Air Plant – Care, Growing, Watering, Requirements, Propagation
Air plants are a peculiar choice for a houseplant – they’re easy to tend to, yet they have very specific requirements.
Plus, you have to be creative in displaying these unique plants that do indeed live up to their name.
Air plants are epiphytes, which means they attach themselves to tree branches and shrubs and don’t need to be planted into the soil.
Contrary to what you may believe of these plants, they’re not parasites as they don’t rob the host plant of nutrients and instead absorb moisture and nutrients through their roots.
Let’s see how you can take care of these plants even as a beginner indoor gardener.
Air Plant Care Tips
If all these facts make you feel intimidated by tending after this plant, I hear you.
But don’t worry – once you have a clear understanding of its requirements you can care for this plant without problem.
Because there are multiple air plant varieties, there isn’t a clear-cut size these plants reach when they mature.
Some air plants can become as long as 3 feet, others stay smaller and don’t become larger than 6 inches or so.
Make sure you’re aware of the plant’s size at maturity to see if you have enough space in your home to accommodate a larger plant.
Bright, filtered light is ideal for air plants. Exposure to strong direct sun must be avoided as the plant can get scorched.
If the room your air plants are kept in doesn’t get enough light, consider adding supplemental lighting in the form of fluorescent lights or table-top lights.
If your air plants are “vacationing” outside during the summer, avoid putting them in a place exposed to direct sunlight.
Plus, don’t forget to take them inside well before the frost sets in during fall.
Soil may not be as important to these plants but water, humidity and moisture sure are crucial.
Here are the ways you can water an air plant:
I suppose it’s safe to assume that the air in your home is nearly not as humid as the air in the natural habitat of these plants.
To make up for this, you’ll need to mist your plants with a spray bottle, daily or every other day.
Once you’ve thoroughly misted the plant, place it on a towel to dry off.
A much better way of watering air plants is to place them in a bowl of water or in a sink filled with water and let them float in the water for about 20 min to an hour weekly.
Before placing them back on their display, tip them over to let excess water roll down and place them on a towel to air dry.
You can use rainwater or spring water to water air plants, but tap water is fine too. I use tap water that I let sit overnight to allow chlorine to evaporate before watering the plants.
If you have filtered tap water, even better, just don’t use distilled or soft water as neither is good for air plants.
Temperature & Humidity
The optimum temperature range for air plants ranges between 50 F – 90 F. Frost will kill your plants, so if you’ve kept them outside during the summer and early fall, make sure to keep an eye on weather changes and take your plants back inside as soon as temperatures get cold.
As I mentioned, humidity is important for air plants, and misting your plants will help you create the humid environment your air plants need.
Bathrooms and kitchens are normally humid enough for these plants, so you may want to consider relocating them to these locations in your home if the room they’re being kept in just doesn’t cut it for them in terms of humidity.
As I mentioned, soil is not needed for these plants, instead, you can let your imagination run wild and create elaborate displays for your air plant.
You can use wood, ceramics, pottery, coral, seashell, glass globes, etc. to create a diverse and eye-catching display.
To attach your plants, you can use wire (just not copper as that will kill your plant), fishing lines, glue (just not superglue as it will kill your plant), staples and nails (these should not be used on fleshy parts).
It isn’t crucial for your air plant to fertilize it, especially if you’re using rainwater to water it.
However, monthly or quarterly fertilizing doesn’t hurt. You should pick a fertilizer designed especially for air plants. You can even use regular houseplant fertilizer, just make sure it’s ¼ of the recommended strength.
As for the actual process of fertilizing, you should carry it out as you would water the plant, either by misting or soaking.
Air Plant Propagation
Air plants produce little plantlets or pups that you can separate from the mother plant and replant.
The way to remove these is to hold the pup and the mother plant and gently twist downward towards the base of the plant.
Make sure pups are at least ⅓ or half of the size of the mother plant as this will guarantee the most success in its survivability.
If the twisting motion doesn’t help, consider using a sharp, clean knife to separate the pup.
If you see the mother plant shooting pups, don’t be afraid to separate them from the mother plant.
The mother plant will continue growing and blooming despite you removing its pups, so don’t discard her after this procedure.
Different Types of Air Plant
At the beginning of this article I mentioned how air plants come in many varieties and sizes, some growing larger others staying smaller.
Estimates on the number of tillandsia plants vary, but most agree that there are over 400 varieties and hybrids.
Of the ones I know, here are some that I find the nicest:
This variety grows up to 8 inches in height and has long spiky leaves, but its most attractive feature is definitely its pink-blue flowers.
The plant needs bright light and can thrive in a house or office environment.
Native to Cuba, Mexico, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, this beauty has green leaves that turn a peachy shade before it blooms.
This is a unique variety because of its leaves that all spike in the same direction evoking the sight of quills. What draws me to this variety is its neon orange bloom.
With a fragrant scent and hanging leaves that gives the impression of a moss-like plant, this air plant variety is also dubbed ‘Spanish moss’.
This variety is also adaptable to be grown in soil and its claim to fame are pink quills and purple-blue flower that conveys a vibrant plant.
Tillandsia Cotton Candy
This variety is a result of crossing two different varieties of Tillsandia, the stricta and the recurvifolia. The resulting plant produces bright pink blooms that resemble cotton candy.
I’ve picked these varieties for their interesting and vibrant blooms, but there are plenty of other varieties with interesting leaves that grow in various patterns.
No matter what your tastes are, I am confident you’ll find an air plant that you’ll enjoy displayed in your home or office.
Air Plant FAQs
Here are some FAQs about air plants that you may find interesting:
What are the Silvery / Grey Little Hairs on my Air Plants?
Those fuzzy little things are called trichomes. They are responsible for absorbing in moisture, swelling much like a sponge.
Is it True that Air Plants die After Flowering?
Yes, this is true for most air plants. This is why you should separate the pups from the mother plant, so you can enjoy this plant even after it blooms.
Blooms can last from a couple of days to a week or even more, depending on the variety.
Are Air Plants Toxic to Pets?
No, air plants are not toxic to our furry little friends, so if you’re cat seem too fond of it, it’s not something you need to actively worry about.
How to Water Air Plants that are Glued to Wood?
For starters, use water resistant glue. Hold the plant fixed to the wood under running water taking care that the water doesn’t touch the wood or the base of the plant.
You don’t want the wood getting wet as too much moisture at the base of the plant can cause rotting.
If this was your first time reading about air plants, I hope my article has made you interested in having this plant in your home.
This is not a difficult plant to take care of and you can create many interesting displays with these plants, not to mention enjoy some truly amazing blooms.
Air plants also offer an impressive variety, allowing you to be as picky as you want about the type of air plant you’ll get for your home.
But I do hope that you’ll think that the varieties I mentioned are quite impressive as well.