How to Care For Air Plants

How to Care for Air Plants

Tips on the lowest maintenance plants 

Written by Samantha Agostino

Tillandsia, or more commonly known as Air Plants, are a genus consisting of over 600 species.  Though the Air Plant may look like a succulent, with its stiff, thin, sometimes scaly leaves, they are not in fact succulents. Air Plants are epiphytic, flowering plants that sustain themselves entirely on nutrients from the air. "Do Air Plants need soil", you ask. NOPE! These unique plants absorb nutrients through the trichomes on their leaves, meaning no soil is necessary. 

Being that the Tillandsia genus is made up of so many different species, Air Plant care can vary. However, here is the basic air plant care guide to get you acquainted with one of the coolest and easiest plants to care for:

Botanical Name: Tillandsia spp.
Common Name(s):Air Plant                                                          
Plant TypeEvergreen, perennial flowering
Place of Origin:Varies depending on species
Sun Exposure: Bright indirect/Filtered Sun
Watering Schedule:Every 1 to 2 weeks
Seasonality: Year-round
Bloom Time: Once per life cycle in spring or summer
Toxicity:Safe for cats and dogs

AIR PLANTS LIGHT REQUIREMENTS:

Air Plants may not require soil, but does an Air Plant need sunlight? Absolutely! In nature, Air Plants typically grow under the canopy of leaves from whichever tree they are attached to. If you don't happen to have a forest growing in your living room, you can adjust your plant's lighting to replicate that of a somewhat shady spot among the trees. Air Plants generally will grow well in bright, indirect sunlight, or filtered sunlight. You can get this kind of light exposure about 5 feet away from a southern- or western-facing window, or by placing your plant in front of a window with a sheer curtain. Note: some species of Tillandsia prefer direct sunlight, so check the specific needs of your plant.

AIR PLANTS WATER REQUIREMENTS:

Though they do not require soil, Air Plants do have watering needs. You should water you plant once a week, preferably with rainwater or pond water; you can also use tap water as long as it has sat out for 24 hours to reach room temperature. However, make sure you do not use softened water or distilled water as this can cause salt build-up. 

How to Water Your Air Plants:
01. Soak Your Air Plant
 - With no soil to water, you might be wondering how to get some moisture into your Air Plant. The best way to do so is by submerging your plant into room temperature water. Allow your Air Plant to sit in a bowl or sink filled with water, completely submerged for about an hour. Remove the plant upside down and place upside down on a towel to dry. You can even give your Air Plant a good shake to get rid of any excess moisture. 

AIR PLANTS TEMPERATURE REQUIREMENTS:

Air Plants are typically native to tropical climates, but can also withstand more temperate conditions. The ideal temperature to house your Air Plant is somewhere between 50-90ºF. It should be noted though, that these tiny fellas won't survive anything below 50ºF; they aren't frost resistant and will surely die if exposed to freezing conditions. On the flip side, if your Air Plant is getting tons of warmth, be prepared to water more frequently! 

AIR PLANTS HUMIDITY REQUIREMENTS:

You just learned that Air Plants like higher temperatures, but do air plants like humidity? You bet they do! Air Plants, reminiscent of their tropical origin, tend to thrive in high humidity environments of about 65%. This is exactly why so many plant parents keep these babies in terrariums! However, if putting together a terrarium seems a bit daunting, there are several other ways you can increase humidity!

How to Increase Humidity for Your Air Plants:
01. Mist Your Air Plant
 - Fill a spray bottle with the same room temperature water you would normally soak your plant in. Spray your Air Plant a few times a week.

02. Use A Humidifier - This is a great method if you have multiple plants that prefer high humidity. 

AIR PLANTS FERTILIZER:

Though Air Plants bloom only once per life cycle, they can still benefit from a little fertilizer boost! "But my Air Plant doesn't have any soil to fertilize!" - This is true, but you can fertilize your water! Once a month you can add a water-soluble fertilizer, diluted to about 1/4 strength, to the water you would normally soak your plant in. This step isn't necessary, but will definitely help encourage those air plant flowers to bloom!

AIR PLANTS PROPAGATION:

The easiest way to propagate your Air Plant is by dividing the pups, or offsets, from the mother plant. Once your plant has started to bloom you will notice these tiny offsets growing from the base of the plant. Carefully remove these from the base and mount them as you would your other Air Plants. 

AIR PLANTS DISEASES & PESTS:

Like any other plant, Air Plants have their fair share of problems. So if you're wondering "why is my air plant dying," there's quite a few possibilities. 
01. Underwatering - If your Air Plant's leaves are turning brown and curling, it's a good sign you're not giving your plant enough water. These plants are drought-tolerant but it's important you don't neglect their water needs entirely. 

02. Lack of Light - If your Air Plant appears to be fading color, or its leaves are becoming soft, you should consider reconfiguring its placement. Ensuring your Air Plant gets its preferred amount of light is vital! 

03. Mealybugs - If your Air Plant has developed a waxy cotton texture on its leaves, your plant could have a mealybug infestation. The best way to rid these critters from your plant is by quarantining the plant and spraying with a pesticide. 

04. Scale - If your Air Plant has tiny bumps on the underside of its leaves, your plant may be victim to scale. Yellowing of leaves can be another indicator of scale infestation. The best way to get ride of these pests is by quarantining the plant and spraying with a pesticide. 

TOXICITY:

If you're a plant parent as well as a pet parent, and wondering if Air Plants are safe for cats and dogs, rest assured! These plants are non-toxic and won't pose any threats to your furry friends! 

Download the Flora App for more tips and tricks on how to take care of your Air Plants!