How to Grow and Care for Air Plants

Tips To Grow And Care for Air Plants

Fun to display in creative ways, air plants have become increasingly popular as houseplants since they need minimum care and maintenance. Let’s find out how.

What Are Air Plants?

Tillandsia or Tillys are also called Air Fern or Air plant.  Native to Mexico, Central, and South America, they belong to the Bromeliaceae family and are evergreen perennial flowering plants. These tropical plants grow everywhere, typically using their tiny roots as anchors or hooks to hold on to other trees and shrubs. The name Air Plant has something to do with their feeding habits. Air plants do not depend on their host for sustenance, nor do they depend on the soil for nutrients. Instead, they use their leaves to collect moisture, microorganisms, dust, decaying organic matter, etc., from the air around us. These plants can survive off the air and have beautifully shaped and textured leaves, really pretty tubular or funnel-shaped flowers, making them popular house plants. All they need is a warm and humid condition with a temperature above 40°F.

How to Grow Air Plants?

The unique shapes and vibrant colors offered by Air Plants have the ability to breathe life into any room. Most of us might want to grow tillandsia in our homes to add that touch of greenery. Since air plants do not need soil, you can get creative and plant them in rather offbeat places like a vase filled with rocks or sand, a tiny container with a magnet stuck to the fridge, or tie them to driftwood with a translucent fishing line. Do keep in mind that these living pets need constant air circulation, so do not keep them in closed vessels. The closed vessel will cause them to rot or get a fungal disease. If you’re wondering How to plant air plants, take a breath because it’s actually quite easy. Soak air plants in water for about 30 minutes to 1 hour in an upside-down position after unpacking them. After which, gently shake to remove the excess water and place them in a spot that receives bright light and adequate air circulation for drying. However, too much direct sunlight is not advisable since it may dry off the plant in a few hours, depriving them of their moisture.

How to Care for Air Plants?

Air plants are hardy survivors and can survive for long seasons of drought, but they won’t grow or thrive in extreme conditions and eventually die. While air plants do not require you to fuss over them and need minimum care, one should know how to maintain air plants. In their natural habitat, air plants grow and live under the canopy or shelter of larger plants and prefer filtered sunlight. At your home, you can mimic nature by providing an indoor setting next to a window where the air plant gets bright, indirect sunlight or grow them under artificial light. Periods of direct sunlight are also good for these plants if you do not want the extra effort of taking them back to the shade after an hour or two. While air plants don’t require watering, as they use moisture in the air, you should try misting them every couple of days to maintain the moisture balance. Keep air plants away from both hot and cold hot drafts that can dry them out. If it is too hot, a breeze acts as a cooling agent, ensuring that your air plants get good air circulation. Air plants also need essential minerals like Potassium, Nitrogen, and Phosphorous to be at their beautiful best. Remove dried leaves from the plant base or cut off the leaves’ dead growth or brown tips. Do it at an angle, so the trimmed leaf blends in with the foliage of healthy ones.

How Much Light Does an Air Plant Need?

Air plants love a room with lots of windows. Indirect or filtered light next to a window will benefit your plants. You can even keep them under an artificial or fluorescent light source no further than 3 feet away. Direct rays of morning sun work too, but you shouldn’t leave them baking all day. If you choose a spot with some direct light, try misting the air plants every two days to keep them hydrated.

How to Water an Air plant?

Air plants do not collect water through their roots like other plants, nor do they have internal water reserves of a succulent cactus. So they require misting at regular intervals. After watering, your plant’s leaves will feel stiffer and appear softer and lighter in color. Wrinkled or rolled leaves are generally a sign of dehydration. But then, how often should you water air plants to ensure the leaves receive the right amount of moisture.

  • Soak air plants in water for a minimum of 2 hours every couple of weeks. If you are in a drier, hotter climate, supplement the soaking with frequent misting between the soaks.
  • You can fill a bowl or sink with water and float the air plants in it. Tip them upside down after taking them out to drain any additional water, and then put them on a towel to dry.
  • Water air plants via misting using a spray bottle every day or two. After spraying the entire plant, allow the damp air plant to dry for a few hours before putting them back in its place.
  • Use rainwater or drinking water. The high salt content of softened water or mineral content of tap water can potentially harm the air plants by burning or clogging the trichomes. This would prevent them from soaking in the nutrients.
  • Do not use distilled water since it has no nutritional value for Air Plants.
  • Do remember not to wet the flower while watering the plant when it is blooming.


How to Make Air Plant Fertilizer?

Fertilization helps in flowering and growth.  Air plants can not use the standard plant food. The standard plant food contains urea-based nitrogen and requires bacteria in the soil to convert the nitrogen into usable forms. Therefore look for a fertilizer that’s meant specifically for orchids or bromeliads and contains non-urea-based nitrogen. You can spray them lightly with a bromeliad mixture every month during the spring and summer. One small packet will make over 10 gallons of fertilizer and water mixture. You can save the extra fertilizer solution in an old milk jug for reuse. You can add the diluted fertilizer to the water used for soaking, and voila, your air plants are fed and watered at the same time. Pond water or aquarium water is naturally nutrient-rich, and you can use natural fertilizer directly to feed and revive plants in distress.

What’s the Right Temperature?

Maintain the temperature between 50-90°F to keep your air plants alive. They thrive with temperature fluctuations but cannot withstand the cold.

Can Air Plants Live Alive Outdoor?

Air plants grow in all climatic conditions except for the extreme cold. As air plants need bright, filtered light, display them on a patio, an outdoor table, deck spot, or crooks of tree branches where they’ll get indirect sunlight and ample airflow. Outdoors, you can put air plants on a screened porch, lanai, or pool enclosure so they can get the filtered sunlight they need. Air plants will do best in generally warmer conditions. They would need to be watered more often if they’re outside in dry and hot climatic conditions. You can grab the garden hose or dunk them in the pond. However, if there are long periods of rainfall, the plants need to be dried out within about 4 hours after soaking in all the water. In frost-free climates, these plants can live outside for the entire year.

Do Air Plants Bloom?

Most species of Tillandsia live, bloom and produce flowers only once during their lifetime. Depending on the species, their striking and radiant flowers bloom for several days to many months. Different species bloom at different times, depending on their environment and care. Bloom spikes can be pink, purple, white, orange, red, or yellow.  Mid-winter to spring are, in general, the likely blooming month.

How to Style Air Plants for Your Garden?

Air plants are versatile and stunning enough to be grown almost anywhere. If you’re considering mounting air plants for displaying in your garden, mount them to natural and decorative wood, hang them in the vertical display, ceramic vessels, or earthen pots, place them on rocks, in a seashell, on coral, or on the base of the plant. However, your plant will still need to be watered. Choose a waterproof or water-resistant material for a long-term display method. If you decided to place your air plant in a container, remove the excess after watering your air plant. Plus, if there is any moss surrounding your air plant, it might hold too much water that will cause your air plant to get rotten by fungus infestation and eventually die. When it’s time to bloom, it will produce offshoots or pups from its base to propagate an air plant. These baby air plants have a separate and distinct center of their own, distinguishing them from the other leaves. When the pups are about one-third the size of the parent plant, they can be removed by gently pulling them apart from the mother plant. Or you can leave the babies in place, and they may form a clump in time. Each pup will bloom and produce pups of its own after it grows following the life cycle of its parent plant.

Packed with tenderness and care, air plants make wonderful presents as party favors on any special occasion. Just remember to keep them healthy for them to bloom in all their glory.

Also Read:

Tips to Take Care of Indoor Plants
Lucky Plants That Will Bring Everything to Your Home
Air-Purifying Plants That Keeps Your Home Clean & Green

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Ruchelle has a vast experience working with clients in hospitality, health and wellness, entertainment, real estate, and retail. She aims to utilise her learnings to deliver quality content which will in turn help drive sales and customer engagement.