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

Have you adopted one of these spiky Tillandsias (air plants) just to have it turn brown and crunchy?All About Air Plants

All About Air Plants

It’s not your fault, air plants just require a different kind of care than we are used to with our other 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 onto 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! It means that you can place an air plant in just about any spot in your house. Terrariums and seashells are some great ideas for air plants displays, and there are many more. Just check out this Pinterest board:

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

Related:

Crafting with Air Plants and Wire

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.

 

Air Plant 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.

Air plants in sealed vs. unsealed terrariums. Tillandsia need air circulation.

Water

Since they don’t grow in soil, air plants 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 why air plants die. 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 your air plant a bath, simply remove it from the shell, bowl, or whatever else you have it displayed 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.

For even more detailed instructions on watering air plants, see this post:

How to Properly Water Air Plants

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

Did you know that air plants flower? 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.

an air plant in 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.

Tillandsia in 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!

Comments

  1. I soak my air plants for 24 hours once a week is that too much? And they tend to have a white crusty coating around the bottom? Is that normal?

    Reply
  2. Hello. I have several air plants and all are doing well except for one. It was mounted with glue and I am afraid it’s dying. Is there any way to get it out of the planter without damaging it? I had a couple of others this way but the glue released after soaking them for just a little while. This one will not come out and I really would hate for it to die. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. I soak for one hour per week and then let air dry for 1 hour upside down then put in the area where it belongs

    Reply
  4. What beautiful plants! I have an arrangement that is looking a bit sad and the plants are glued in. I don’t know how to safely get them out to revive them.

    Reply
  5. I have to soak my air plant MORE in the winter because the air is much dryer then. And I soak for 5 hours or so twice a week. I also mist with water a couple times a day. The tips of the leaves still get crispy dry and I trim them occasionally. It has doubled in size over the past couple of years.

    Reply

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