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!

Okay, 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 their roots. Air plants are epiphytic, meaning they absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves, while 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, whereas 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, or use filtered water.

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 its beauty for another 1-3 weeks before it needs 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.

    • Rajesh Patel
      Rajesh PatelMarch 27,17

      hi Cathy, Please don’t worry. Just soak the plants into water for more than i hour and then after plac ethe plants where it was either hanged or placed in any pot etc. Keep in touch with 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?

    • amy Marie
      amy MarieJuly 1,17

      i always try to use rain water if not . distilled bottled water. i always have jars and buckets outside for when it rains. when my plants flower i take scizzors or clipppers and when the flower dies i cut out the stalk as closest the the bottom as i can without having the whole plant fall apart or cutting any other leaves

      • amy Marie
        amy MarieJuly 1,17

        but i heard if you cut them off it helps pups grow faster. but i tried both . doesnt seem to differ im having a problem either way growing pups. but think in the wild. they grow pups and dont have someone there to trim off the stalk and they still pup i think it just supposed to speed up the process

    • amy Marie
      amy MarieJuly 1,17

      i always try to use rain water if not . distilled bottled water. i always have jars and buckets outside for when it rains. when my plants flower i take scizzors or clipppers and when the flower dies i cut out the stalk as closest the the bottom as i can without having the whole plant fall apart or cutting any other leaves

  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.

        • amy Marie
          amy MarieJuly 1,17

          i heard the glue is okay for them growing and flowering but the glue can prevent the plant from producing pups after flowereing

  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.

    • amy Marie
      amy MarieJuly 1,17

      you shouldnt give a plant that is flowering a bath. just spray it and when you spray it try holding your fingers over the flower. it wont kill it . the flowers are hard just dont squeeze it and just spray it . try not getting the flower wet as possible. so you once flowering you should never bath the plant except if you hold it in the bath without the flower in the water. then after the flower dies. go back to bathing

    • amy Marie
      amy MarieJuly 1,17

      if the flower does end up getting wet though it will not die. its more to try not to get the flower wet to keep it in bloom longer. water may kill off the flower faster but not the plant . and then the plant SHOULD still be able to still produce pups. but its better safe then sorry not to get it wet much as possible. i never bathe mine during their blooms and cover up the flowers best i can during spray. its impossible to keep the flower from getting just a little wet. its not going to hurt it.

  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.

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseMarch 14,17

      I hope so too!

  16. Patti
    PattiSeptember 5,16

    I soak my air plants in distilled water once a week in a little jar and I wonder if I can use the same water again or if I need to use fresh water every time I soak them.

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseSeptember 6,16

      Hi Patti, by all means, reuse the water! That is just fine.

  17. Jen
    JenSeptember 15,16

    Hi, can you tell me what makes an air plant rot? We have trouble with our plants rotting in the root and falling apart. We mist them lightly sometimes, but soak them for 10 mins about once a week. We try to soak them upside down and also air dry upside down to keep water from setting in the roots, but it has not seemed to help much. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseSeptember 15,16

      Hi Jen, rotting is most likely from water getting stuck at the base of the leaves but it sounds to me like you are doing everything else right. Give them a really good shake after watering, and perhaps don’t mist any more. Just soak them in water half as often as you have been and see if that helps.

  18. Cavan
    CavanNovember 7,16

    I keep air plants hanging at my office. I’m not able to leave water out to let the chlorine evaporate. Do you have any other techniques you’d recommend?

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseNovember 10,16

      Yes, you can use rainwater or distilled water instead. :)

      • Cavan
        CavanNovember 13,16

        Thank you!

  19. Leyn
    LeynJanuary 7,17

    Hi Stephanie,
    I have 2 separate single air plants that bloom a few months back. I just learned that they were suppose to grow pups. But I don’t see any signs of new pups growing at all. Compared to my cluster air plant that i recently acquired and have bloomed, they are spotting a handful of pups at the bottom. Is it normal for my single air plant not to have pups? And if they don’t and since the flowering stage is over, will I not see pups on them in future? Thanks in advance! :)

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseJanuary 10,17

      Hi Leyn, it’s hard to say without seeing the plants or knowing the varieties. I would continue to enjoy them and take care of them, they may surprise you!

  20. Michele
    MicheleFebruary 12,17

    Hi Stephanie, when, if at all, do you fertilize air plants? If they should be fed, what fertilizer should I use?
    Thanks so much, Michele

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseMarch 14,17

      Hi Michele, generally I don’t. Although I do have a bit of orchid fertilizer that I bought for the job when I first adopted my plants. orchid fertilizer can be dissolved in the bath water when soaking the plants, every few months. I don’t really think they need it though.

  21. Samantha
    SamanthaFebruary 15,17

    My air plants were looking sad! Then I soaked them for half a day and now 5 out of 6 of them are totally revived and look so happy!! Thanks for the tip! I’ll never mist them again.

  22. Tony Chambers
    Tony ChambersMarch 11,17

    You told someone that they could use distilled water on their airplants are you sure that’s correct.

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseMarch 14,17

      Hi Tony, yes, I can’t see why not. Rainwater is best, but any other water that doesn’t have chlorine will be fine. Honestly the plants aren’t picky. It’s just that chlorine causes the leaf tips to brown.

  23. Joyce
    JoyceMarch 14,17

    I was given a different type of air plant it has very long cascading strips it was in very bad shape. It’s in a very dry state and is falling apart. I soaked it for 20 minutes but still dry is there any thing else I can do? It must have been a very beautiful plant. Thanks so much for your help!!!!!!!

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseMarch 14,17

      Hi Joyce, it’s hard to say if it has passed it’s prime or cam be saved. The best advice I have is soak it overnight and then shake off the water well in the morning. If it has some life in it, it will come back. If it falls apart, it’s too far gone. Check out this article on How to Revive an Air Plant for more info: http://gardentherapy.ca/evive-a-sick-air-plant/

  24. jessica
    jessicaMarch 16,17

    Hi Stephanie,

    While giving my air plant its bath the base came off of it :s will it die?? I got it a while ago and the lady told me just air will be fine but as it has started to look dry I started reading more about them and only just started its watering. Help!

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseMarch 16,17

      Sadly, it sounds like your air plant is not going to survive. It might, but unlikely if the base came off. It probably dried out too much. I would go get another one and follow the tips in this post. They are easy to care for but they do need some water.

      • jessica
        jessicaMarch 16,17

        that’s what I’ve figured :( it was such a pretty one too! luckily they are not expensive to buy! Thanks

  25. Vicki Georgianna
    Vicki GeorgiannaMarch 20,17

    I love these plants and have raised them for years! Some I’ve even killed in the learning process! I got some very good lessons from a man that grows and propagates Orchids in my East Tennessee neighborhood! True they will only bloom once but if you continue to take care of them, they will continue to live. You don’t “have” to separate the pups, they will live just fine on the mom plant and if you like you can just let it that way for, well, ever! Just remove any dead plants! They will form a big ball! You can just hang them on some fishing line! Never ever soak over night no matter how dry. That’s too much water at one time, even for a plant that’s been deprived. Spritzing is OK every day if you live in low humidity. I put a tiny amount of Miracle Grow in my spritzing water too! Terrariums are not good for air plants because it’s to much humidity…unless you use one with out a lid! The leaves naturally turn brown and fall off from time to time but if they do it to much or from the center of the plant, there’s a problem! I think these plants are fun and look great along side my Orchids! I’ve even had pups and the mother plant in bloom at the same time! But what it all really comes down to is buying them from a reputable greenhouse! I don’t put mine in any kind of a holder. I sit them on shallow basket trays. I find keeping them is glass just makes them to wet and unable to dry out then they turn mushy and die! Never use distilled water! The plants, believe it or not need the minerals that naturally occur in water…distilling water takes those minerals out! And also never use rain water! These plants are “hot house” plants, you rarely, if ever find them that come directly from the rainforests, so they can’t take rain water! It’s contaminated just from falling through the air we breath! Scary, isn’t it!!???? If you can’t drink it don’t put it on your indoor plants!!!

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseMarch 20,17

      Hi Vicki, thank you for all of your feedback. I love the suggestion on leaving the pups in place to form a ball. I just came back from Florida, and air plants are everywhere! All over the trees outdoors. They are a bit invasive, in fact. Floridians’ found it quite funny how much I purchase my plants for! That being said, they do seem to love any rain they get there!

      But about the soaking, I do often soak my plants overnight, and they love it. It’s a refresher for them if they are getting a bit dry. I use rainwater and tap water that has been sitting out to let the chlorine evaporate. Distilled water is just boiled tap water to remove impurities, but since you are the second person to suggest it might be an issue, I’ll run a test.

      • Wanda
        WandaJune 4,17

        I live in Florida and you are right, air plants are all over outside here. I see them for sale for $5 and I have to laugh as I have a yard full! I’ve had plants here and there over the years but this year they are quite profuse so I’ve been gathering them. I’ve been picking them up off the ground and off the tree branches that I could reach. The City workers cut a lot of branches from my trees and before they were picked up, I was able to gather a bunch more. I am planning on using them for different projects and have a plant pot full sitting outside in the humidity. I spritz them when we don’t have rain otherwise I let them alone to absorb the humidity from the air. That seems to be the right way to keep them healthy. My indoor ones get a good dunking now and then and they are also thriving.

        • Stephanie Rose
          Stephanie RoseJune 6,17

          How lucky you are, Wanda. I live in envy of those who can pluck air plants from trees :) Thanks for sharing!

  26. Matt
    MattApril 24,17

    If I have a dried up flower on one of my air plants should I deadhead it?

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseApril 24,17

      Hi Matt, you can cut the flower stem off at the base. Usually, after flowering, the air plant will grow pups but the mother plant doesn’t survive. This may not be the case for your specific variety, but just be prepared that flowering can signal the end of the life cycle for some air plants.

  27. Faith Setzer
    Faith SetzerJune 8,17

    Hi! I accidentally soaked my air plants in a bath all night! I usually do 20 min – 1hr, but forgot about them & went to bed without draining them. I know it’s not good for them. I’ll have to wait & see, but was wondering if you think they will die? Only 2 have bulbs… Is there anything I can do to help them live at this point?

    • Joe Adams
      Joe AdamsJune 23,17

      Faith, Don’t worry they should be fine. Just dry them out with a towel and put them in a bright window. I’m in Florida and we have air plants everywhere. I’ve got them growing on the screen on my pool cage. Didn’t put them there it’s just where the air plant spores landed. I’ve seen air plants at the bottom of trees that are under water for days at a time during rainy season and they thrive. These are simple plants. They need light, but not direct sun, good clean water ( preferably rain water) sprayed on them and a bath especially if they look dried out. Heating and AC take moisture out of the homes air so you’ll need to provide that for them. Check out some websites for cleaver ideas in using these plants. Mine has some. Ha,ha. Probably shouldn’t say that here. Hope it’s ok with Stephanie Rose. Joe

  28. Rae
    RaeJune 22,17

    My air plant recently started to grew some small flower bubs but it always dry up & die before the flower bloom. Is there anything wrong with my air plant? Do I need to do something to it?

    • Joe Adams
      Joe AdamsJune 23,17

      Sounds like they may need more humidity. If they are indoors especially you may want to give them a bath more often of spray ( with rain water if possible ) I just put a bucket out when it rains and store it in a clean sprayer. Rain water contains the minerals, including nitrogen that all plants need. If you ever wondered why your grass and plants look so green after a thunderstorm it’s not just the water. The electrical charge in lightening fixes the nitrogen and it’s them able to be absorbed in the rain. Viola, nitrogen means green in the plant world. Joe

  29. Joe Adams
    Joe AdamsJune 23,17

    Stephanie, Love you sharing with all of us. Something you may want to try. Your probably short on palm tree seed pod arms in Vancouver but a small branch with lots of offshoots would work. I tie small air plants along the seed pod arms (branches) with brown or green thread to anchor them until they attach on their own. I then mount the base of the branch into a weathered board, pot or a chuck of interesting wood. You’ll need to glue it in ( I use good old E6000). Step back and think what if anything more it may be calling for. The nice thing is these can be hung on a wall, set on table or hung from the ceiling. I just take the ones on the boards down and give them a bath every now and then and a couple of squirts with a sprayer each week. I’m in Naples, Fl. so they do fine on their own outside. No direct sun down here for sure. I’ll be posting some examples on my website in the next week or so. Thanks again for your good work.
    Joe

  30. Jill
    JillJuly 6,17

    My artificially colored air plants are curling under. Could you tell me why

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseJuly 6,17

      Hi Jill, curling leave generally mean they are drying out. Try giving them a longer bath or more frequent baths.

  31. Jill
    JillJuly 6,17

    Hello. Could you tell me why my artificially colored air plants are curling under

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