How to care for air plants

I like to think I'm pretty good with plants. I can usually manage to make them grow and thrive, but at the very least I always manage to keep them alive. I do especially well growing herbs and other medicinal plants indoors, I'm really good with those. There is only one type of plant I ever managed to kill. I actually killed four of them. Air plants.

I'm sure you're wondering how that's possible after all, an air plant has virtually no care necessary. The problem was, I thought that too. I believed the little 'air plant care' cards that came attached to my air plants that said "just mist with water once a month" and that is all I did. 

Every single one died.

How to | air plants

That's when I learned something about the instructions that come with air plants. Everyone lies! Well, maybe not everyone, but every plant tag on the air plants I bought did. *sigh* Now I don't know exactly why a plant would have incorrect information on the tag but they do! I'm guessing they think it's a selling point, but Air plants actually need a lot more water than the tag says. They actually like to be, well ... soaked.

In learning how to care for an air plant, I learned that air plants (Tillandsia) do not have roots. Since it does not have roots, it absorbs the water and nutrients it needs through the leaves. Air plants are native to humid areas of Central and South America, the southern United States and West Indies (wiki)

Air Plant Care

Most air plants are epiphytes. They naturally grow without soil, attached to other plants. The air plant does no harm to this host plant. Air plants are perennials.

Like other plants, air plants need adequate air flow. Air plants in closed terrariums do not do well because of the lack of air. If you have one of these displays, leave the top off or propped open to allow enough air in.

Air plants like more than just a mist of water, they like a weekly swim. Unfortunately, this is really bad news for air plants that are glued into place in shells or onto large rocks or driftwood. Unless you live somewhere with a naturally high humidity level, you'll need to remove the air plant for it's weekly dunk. 

How to water air plants

Fill a bowl with room temperature water and allow the air plants to soak for about an hour. You should probably use bottled water to guarantee no chlorine or other chemicals gets to your little plant. They are quite sensitive! After you remove the air plant from the water, hold it upside down and shake lightly to remove water from the base of the leaves. Place on a paper towel to dry for about an hour before putting it back in its habitat.

How to care for air plants

If you prefer to mist your plant with water daily instead, you can stretch out the time between watering's to about every 2 weeks. Do not drench them so that they're sitting in water. Standing water will kill them. A light mist will do.

This method has worked very well for me, however you can find lots of conflicting advice online. I've seen people recommend as little as a 1 minute dunk or as much as a 2 hour swim! I think it has to do with your climate. In a more humid environment the air plant would need a shorter dunk in water since it can absorb water from the air. A more arid climate (or a dry house in winter with the furnace running) would require longer waterings. Experiment and see what works best for  you!

If you want to fertilize your plant you can add a pinch of orchid or bromeliad fertilizer to their bath once a month. There's also a mist on orchid fertilizer, though I've never tried this one. This may encourage the air plant to bloom, depending on where it is in its life cycle.

Place in a bright window, but not in direct afternoon sun. Air plants can become sunburned. If you only have windows with direct sunlight, then set  them back from the window a bit. They also like fluorescent lighting which make them a nice desk plant.

Air plants also like warmer temperatures. They are from tropical areas after all. Keep your air plant in an area that is room temperature (70°F) or higher. Do not place in a drafty or unheated room, your air plant will die. I found this out the hard way when we had a week long electric outage during winter and I did not move my plants to the rooms with the fireplace/space heaters. Unfortunately the air plant was dead within a few days of 50 degree temperatures. 

That's really all there is to air plant care. It's a very simple to care for plant, though admittedly not as easy as 'just mist with water'. If you're looking to buy an air plant, Air Plant Supply sells so many varieties...though I've picked all mine up at home depot and Lowes! lol Thankfully, I'm able to keep air plants alive now and that's enough to make me happy!

Looking for an indoor plant with big benefits? Check out the Crispy Wave plant. This cute fern filters air like no other!


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  1. Interesting facts about air plants! I didn't know they needed water either, so I probably would kill it too. I haven't had one in a long time, but they really are unique plants. Glad you told us they do need water.

  2. I am really getting into the look of air plants and have been wanting to treat myself after the holidays. So thanks for sharing this!

  3. Great info! Thanks for joining the To Grandma’s House We Go link party! Your post has been pinned!