I’ve recently found myself becoming passionate about air plants, especially as the seasons have changed from fall into winter. Air plants are beautiful, simple, amazing plants that are perfect for any home, and are wonderful options for any season. Even better, they are low maintenance and require little love and care. I own around 10 of these bad boys at this point in time, and I know it’s only going to get worse. I’ve learned how to care for air plants from experience and failure, but it doesn’t have to take you as much time. It’s actually quite easy to get yourself started with an air plant garden, and it’s not costly.
Air plants are also affordable little gems, costing only around 2 to 20 dollars each, and offer an exotic look to your home, office or bedroom.
Technically called Tillandsias there are hundreds of different species. Called air plants for a reason, Tillandsias don’t need soil to grow, rather they just need water to survive and are thus able to hang suspended in the air like a magic trick—no dirt needed!
Air plants can be found anywhere from Costa Rica to humid Florida, and all the way to the mountains of the Andes. They have adapted to all types of regions, from sea level to the mountains and basically just look good anywhere. If you are going to be in Latin America or live there, try and plan a hike to some of their native environments and see them attached to trees, or rocks in order to absorb water and nutrients through their leaves. This, my friends, is called epiphytes. They use their root system to attach themselves to other organisms and like any good parasite, suck away all the nutrients.
If you look closely at an air plant, you’ll be able to notice a white powder looking substance across the leaves, and this is how they are able to absorb nutrients. Called Trichomes, they are little moisture traps and is the sole reason why they don’t need soil to survive. Air plants are fun!!
Another unique feature of air plants is they breathe at NIGHT. Most plants do this during the day, but air plants have adapted to breathe at night in order to conserve water. This means that if the plant is watered in the evening or at night, it won’t have time to dry before their stomata opens, which over time will cause the plant to suffocate.
Just a little FYI, only water these plants during the day!
Air plants are amazing and wonderful additions to your home, so why not go out and buy a bunch and try your luck? Here’s a guide on how to care for air plants. It’s relatively easy and fun to watch them hang up in your house. Enjoy!
How to Care for Air Plants
Light: If indoors, you need to find a consistent source of light that is not direct sun. If it is under direct sun, it can cause the leaves to burn, so try and find a window that is in shade for part of the day. If you work in a windowless office, don’t worry, fluorescent lighting tends to be enough for the Tillandsia to thrive. And as a rule, the more silver the plant, the more direct sun it will be able to tolerate. Outdoors, air plants can thrive on a shaded porch or patio, but don’t let the plant stay outside if the temps go below freezing or above 90 degrees F.
Water: In general, water your air plants a few times per week. Don’t use tap water, rather use bottled or distilled water as Chlorine can be harmful to the plants. As mentioned previously, only water during the DAY so the plants are able to dry out by nighttime. When watering, I like to place my water in a spray bottle and place fertilizer in the spray bottle for added measure. I don’t soak my plants, but a lot of people tend to like that method.
Why don’t I soak my air plants? If you’ve ever been to South America, Costa Rica or Florida, you’ll notice that the plants will get morning mistings of water every day, but you’ll never see a weekly dunking or soaking. These plants don’t run off of the trees and place themselves in a sink for 30 minutes to 6 hours and they didn’t take a seminar on how to care for air plants! It seems that morning mistings work well for them in nature and work well for me. I also add in the fertilizer to their spray bottle so they can get little bits of fertilizer daily rather than a ton of fertilizer at once. To each their own.
However, if your air plant does look excessively dry, take some bottled water and place it in a bowl and soak your air plant for about 10 minutes. This should allow the plant to soak up some water and give it a heads up in survival.
Air: They’re called air plants after all! Allow the plants to be in a place with good air circulation—they want fresh moving air just like the rest of us and will gather dust and other particles from the air so air flow is a must.
Flowering: Tillandsia will only flower once in their lifetime. So sad and yet so beautiful. The flowers can last anywhere from a few days to a few months and it’s a very exhausting process for the plant. During this process, you’ll want to make sure the plant has enough water, light, and fertilizer to get them through. After flowering, they will sometimes create little plants called pups. Pups can be removed from the mom once it’s about 1/3 the size of the mother.
Fertilizer: As I said before, I like putting a little fertilizer inside the spray bottle and water the plants every day rather than do one big fertilization every month. It just makes more sense to me. I like this fertilizer here.
I love air plants, and so should you! If you want to buy a little starter kit, try here. Buy a bunch at once and give away as gifts, or just try your luck at keeping them all alive. It’s really not that hard, and as long as they have enough light, water and love they’ll do just fine.