of about 650 species. Native to Mexico and the Americas, air plants are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants and emerge from stem crevices or tree branches. Their roots can also attach to rocks and other shrubs just for support as the roots can’t take in water or nutrients.

In their native tropical rainforest habitats, air plants survive by absorbing water in the humid environment through their leaves. Unlike other plants, these rule-breakers don’t require dirt to grow, just air.

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Do Air Plants Need Water?

A common myth associated with growing air plants is that since these plants grow in the air, they don’t need water. This is fueled by the fact that they absorb water from the atmosphere and so they can survive long periods with little or no water. If you follow such advice, you’ll soon end up with a withered plant.

While it’s true air plants absorb water from the atmosphere, the environment they’re grown in has a huge bearing on this. Their native tropical rainforest habitats are very humid and they get along pretty well.

In home settings, however, the humidity is nothing close compared to the forests out there and so they have to be watered just like any house plant.

One way to water your air plants is to soak them in water. We recommended using a large bowl like this or something similar.

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Watering air plants
@ary_plants

What Type of Water is Used for Air Plants?

Since air plants don’t grow in soil, they solely depend on water to get their minerals and nutrients. Therefore, the best water for air plants would definitely be rainwater.

Here’s a neat little tool you can use to collect rainwater for your air plants when it rains.

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However, this may not be easily accessible and so you may opt for spring water. You may also use creek water, pond water, well water, or lake water.

If you can’t get a hold of any of these options, then tap water can be utilized. Your last option should be soft or distilled water. It has little nutrients and minerals—not suitable for air plants as they depend on these nutrients for growth.

Mistakes to Avoid when Watering Air Plants

Thanks to the current digital age, it doesn’t take long for misinformation to spread rapidly. And this has been true when it comes to watering air plants.

Hordes of air plant enthusiasts have lost their plants due to such misleading advice. Avoid the following like the plague…

Assuming there’s sufficient water in the air

Don’t let the name “air plant” fool you. Air plants won’t get all the water they need from the air especially when growing in the living room or office.

Sure, they may absorb itty bitty amounts of water through their trichomes but that is nowhere close to what they need to survive. Depending on the climate of your surroundings, you might need to water your air plants once a week.

 

How to water air plants the right way
@thetipsygardener

Excess humidity due to wet bed

Nothing spells disaster for air plants more quickly than a wet bed. They’ll be susceptible to rot. Planting air plants with plants that require constant moisture like moss plants is not recommended. Air plants flourish on dry medium. Avoid very enclosed containers as this may lead to increased moisture leading to rot.

Ways to Water Air Plants

Watering air plants doesn’t have to be a high-brow process. The following ways are ideal when it comes to watering air plants.

Misting

If you live in an arid area, your plants will appreciate periodic spritzing using a spray bottle similar to this.

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It’s important to note that this method can’t stand in as the only means to watering your plants. It should only complement other watering methods. The trichomes on the leaves are unable to absorb enough water through misting.

Dunking

If your plants are thirsty and you’re in a rush, you can give them a quick drink to last them the whole day by dunking them in water.

To do this, just submerge the plant in water once or a few more times and they’ll be good until you have enough time to give them a thorough drink. Like a short swim!

Tips for watering air plants
@zoiascreations

Soaking

Giving your plants a full bath is the best way to water your plants.

This ensures that trichomes have enough time to absorb water and nutrients. To properly soak your plants, fill a bowl with water and fully submerge your air plants.

For much bigger air plants and depending on their number too, you can opt for the bathtub or sink. Be extra gentle with air plants that have blooms and don’t submerge the buds. Let the plants stay soaked in the water for at least one hour, on a weekly basis on the minimum side.

To remove the plant from the water, hold it from the base and pull it upside down, shaking it gently to get rid of excess water. Use water at room temperature to avoid shocking your plant.

Drying Air Plants

Once you’ve figured out how to successfully water your plants, what follows is leaving them to dry out right after their bath time. Lay them on a colander, towel or a dish drying rack and set them in a brightly lit area for two to four hours.

Also, ensure the area has plenty of air circulation—they’re air plants, remember?

Only return your plants to their display after they’re fully dry to prevent water from accumulating inside the plant which will ultimately result in rotting.

How Frequently Should I Water my Air Plant?

Watering air plants at home
@airplantdesignstudio

This largely depends on the climate in your area.

While air plants grown in humid areas may do well with watering only once a week, those in drier areas may need frequent soaking. You can also look for dehydration evidence on your plants.

A parched air plant has curly leaves with a dull color while a hydrated plant has open and wide leaves.

But for those that want to, it’s actually not that hard to care for and water air plants. Let us know if you end up trying to care for some air plants, we’ll have more articles about this soon. In the meantime, happy planting!

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Think you’ll give air plants a try now? If not, here’s some rare succulents you can check out.

Has this helped you at all? Be sure to share with a fellow green thumb, i’m sure the info will help them too!

If you’d like this read you’re going to love our full in-depth ebooks! With so many of our succulent lovers asking for more, we listened and can’t wait to share it with you here! With our very detailed ebooks, you’ll get more information than these short articles, some ebooks are 30+ pages, perfect for a weekend read.

5 Tips for Propagating Succulents

Tips for Propagating Succulents

Propagation was our number one requested blog post article idea! (The polls on Instagram don’t lie) You asked us and we listened, continue reading below for our 5 tips to having a successful propagation process for your succulents.

Disclaimer: These are not all of the tips and tricks out there! These are just the tips that we wish we knew before our first propagation endeavor. (It was a nightmare at first). Feel free to let us know your techniques!

1. Some succulents are Easier to Propagate than Others

There are so many species of succulents out there and they all differ in difficulty when it comes to propagating. Three of the easiest succulents to have success with are: Kalanchoe daigremontiana (Mother of Thousands), Sedum morganianum (Burro’s Tail), and Sedum rubrotinctum.

Burros Tail Succulent Tips
Burro’s Tail Succulent Image: @done.by_hand_concrete

If you’re a beginner, we definitely recommend starting your propagation journey with these species! A lot of the time, the leaves of these succulents will fall down on their own and you can do the propagation process with them without accidentally cutting off too much of the leaf.

To learn more about this, check out “Why Are My Succulent Leaves Falling Off”

2. Patience

Patience you must have my young “propagator.”

Yoda from Star Wars

Time to test your patience! Succulent propagation can sometimes take up to four to six weeks before the new leaf cuttings will begin to root. Remember, great things don’t happen in a day and this process is going to be worth it at the end.

When it is time for the ends of your clippings to dry out and harden, this alone can sometimes take up to a week, so make sure you don’t rush the process!

3. Watering Succulents

After the ends of the leaves have hardened over, it’s time to water them! Every leaf hardens over at different times. This is important to know because if you water them when they haven’t fully hardened, too soon after cutting from the mother plant, they’ll sometimes turn mushy and yellowish.

When propagating, here at Succulent City we spritz the leaves once a day. A quick spray over the top of all the leaves should be enough, not too close to them. Some leaves are going to look different than others, which is totally normal.

If you want to learn more about when you should water your succulents check out our in-depth article here.

4. Don’t Place the Clippings in Direct Sunlight

Succulents are desert plants and usually, they all need to be in direct sunlight for the majority of the day. This is true, but not with the succulent leaves during the propagation process.

I always put my leaves by a window that’s protected with some shade. Once the new plant has grown from the leaves, then they can be placed in direct sunlight.

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Succulent Buds Sprouting
Succulent Buds Image: @peculiarshadelemontree

5. Don’t Get Discouraged

Remember that this can sometimes be a frustrating process. Not every single leaf will create a new plant. (Remember what Yoda said).

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a 100% success rate. Most of the time I usually only have about 50-70% success rate for all of the leaves I propagate.

Keep up with the process and try again! Practice makes perfect, even the “experts” don’t succeed with the propagation process each time.

Until next time! Oh and don’t forget to share the love down below.

Enjoyed learning about 5 Tips for Propagating Succulents? If so, you’ll really enjoy the ebook about The Right Way to Propagating Succulents Successfully. With this ebook, you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

View our entire eBook collection here: SucculentCity eBooks

Everything You Need to Know About Air Plants

Everything about air plants

We have a confession to make—air plants aren’t actually succulents. But we really want to share them with you anyway! They’re super easy to grow and maintain just like succulents. They don’t even require soil, so they’re the perfect no-mess houseplants!

Air plants look great in arrangements with succulents and are some of the cutest little plants around. They have thin, ribbonlike leaves that grow in clusters, so we think they look a lot like pom poms!

We know that succulents are your main squeeze, but we hope you have a little room left in your heart for air plants. If you want to know more about these wispy little wonders, keep reading! (We thought it’d be good to switch it up a bit from succulents from time to time).

 

What are Air Plants?

So if air plants aren’t succulents, what are they? And why are they similar to succulents anyways?

Air plants, which are also called Tillandsia, are epiphytes. Epiphytes are a group of plants that grow on trees and other plants not necessarily soil. Some epiphytes you’re already familiar with are orchids, ferns, and mosses like Spanish moss.

Epiphytes aren’t parasitic, so they don’t have any kind of negative effect on the trees they grow on. Since air plants are epiphytes, they don’t steal nutrients from their host plants—they derive those from the air, water, dead leaves, and debris.

Most air plants absorb nutrients through their leaves since the main purpose of their roots is to anchor them to other plants. How crazy is that?

Air plants have special structures called trichomes that allow them to absorb nutrients. Trichomes are those white, fuzzy, hairlike structures on the leaves of air plants. They kind of look like mold at first glance!

Don’t be fooled though!

Trichomes are made up of a bunch of dead and living cells that swell up whenever they come into contact with water. As they swell, they stretch out and cover the whole leaf, which traps the water inside the plant. From there, the water gets absorbed into other cells and is utilized.

You may be wondering… how is this even possible? A plant that doesn’t need soil to survive and lives off the air? That’s crazy talk.

When we first heard about air plants, we were skeptical too! But the more we learned about them (from this great book), the more we realized that the way they grow makes sense given their environment. Most air plants are native to tropical rainforests that have lots of competition for sunlight and water. There’s a dense, thick canopy of trees in these rainforests that prevents sunlight and water from reaching the ground.

Tillandsia adapted to grow on trees so that they didn’t have to compete with all the plants on the ground for sunlight and nutrients. They grow high up so that they’re closer to sunlight, rain, and nutrients from the dead leaves that fall from the canopy. Pretty genius, huh?

How Do You Plant Air Plants?

Most people don’t have huge trees growing in their houses, so they plant their air plants in glass terrariums, hanging metal planters, and even in sea urchin shells.

You can also grow Tillandsia on a piece of driftwood, but they may have a little trouble sticking on their own. You can use a small dab of glue to mount your plant to the wood without hurting it.

The most important thing to remember is that your air plants should not be planted in soil. If you do, your plants might rot!
You can layer sand, rocks, and moss in their terrarium or planter instead.

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Everything you need to know about air plants
@ary_plants

Types of Air Plants

There are around 650 species of Tillandsia, so there are a lot of plants to choose from! To help you narrow your search for the perfect air plant, we’re going to talk a little bit about the two different types of Tillandsia—mesic and xeric.

Xeric Tillandsia are a lot like succulents—they’re really good at soaking up water because they’re native to hot, dry climates like the desert. Since they have lots of trichomes that can soak up water effectively like a sponge, xeric types don’t need to be watered as often as mesic plants.

Mesic Tillandsia, on the other hand, are native to humid, tropical rainforests. Since water is more readily available there than in the desert, they didn’t develop as many trichomes as xeric plants. Since your home isn’t a hot, steamy rainforest with lots of water vapor for your mesic plants to soak up, you’ll need to water them more often! We’ll give you some watering tips for both types of air plants.

Since the water needs of these two plants are different, knowing which type you have is important. You can tell if a plant is mesic or xeric by looking at its leaves.

If it’s covered with a bunch of white, fuzzy hairs, then it’s probably a xeric Tillandsia. If it has smooth leaves without a lot of fuzzy trichomes, then it’s probably a mesic plant.

Watering Air Plants

Now is a great time to talk about watering Tillandsia!

There are a few different ways to water air plants that you should know about. The first way you can water them is by giving them a bath! You can place them face down in a garden tub or sink full of water and they’ll absorb all the moisture they need.

Your Tillandsia can stay there for up to two hours depending on how much time you have and how much water they need. If their leaves are dry, brown, or crispy, they’re going to need that long, two-hour soak. If they’re looking healthy but they’re mesic types, then you should also give them a bath that’s on the longer side once per week. But if you have xeric plants, putting them in the bath for half an hour or less once a week should be enough.

Everything you need to know about air plants or tillandsias
@ary_plants

If giving your plant babies a bath just like real babies sounds a little too extra for you, you can dunk them in water instead. Grab a bowl and fill it up with some water, and then dip the top of your plants in the water for a minute or two. You can even rinse them under the tap for a minute or two if you prefer.

Depending on the type of plant you have, you should dip it between one and four times a week. Mesic Tillandsia will need to be dipped three or four times a week, while xeric Tillandsia will get by on just one or two waterings.

After soaking or dipping your plants, you should put them in an area with good air circulation so that they dry out quickly. Plants that don’t dry out within four hours are likely to rot, so put them near a fan, in front of an open window, or somewhere else with good airflow. Make sure that you don’t put your plant back in its terrarium or hanging planter until it’s completely dry!

Need a hand choosing terrariums? We break down the Top Terrariums For Air Plants!

If you have a laundry drying rack laying around, be sure to use this to hang them. It’s perfectly set up so that your air plants get the air circulation it needs in order to dry completely.

If your plant looks a little parched in between soakings, you can mist it a bit with any spray bottle, which is the final watering method we’re going to talk about.

You can use a spray bottle to mist and moisten the leaves of your plant. If they’re planted in a metal hanging planter like this one or on a piece of driftwood, you won’t need to move them or remove them from their container to mist them, so it’s a pretty convenient way to water your plants.

If misting is your primary watering method, though, you’ll need to do it at least three times a week to make sure your Tillandsia gets enough water. Mesic types may even need to be misted every single day! So even though misting seems like a convenient way to water your plants, it can actually turn into a real hassle if it’s the only way you water them!

Misting isn’t the absolute best way to water your air plants—soaking them in water will actually keep them healthier. So we recommend that you don’t rely too heavily on misting and mix things up. You should soak your plants at least twice a month to ensure that they’re getting the kind of deep watering they need to stay healthy.

Do Air Plants Need Sunlight?

Air plants definitely need sunlight, but not quite as much as succulents. If you put them in direct sunlight for a few hours, their moisture supply will get depleted, so put them someplace where they’ll get bright but indirect sunlight.

We like to keep our air plants a few feet away from a bright window using a cute window sill planter like this. If you keep yours outside, make sure to put them somewhere with plenty of shade like a covered patio or porch.

As for temperature requirements, air plants do best in warm temps between fifty and ninety degrees. Luckily your home is right in that temperature range, so your air plants will do great indoors!

Tillandsia does not do well in freezing temperatures, so keep that in mind if you’re growing them outside.

Fertilizing Tillandsia

Just like succulents, Tillandsia doesn’t need a lot of fertilizer. You can fertilize them up to once a month, but you don’t have to. Using a fertilizer designed for air plants or bromeliads on them a few times a year is more than enough.

If you can’t get your hands on bromeliad fertilizer, then pick up some regular houseplant fertilizer at your local garden center and dilute it to one-quarter strength before you apply it to your Tillandsia.

Propagating Air Plants

Air plants flower, but right after they do, they die! Sad, right?

Don’t despair, though! Tillandsia has a lifespan of several years and can be propagated before they die. So you’ll have lots of baby plants around to comfort you when it’s time to say goodbye to your mature plant!

Before they bloom, Tillandsia produce offsets, which are baby plants that pop up around the base of the main plant. Offsets stay connected to the main plant until you divide and remove them.

When the offsets are small, it’s best to keep them connected to the main plant, but once they get bigger, you can separate and replant them. We like to wait until our baby Tillandsia are about a third of the size of the main plant before dividing them.

All we do to divide our plants is grab them by the base with our hands and gently pull them apart. Avoid grabbing the top of the plant because you may accidentally rip some of its leaves off! Once the plants are separated, you can mount them or plant them wherever you like.


There you have it! That’s everything we think you need to know about air plants.

What do you think of these cute little plants? Have they made it onto your wishlist? Let us know in the comments below or in our exclusive Succulent Plant Lounge community. Many succulent lovers share their experiences and questions in there.

Did you love learning about this succulent and now feel inspired to add more to your collection?! (We don’t blame you) Check out Succulent City’s new line of ebooks covering topics from, “All the Types of Succulents for Indoor and Outdoor,” “Different Types of Planters,” and many more helpful in-depth ebooks. Head to this link to view our full line of ebooks and get started with our complimentary guide. 

Happy planting!

 

 

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