Dont Shut Me In Air Plants Need Air.

How to Keep Air Plants Alive and Healthy (They Might Even Bloom!)

Have you adopted one of these spiky Tillandsias just to have it turn brown and crunchy?all about air plants - planting, care, blooming and more

It’s not your fault, air plants just require a different kind of care than we are used to with our houseplants. Once you know what to do, you will find  that air plants are one of the easiest and most versatile indoor plants to take care of. Treat them right and they might even bloom!

Ok, so it’s time you are armed with the right information to end the abuse of air plants and treat them with love and respect.  Read on air plant lovers, for this is All About Air Plants.

What’s in a Name?

The term ‘air plants’ is the common name for Tillandsias, a type of Bromeliad, because they don’t need to be planted in soil. Yup, no soil! In the wild, Tillandsias colonize objects such as rocks and trees by clinging on to them with thier roots. Air plants are epiphytic, meaning they absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves, while the the roots are used primarily to provide support for the plant.

This is good news for crafty gardeners! This means you can place an air plant in just about any place in your house. Terrariums and seashells are some great ideas, and there are many more. Just check out this Pinterest board:

 Follow Stephanie @ Garden Therapy’s board GARDEN: Air Plants and Terrariums on Pinterest.

Over 500 species of Tillandsia grow in a broad variety of habitats in the USA (southern part) to Central and South America. Some Tillandsia varieties such as Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usenoides) can be invasive, taking over phone lines and climbing buildings.

 

Care Instructions

Air plants are easy to care for, as long as you are sure to give them the basics.

AIR

Yup, as the name indicates, you must provide lots of air for your air plant. Do you need to give it a fan or blow dryer? No. Just make sure that it’s not sealed up in a closed container so that fresh air can circulate freely around the plant.

don't shut me in! Air plants need air.

WATER

Without soil this means that air plants will need to absorb moisture through their leaves. I have heard many, many times that garden centers have recommended spritzing them a few times a week. I find that this is just not enough water and that it is often the reason for their demise. I never found that misting was very helpful or consistent.

Personally, I give air plants an hour-long bath to meet their water requirements. In the summer they need a weekly soak, where in the winter it’s once every 3 weeks or so. I like to use rainwater whenever I can, and this is pretty simple given I live in a rainforest! You can use tap water as well, just leave it out for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate.

To give them a bath, simply remove the air plant from the shell, bowl, or whatever else you have it in and set it in a bowl that is large enough to submerge the plant in water. After an hour, take the plant out and give it a good shake upside down to remove any water pooling inside the leaves. Put the plant back in place and just enjoy it’s beauty for another 1-3 weeks before it need another bath.

LIGHT

Air plants prefer bright, indirect light. A sunny window may be too much light and a dark room will be too little. Find a bright spot in your home, where the sun doesn’t directly beam right at the plant which can burn it.

How to Get Your Air Plant to Bloom

If you want to see your air plant bloom, then you may have your work cut out for you! These are so many different varieties that it is hard to generalize instructions that can work for them all as different species bloom at different times and flowering can also depend on care and environment.

How to get your air plant to bloom

It’s best to look at the life cycle of an air plant to determine blooming. Tillandsia flower at maturity and will only bloom once in their life. The mother plant will start producing baby plants (or pups) when they are nearing maturity. She will then die off, but each pup will grow into a mature plant and flower, although this could take years. Blooms can last from days to months, depending on the species.

Tips on Tillandsia care and how to get your air plant to bloom

If you really want to see a Tillandsia bloom, look for plants that are starting to grow pups when you buy them. Follow the care procedures closely and add a bit of orchid / Bromeliad fertilizer once a month in the bath to help move along the life cycle.

When the blooms start to show, keep them out of the water. You can still give your air plant a bath, but the delicate petals won’t last submerged in water.

Reviving a Sick Air Plant

How to water and revive a sick air plant

Looking for tips on planting air plants?

Check out Growing Air Plants in Seashells

Now go out and adopt another air plant. You won’t be sorry!

About the Author : Stephanie RoseAn artistic gardener aiming to feed the body & soul through an urban potager garden & a community veggie plot in Vancouver.View all posts by Stephanie Rose

  1. Cathy
    CathyJanuary 11,15

    Hi,
    You mention giving your plants “an hour-long bath”. How do you do this? Remove the plant from its planter and sit it in water?
    Does the plant’s roots mind being disturbed? (i.e. replanted?)
    I have absolutely no luck with succulents and am hoping to try the air plants and have better luck.
    Thanks for any help you can give me.

  2. Stephanie
    StephanieJanuary 12,15

    Hi Cathy, air plants don’t have any soil so you just plop them in a bowl of rainwater and soak for an hour. Don’t forget to shake them off afterwards. They are very different from succulents so I hope you have more luck!

  3. Nancy
    NancyJanuary 13,15

    Thanks for the article! I was wondering if you need to remove the spent blossom? I haven’t but wondered if I needed to do this?

  4. Patti
    PattiJanuary 23,15

    I never really loved air plants until recently when people like you started showing us how beautiful the blooms can be. Thanks!

  5. sel
    selJanuary 26,15

    ahhh air plants……this was the hippie generation that brought these carefree plants to the
    attention of everyone. Yes, they were used for beautiful gardens in a massive glass jar.
    I am sure all remember this. Easy to care for and when they needed watering, simply
    put the lid on and nature would take its course. A no brainer garden. So cutely set up
    with tiny cottages and miniscule forest animals. Yes, just cover your jar and don’t worry
    about it. Just a few hours and life goes on til the next time around. Oh, and as for blooms,
    well once again…..simple if you follow their needs.

  6. victoria ingham
    victoria inghamMarch 20,15

    Hello oh im so glad I came across your suggestions Air plants im really going to give them a go I think they are beautiful and you have gone into great detail your pictures are lovely and once again thankyou regards victoria UK

  7. RaMona King
    RaMona KingDecember 13,15

    Hi, I too am happy to have found this. I was givin an airplant from a friend, I have lots of house plants and a green thumb with them. But I can not for love nor money keep this airplant looking good. Its now Brown I have steamed the poor thing bathed it and misted it. I don’t think Its completely dead. I am going to try these techniques. If there is anything else you can think of to help I would very much appreciate it.
    Thanks RaMona

  8. Marjorie
    MarjorieJanuary 7,16

    This site is amazing, so interesting and informative, love it lots. Have shared with all my family and friends. X

  9. Kim Smith
    Kim SmithJanuary 20,16

    I am really planning to get into air plants this year. They seem so fascinating and I want some. Your site has so much inspiration, not to mention gorgeous photos, I will need to explore. Thanks for all the info.

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseJanuary 20,16

      my pleasure! Keep me updated!

      • Cheryl
        CherylMarch 10,16

        Oops… I think I goofed! I was at a wholesale florist and fell in love with the air plants. I remembered I had some about 30 years ago. I bought about 20 plants and made cute arrangements using different types of wood and shells. The florist was selling glue to use to get them to stay on the logs and such.i hope I’m not killing them because I glued them! Do you think I am? I can’t submerge them because they’re glued and I used dried Moss and glued on stones and pebbles.

        Thanks for posting your info!

        • Stephanie Rose
          Stephanie RoseMarch 10,16

          Hi Cheryl, I would submerge those that you can the best that you can. The ones that can’t be soaked won’t last as long but living things are ever-changing anyhow. I have had a wreath for over a year that had 3 air plants glued to it. Two have died but one is still going. It looks much less healthy than the ones that are not glued, but c’est la vie! You will be able to enjoy them for a long time still to come.

  10. Beth C
    Beth CMarch 17,16

    thank you so much for these tips! i just found a cute terrarium to make in a coffeepot this week and my folks happened to be getting rid of two coffeepots, so i grabbed one to make a kitchen sand terrarium in and wanted to put in an air plant as well! i’m so glad to have read this, otherwise i probably never would have watered the poor thing!!

  11. Sanette
    SanetteMarch 22,16

    I inherited a bunch of airplants. Some bloom and are gorgeous even after years of neglect (shame on ignorant me!) but most of it looks really dull and dead. I will give them a bath this afternoon and see if I can save the sad ones. Love your blog all the way out in South Africa – I just need to remember to switch season-thinking, as we are upside down in that regard. :)

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseMarch 22,16

      Great! I bet they will love their bath. Thank you for flipping seasons. A few months ago I asked our newsletter subscribers to tell us where they garden and I was surprised by how many people were from SA, Australia and other countries with opposite seasons.

  12. Evita
    EvitaMarch 31,16

    Hi, i want to ask if my air plants have blooms, can i skip the bath, because i’m afraid the blooms will die. And if i skip the bath, can the air plants be ok just with the mist? Thank you.

  13. Denice Rivera
    Denice RiveraJuly 9,16

    I put a plant in a Patron bottle with sand and rocks so I can’t pull it out. What is your suggestion for watering it?

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseJuly 11,16

      Hi Denise, I’m not sure what to suggest. I think that it may not have a very long life. Air plants need air and water and it will be hard to give it both of those things in a bottle.

  14. Ellen
    EllenAugust 4,16

    I love you site. I life in The Netherlands and i have Tillandsia’s. In the sumer they grow outsite and in the winter insite. Its not easy to grow them in The Netherlands. Love you blog. Hopefully my Tillandsia’s will have a very long life. Thanks a lot.

  15. Dan
    DanAugust 8,16

    Quick question:

    I love airplants, great job expounding about them on here!

    was wondering a nifty idea friend thought of, buy a humidifier that shoots a stream of vapor at the plants, letting you place them in direct sunlight and not burn them. Would this work do you think?

    Oh, and also, Ive read somewhere that direct sunlight is bad but somewhere elsre said that if theres enough water then you can put in direct sunlight?

    At my old place they grew pretty big (in bathroom with skylight and got humidity from everyones showering), at new place i cant seem to get them to grow any bigger, they just stay the same size… any advice how to make them grow bigger?

    Thanks,

    -Dan

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseAugust 11,16

      Hi Dan, that could work, I can’t see why not.

      Regarding size, Tillandsias are slow growers in the home environment and have different mature sizes and some will never get that large. I would look for large ones to begin with or contact a specialty nursery that carries them to ask which have rapid growth rates and large mature size.

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