Air Plants: How to Care for Air Plants (Tillandsia) | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Air Plants

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Botanical Name
Tillandsia spp.
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How to Grow and Care for Air Plants (Tillandsia)

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Unique air plants can thrive indoors without using any soil at all. However, they need proper care. Learn how often to water air plants and how to keep them alive!

Members of the bromeliad family, air plants are “epiphytic,” meaning that they rely on the moisture and nutrients in the atmosphere to grow and thrive while clinging to a tree or other supports, such as rocks. 

  • No potting soil is needed.
  • The air plant can be placed in hanging glass globes or shells. Any small shallow container will work, or you can attach the plant to a wall hanging. 
  • Make sure the container you choose does not retain water, as air plants may rot if they aren’t allowed to dry off. 
  • Secure the plant with fishing line or wire if necessary.
  • Plants should be handled as little as possible to avoid damage to the leaves.
  • Air plants grow best in a bright window, but not in direct sunlight. Supplemental lighting can be beneficial; use an full-spectrum LED or fluorescent bulb.
  • Air plants need good air circulation.
  • Good spots for air plants are a window near the sink in the kitchen or a bathroom window. The humidity from washing dishes or taking a shower will keep the plants happy! 

How to Care for Air Plants

  • Mist air plants with water every 2 to 3 days or “bathe” the plant by immersing it in room-temperature water for 30 minutes every 7 to 10 days. If soaking the plant, lay it face down on a paper towel to dry out before putting it back in its container.
  • Mist occasionally with diluted liquid houseplant fertilizer.
  • Cut off any dead leaves. 
  • If the plant develops brown tips, they can be trimmed off. This is often a sign that the plant isn’t getting enough water or is being kept in an area that is too dry. 
  • Air plants grow offsets—called “pups”—from the base of the mother plant. When the pups are a third of the size of the mother, they can be separated from the mother plant and grown on their own. 

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Wit and Wisdom
  • The only purpose of air plant roots is to anchor them to whatever they are growing on.
  • The fuzzier the leaves are, the drier the air the plant can tolerate.
  • Though it may look like dead moss hanging from a tree, Spanish moss is a type of air plant!
  • Air plants are related to pineapples; both are members of the bromeliad family.

Pests are not common on air plants. Occasionally scale insects and mealybugs can be found on the plants.

If air plants are not receiving enough water, the tips of their leaves may turn brown or yellow. Trim these off and adjust your soaking schedule, or increase humidity. 

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