Air plants are next level. They require no soil and will happily grow on inanimate objects (like a decorative branch or rock). Needless to say, this sounds so weird and wonderful – and you probably want one straight away! But in case you are concerned about the needs of such a strange plant, don’t be. Air plants are ridiculously easy to care for. Our guide will teach you everything that you need to know.
Table of Contents
Origins and Appearance
Native To The West
Air plants are native to the southern United States, South and Central America. They like to grow in warm places like mountains, deserts and humid forests. Air plants evolved into many different species but they are classified under the same Latin name – Tillandsia.
Lots of Looks
Since there are various species, air plants come in different shapes and sizes. Some are small but others can reach the size of a basketball, just to give two examples! Most also have colors like faded grey or green-blue. Air plants have an interesting appearance that varies between looking like moss, grass, spikey plants, succulents, and even hanging plants.
Air plants have one trait in common. They are epiphytes. The latter are plants that grow on other plants, especially trees. It is important to know that Tillandsia species are not parasitic. Instead, they use their “roots” to anchor themselves to another plant, not to extract the host’s nutrients. Air plants get all their nutrients and water from sunlight and the atmosphere.
Temperature and Humidity
Warm But Shady
When it comes to air plant care, you cannot go wrong by recreating their native growing conditions. In this case, they thrive in tree canopies where there is heat, shelter and moisture. Give your spiky wonder a spot in the home that is warm and filled with bright indirect sunlight. Make sure that your leafy pet has enough protection and shade. When these plants are exposed to direct sunlight, their leaves will suffer unsightly burns.
Perfect For Bathrooms
Air plants must never dry out completely. This is why moist, humid conditions are essential for their wellbeing. They will flourish in humid rooms like the bathroom or laundry room. The kitchen is also a good choice. Very often, though, regular house humidity is fine but never place your plant in a place that can upset this balance. Examples include drafty areas or close proximity to vents (both heating and cooling).
Watering and Feeding
Refine Your Watering Schedule
Air plants need a regular watering routine. But how is this possible without soil? Easy! There are several ways that you can water these unusual plants. The first is the soaking method. Place the plant inside distilled water for up to 40 minutes. You can also mist the plant instead of soaking it. The key is to research the species and learn whether it prefers misting, how long you should soak it and how many times a week you should water it.
Liquid Fertilizer is the Best
Air plants appreciate a monthly feeding. You can add a high-quality organic liquid fertilizer to the mister or the soaking bowl. Follow the instructions closely to avoid overfeeding or burning the plant. If you are unfamiliar with the available types of feeds for house plants, a very safe option is fish emulsion fertilizer. Even if you prepare the mixture very strong, it will never burn the plant.
Soil and Repotting
Alright, we have already established that air plants are amazing creatures that do not require soil! But let’s cover some of the things they need in place of soil. Here is where things can get beautifully creative and some people take full advantage of this.
Thanks to their mobility and adaptability, air plants make stunning decor. You can place them on decorative statues, rocks, driftwood, glass bowls, open terrariums, and hanging baskets. The options are really limitless.
Unlike roses and some fruit trees, air plants do not require regular or seasonal pruning to ensure health, form or new growth. However, there are times when snipping is a good idea. Always remember to use a clean pair of scissors to avoid transmitting diseases from your other house plants to your Tillandsia.
- Prune to remove sick, dead, or dying parts.
- Remove unwanted roots or dead roots.
- Carefully cut off the pups or “babies” from parent plants.
Pests and Diseases
Once settled, air plants are quite hardy and resistant to both pests and diseases. However, beginners often face problems due to struggling to balance the plants’ need for moisture with their propensity for developing moisture-related problems like rot and fungal infections.
Let’s have a look at how to prevent this from happening – and while we’re at it, cover a few other air plant glitches you might encounter.
Rot and Fungal Prevention
You can avoid these two disastrous problems by keeping an eye on the humidity levels in your home. This is especially important in the days following a watering or after misting the plant. If humidity does not rise during this time, then your air plant should be safe. But should humidity suddenly rise too much, the plant struggles to dry out. This is a hotbed for rot or fungal issues.
This is a sign of too little moisture. A dead giveaway that your plant is parched is when the brown tips also have a dry, paper-like appearance. In this case, the better remedy would be to increase the humidity and not to place the plant in water. Place a small humidifier nearby or move the air plant to a humid room. Once the plant improves, you can then increase the frequency of its watering schedule.
Brown, Soft Stems
Once you notice mushy, dark stems, your air plant is suffering from overwatering. Unfortunately, in most cases, by the time the symptoms appear, the plant cannot be saved. The only time when there is hope is when only a small part of the plant is mushy.
Immediately remove the affected part and dry the plant out by skipping one or two waterings. If the plant survives, cut back on the old watering schedule to avoid the same thing from happening again in the future.
Q: Is My Air Plant Safe Around Pets And Children?
Yes, nearly all air plants are considered non-toxic. However, place your plant out of reach from kids and pets. While your children and animals might survive nibbling on a leaf or two, your air plant can suffer fatal damage – especially if a cat or dog treats it like a toy.
Q: Can I Propagate My Air Plants At Home?
Yes, you can definitely propagate your own air plants at home. Most species produce pups on their own. These offshoots emerge near the base of the adult plant. Using clean scissors, you can simply snip these off and grow them as you would an older plant.
Q: How Long Do Air Plants Last?
Air plants are perennials. Depending on the species or variety that you choose, your new air plant can live between 2 and 5 years. An individual plant’s longevity is also affected by its environment, growing conditions and care routine.
Q: Do Air Plants Produce Flowers And If So, When?
Air plants do produce flowers. Air plants are unusual in the sense that they only flower once during their lifetime. Some species have a single flower while others have multiple blooms. Flowers can last for days or weeks, depending on the growing conditions and variety of the plant.
Q: How Do You Soak Air Plants The Right Way?
Every week or ten days, fill a bowl or glass with distilled water (you can also use rainwater). Submerge the plant in the water for 30 minutes to 40 minutes. Remove the plant, shake the excess water off gently and allow the plant to dry out upside down. Once dry, you can return the plant to its old place.
Q: Do Air Plants Purify The Air?
Yes, studies have shown that air plants do indeed purify the air. However, they can only do so in small amounts. If you want to truly purify the air in your home, you need to look at other species of plants that are more “powerful.” Good examples include English Ivy, Snake Plant, Aloe Vera and the Broad Lady Palm.