So you just got an airplant? What now? Don't worry, follow these simple steps! Air Plant Care: How To Care For Air Plants
The name “airplant" is actually a bit misleading. Members of the Tillandsia genus are so called not because they can thrive on air alone, but because they require no soil at all to grow. In fact, assuming that Tillandsia only need air to survive is one of the most common mistakes we see in air plant care.
In their natural habitat -- the forests, mountains and deserts of South and Central America -- air plants are epiphytic (growing on other plants without harming them), and emerge from the crooks and branches of trees.
Here are the best practices we recommend for air plant care. First we’ll talk about how to care for air plants in general.
How Much Light Does an Air Plant Need?
In order to thrive, air plants need bright, indirect light. Rooms with southern or eastern facing windows make good candidates, because these spaces will be brightly illuminated with sun for most of the day. Rooms with north-facing windows work well, too, as long as the plant is placed close to the window, and the window isn’t blocked by trees or a neighboring apartment complex. Western light tends to come late in the day, and can be very hot and intense. Careful - you don’t want to fry your air plant!
As a general rule of thumb, the higher the humidity in your space, the more light is tolerated by the air plant. This means that if you’re putting your air plant where it will receive loads of light, you should plan to mist it more often - twice a week or even daily. A sunny bathroom makes a happy home for an air plant, because the humidity from your shower will take care of most plant misting for you.
Air Plants and Artificial Light
Many people ask us if they can place their air plant in an office or basement room where it won’t get any natural light. The answer is yes, but there are a few specific rules to follow to ensure your plant’s success.
Full spectrum (fluorescent) light is a must. Regular incandescent bulbs don’t emit the quality of light these plants need to photosynthesize. Your Tillandsia should be placed no further than 3 feet from the light source. Also if you’re going to use fluorescent light, the plants will need, at minimum, 12 hours per day.
If you live in a basement or want to have an air plant in your office, we recommend buying a special bulb for your plant (such as a Gro-Lux, Repta-Sun or Vita-Lite) and setting it on a 12-hour timer, so your plant gets all the light it needs to survive.
How to Water an Air Plant
Watering an air plant is the trickiest piece of the air plant care puzzle. Some people swear by misting, others by soaking, and still others use a combination of both misting and soaking in their air plant care regimen.
In our experience, watering air plants is tricky because the needs of the plant vary dramatically with the space in which it is placed. The first step to watering your air plant is to evaluate your space. How much light is your plant receiving? What is the temperature in your home at this particular time of year? Is the space very dry (is your plant near a heater or fireplace?) Or is it very humid?
After you answer these questions, you can adapt the air plant watering regimen to suit your particular needs. Here’s what we recommend as a starting point:
. Every one to two weeks, soak your air plant in room temperature tap water (or
Is My Air Plant Getting Enough Water?
Signs of under-watering your air plant include the leaf tips turning brown or crispy. The natural concave shape of air plant leaves tends to become more exaggerated when under-watered.
Unfortunately, if your air plant has been over-watered, it’s often too late to save it. If the base of the plant turns brown or black, and leaves are falling out or off from the center, your plant has likely succumbed to rot.
Air plants are pretty easygoing when it comes to their temperature. They do best between 50-90 degrees F. Ideally, overnight temperatures will be about 10 degrees cooler than daytime temperature.
Incorporating orchid or Bromeliad fertilizer into your watering regimen once or twice a month is a great way to keep your air plant happy. Just add a pinch to your water and proceed as usual. Fertilizing your air plant encourages it to blossom and reproduce (or pup -- more on this later)
Air Plant Life Cycle
Did you know that air plants flower once in their life? Depending on the species, these blossoms last from a few days to a few months, and can be a whole variety of beautiful bright colors, like pink, red and purple. Flowering is the peak of the air plant life cycle, but also marks the beginning of the plant’s old age - after it flowers, the plant will eventually die.
But don’t despair! Just before, during or after flowering, depending on the species, your air plant will reproduce by sending out 2-8 “pups”. These baby air plants, which start out very small, will eventually grow into their own mother plants. Pups can safely be separated from the mother plant when they’re about ⅓-½ its size. Careful not to remove them too early, as they’re actually receiving nutrients from the mother air plant!
Good Luck and have fun with your new plants!