Ultimate Air Plant Care Guide – Everything you need to know about taking care of your air plant tillandsias.
1. Hold the air plant upside down and run it under tap water for 10 seconds until the plant is completely wet.
2. Gently shake the air plant in a downward stroke to get rid of excessive water. There should be no water remaining in the middle of the plant.
3. Set your air plant somewhere with good air circulation and let it dry within 4 hours. Under the fan or by the windowsill would be ideal. Pat your plant with paper towel if the bottom of the plant is wet.
1. Mist your air plant thoroughly 2-3 times a week, preferably in the morning.
2. Set your tillandsia somewhere with good air circulation and let it dry within 4 hours. Under the fan or by the windowsill would be ideal.
3. Display your air plant near the window or somewhere with bright, indirect light and good air circulation.
It’s very common to find a few brown leaves and dry tips, especially around the base of the plant. The best way to save a dry plant is to prevent it from drying in the first place. In fact, your air plant will often show early signs of drying before completely drying up or withering.
If you notice the leaves curving in excessively then it’s likely that your plant needs more moisture. Sometimes the plant would also turn more gray and even yellowish from its natural shade of green. You may notice the trichromes (or silvery fur coat on the plant) appearing more pronounced the usual. This is a good time to step in and save the plant from drying up.
Most minor dry tips and brown leaves can be taken care of with a bit of grooming. Simply trim off the dry tips with a clean pair of scissors or peel off the brown leaves by hand. If you see more dry tips and brown leaves growing back within weeks of grooming, that might indicate:
- the air is too dry
- lighting is too direct or insufficient
- your plant is just thirsty
If the air is too dry…
Air plants do best indoors at a relative humidity of 40-60%. If you grow your tillandsia in a dry area or air conditioned space then you may want to water your plants every day or every other day. This is especially true in the summer or hot periods. Just make sure the plants completely dry within 4 hours after each watering.
Some growers suggest increasing the indoor humidity with a water tray or humidifier, which does help delaying the drying process quite a bit. But keep in mind that air plants only obtain water when the trichromes of their leaves make direct contact with water.
When lighting is too direct or insufficient…
While air plants enjoy bright and indirect light, they can also get a sunburn. If you display your air plant on a desk or shelf near the window, make sure it’s not exposed to direct sunlight for over 20 minutes or so as the sun changes position throughout the day.
Different tillandisia varieties have varying tolerance for direct light. Air plants that are more silvery than green typically do better with more direct sunlight. But it’s always a safe practice to keep your air plants away from direct sunlight.
Here is an example of “direct sunlight” to avoid
If you notice brown spots on the leaves (see picture below), move your plant to a shadier spot to prevent further sunburn.
Here is an example of “sunspots” caused by direct light
Besides too much direct sunlight, insufficient lighting can also cause the plant to dry up or wither.
Like all plants, tillandsias require light to make “plant food” during photosynthesis. If the plant is kept in a dark corner all the time then it might have trouble producing nutrients to feed itself over time.
The ideal spot for displaying your plant is one with bright and indirect sunlight. Full spectrum fluorescent lighting in the office would also be ideal where there’s little or no natural sunlight.
If your plant is just beyond thirsty…
Like all things in nature, sometimes the plant can just be really thirsty despite how hard you try to keep it hydrated. It’s best to try a more frequent watering schedule and different watering method in that case.
Be sure to turn on the fan or move your wet air plant near a window with mild wind after you soak it. Having water trapped between the leaves or keeping the base wet for extensive period of time can lead to root rot. And we typically recommend misting over soaking for this very reason. But in case the plant is very dry, soaking is a good way to hydrate the plant in a short period of time.
Smaller plants and pups typically enjoy more water, but they are also more susceptible to root rot.
Other bulbous plants such as Tillandsia Bulbosa or Tillandsia Seleriana are also more vulnerable to fungal infections and root rot due to the bulbous shape that traps water easily. So make sure your small and bulbous air plants dry quickly after each watering.
Larger and more mature plants are typically less sensitive to drought or overwatering.
More Air Plant Care Tips
Air plants often grow on treetops and cliff rocks in nature. This provides them with fresh supply of moisture, carbon dioxide, and excellent air circulation they need to thrive. Display your air plants by the windowsill or in an open area with frequent air movement when you grow them indoors.
Good air circulation is particularly important after each watering. Make sure the plant gets plenty of air movement after you mist your plant. Placing it under a fan or next to a window would be ideal. Besides good air circulation, air plants thrive indoor at 50 – 90°F and stay fresh year-round.
Despite its name, air plants do need more than air to survive. Different varieties of tillandsias may require different amounts of water but the general rule of thumb is to mist your air plant 2-3 times a week.
Take a close look at your plant when you are watering next time. The fuzzy coat of trichromes on the leaves are water receptors that help that plant obtain moisture. As there are no trichromes on the roots, you never need to water the roots or pot the plant with soil.
Make sure your plants dry out within 4 hrs of watering
In terms of water quality, most air plants are not picky at all. Rainwater is perfect if you can collect some. Otherwise tap water would do just fine.
Some municipalities have pretty hard tap water with significant amounts of lime, salt, and minerals. You can use filtered water to prevent the trichromes from clogging up in that case. We highly recommend enhancing your filtered water with some plant food to provide the plant with all the nutrients it needs to stay happy and healthy.
Check out these water loving tillandsias if you like to interact with your plants more often:
See some of the drought tolerant air plants if you are looking for plants that thrive on neglect:
Air plants enjoy bright, indirect sunlight. Home and office fluorescent lighting are also fine if there isn’t a window nearby. Light is essential in the photosynthesis process where air plants produce food to feed themselves.
Besides providing your tillandsias with essential lighting, you can also play with longer exposure to bright light to make your plant blush with a beautiful color! Some air plants such as Tillandsia Concolor and Tillandsia Ionatha Guatemala respond particularly well to higher light exposure.