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How to Revive a Sick Air Plant

Air plants are pretty fascinating – unlike other plants, Tillandsia requires no soil to grow. This makes them a versatile and beautiful addition to any indoor space. However, just because they don’t need soil doesn’t mean they don’t require special care. If you find your plant is looking less than stellar, use this guide to troubleshoot and learn how to revive an air plant. 

Pinterest image for how to revive a sick air plant

Got a dying or dead air plant? If your air plant is looking dull, a bit brown, or limp, there’s usually one culprit: watering! In fact, these signs could mean that it is very thirsty! To revive a sick air plant that has been a tad neglected, shipped from far, far away, or is just looking a little under the weather, this air plant care guide will show you how to perk it back up!

Do I Have a Dead Air Plant?

Just like anything, there is a point of no return when it comes to air plant health. That being said, people often think they have a dead air plant when in reality the plant is just struggling a bit but can easily be nursed back to health.

In most cases, air plants are not truly dead, but instead in the process of dying. This means that with a little TLC, your Tillandsia can perk back up and even begin to thrive!

How to Revive an Air Plant

A healthy air plant should have leaves that range from green to gray. When you pick up the plant, it should stay intact. In other words, on a healthy air plant, leaves should not fall

There are several things you can do to revive a plant. Here are the steps I take to help my air plants regain their health.

Give the Air Plant an Overnight Soak

The first place I always start when I’m reviving an air plant is with watering. Remember, air plants don’t require soil, but that does not mean they don’t need water. Just like every other living being, water is absolutely essential to air plants!

Since air plants do not have soil, that means they have to absorb moisture and that all-important water through their leaves rather than a root system. There have been too many times I have heard that garden centers recommend spritzing air plants with water a few times a week. In my experience, this is not enough water and will leave the plant thirsty. If this happens long enough, it will lead to a dead air plant, sadly!

How Long Should I Soak my Air Plant?

To ensure my air plants get their water requirements met, I give them an hour-long bath. In the warmer summer months, I do this weekly, and in the winter about every three weeks or so. I live in the rainforest, so I like to use rainwater. However, you can use tap water as well! Just leave the water out for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate.

how to revive a dead air plant with water

Then, simply remove the air plant from whatever container it is in, and submerge it in a bowl of water. The bowl should be large enough that the plant can submerge totally. Leave it in the bath for an hour or so, then take it out. Give your air plant a few gentle shakes while upside down to make sure the water isn’t pooling in its leaves. Then, put the plant back into its home. It’s that easy!

For troubleshooting and for even more information on proper water, read this article I put together about how to water air plants.

Make Sure Your Air Plant has Air!

This may seem obvious, but your air plant needs oxygen to live! There are many images floating around of air plants stored in a closed jar that make me shake my head – the plant cannot survive in an airtight environment!

The solution is easy – you can still keep your cute jar terrarium, but make sure to leave the lid cracked or open so air can circulate freely.

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

Remove Dead Leaves

You’ll also want to remove any dead leaves from a sick air plant by gently tugging at them to see if they come off. If they remove easily, they are dead. If the whole plant falls apart when you do this, you’ve got a dead air plant that has already bit the dust, unfortunately.

However, if only a few leaves come off and the inside leaves are green and healthy-looking, your air plant is going to make it with the proper care!

air plant with dead leaves

Look at the Tips of Your Air Plant

If the tips of your air plant are turning brown, try using rainwater or unchlorinated water as described above. If you are not giving them chlorine but they are still turning brown, then your plant may not be getting enough water.

Give them an overnight bath, then make sure that you are bathing them more often.

air plant with brown leaves

What if my Air Plant Falls Apart?

If you have a green air plant that just falls apart, you’ve got a dead air plant on your hands. This probably occurred due to sitting in standing water too long, or it was not shaken off properly after bath time.

Read the section about watering again and you’ll surely have better luck with the next one!

air plants in need of soaking and pruning

I hope this guide helps you revive an air plant and keep your plant collection thriving! If you love air plants as much as I do, be sure to check out the articles below.

More About Air Plants:


  1. My cat chewed on two of my plants…I snipped them chewed ends and took them to my worked got a terrarium with a smaller opening for the one she didn’t get. I spray them daily with a mister and I do see some new growth but they don’t seem to be growing. The others I had gotten have doubled in size. I’m not sure what to do.

  2. 5 stars
    Thank you for this post. It showed up in my Pinterest feed. I have an air plant that was not looking so well. I used your suggested soaking overnight, and I had a very different plant in the morning. It looked much better!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us, I live in western WA, in Fall/Winter it’s more difficult to gauge watering needs of my Air Plants & Succulents, this article was VERY helpful!
    Thanks again,
    Shelly Scherbarth

  4. My air plant was green when I put it in for an overnight soak, but kinda gray when I took it out. It is not falling apart. Am I gonna loose it or will it revive?


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