February 14, 2018 5 min read
Air plants are a low maintenance, sleek and stylish way (for even the biggest plant killers) to invite some green into any indoor space. Air plants don’t require soil so you can use a wide variety of planters to display them and they’re easy to care for, as long as you are sure to give them the basics.
Here are the care details you need to know to keep your cute air plants healthy and happy. Treat them right and they might even bloom!
Air plants are the common name for Tillandsias, a type of Bromeliad. Air plants are epiphytic, meaning that don't need potting soil or dirt to grow and do not absorb water and nutrients like earthbound plants.
Air plants absorb water and nutrients directly from the air while the "roots" attach themselves to rocks, trees, shrubs, or the ground, and are native to the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America.
Air plants can be purchased from many retailers in-store or online that offer several different varieties to choose from. We recommend starting with a multi-pack that has a few different kinds and sizes of plants to vary the look of your terrarium or planter.
When you get your air plants, you'll want to soak them in water for about 30 minutes in the sink or in a container large enough to fully submerge them.
Then gently shake the excess water off your plants and put them upside down on a towel in a bright location. It is important that they’re able to fully dry out before you place them in their new homes, otherwise, your new air plants may rot and die.
Speaking of new homes, because air plants get their nutrients through their leaves, not through their roots, you’ll want to give your plant a moisture-free environment and ensure you don’t allow your air plants sit in water or soil for extended periods of time.
As the name indicates, the key to air plant survival is constant air circulation. We know — glass terrariums are absolutely adorable, but glass encourages wet, stagnant conditions and air plants need air circulation!
Like we just mentioned above, deciding WHERE to place your air plant is just as important as how you care for it. You’ll want to make sure that it’s not sealed up in a closed container so that fresh air can circulate freely around the plant. That means you’ll want to double-check to ensure that you choose a vessel with a wide hole or opening to allow as much air circulation as possible.
If you simply must go with a glass container, choose a vessel with as wide a hole as possible, and be sure to let plants dry fully before you place them inside.
In order to thrive, air plants need bright, indirect light. That means they should definitely be exposed to light (not shoved in a dark corner) with temperatures between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit (or 10-32 degrees Celsius).
A bright, indirect light like next to an east-facing window is optimal, just make sure to check that the light isn’t too intense that it’s burning or scorching the leaves.
Despite the name, air plants need regular watering in addition to air. How often you need to water will vary depending on the temperature, light, and humidity, which will likely change throughout the year. As with most plants, it is easier to kill by over-watering than under-watering.
When it comes to watering, many folks will tell you it’s perfectly fine to simply spritz your air-plants a few times a week. Unfortunately, these simple instructions are often the main reason many people struggle to keep air plants alive. We’ve managed to keep a few of our air plant friends alive for a few seasons now and we swear by the “dunking” method.
Dunking or submerging your plants will follow the same exact steps you took when you first brought your air plants home. We usually bathe our air plants in the morning, once a week by filling up the sink with enough water to give ‘em a nice soak for anywhere from 30 minutes up to several hours.
A 30-minute to several hour dunking once a week in the summer and once every two weeks in the winter has worked well with our little plants so far. In the winter, if we have the heater on at home, it also tends to dry them out much faster, so we simply mist them with water using a spray bottle (concentrating on the base of the plant) every few days to keep them looking fresh.
You should gauge your watering by the season, temperature, and humidity of your environment and keep an eye on them to determine what exactly your plant needs.
Like most plants, if they don’t look right, you can probably guess something is wrong. If the leaf tips of your plants are turning brown or becoming “crispy,” it’s probably an indication that they’re not getting enough water.
You may need to soak more often, add misting into your routine, or move them to a humid location like a steamy bathroom.
If some of the lower leaves of your plant have dried out, you can gently pull off those withered stems. You can also snip any tips of leaves that have dried out as well. Don't worry, the leaves will grow back!
If you notice the base of your plant turning black or brown and leaves are falling out, it has probably been overwatered and is rotting. At this point, it is unfortunately beyond saving and should be discarded.
Did you know that air plants flower once in their life? Depending on the species, these blossoms last from a few days to a few months and can be a whole variety of beautiful bright colors, like pink, red and purple. Flowering is the peak of the air plant life cycle, but also marks the beginning of the plant’s old age - after it flowers, the plant will eventually die.
But don’t despair — you’re hard work is not lost! Another awesome piece of air plant advice is that you can actually create new plants from this mama plant!!!
Just before, during or after flowering (depending on the species) your air plant will eventually produce 2-8 little sprouts, or "pups," from their base. When a pup reaches 1/3 of the size of the adult plant, you can gently separate it by pulling it apart from the parent plant. Cool, right? Just be careful not to remove them too early, as they’re actually receiving nutrients from the mother air plant.
We hope you try out these tips and see that air plants are one of the easiest and most versatile indoor plants to take care of.
Have any questions or your own best practices for air plant care? Share with us in the comments!
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