How To Care For Your Air Plants - Backyard Boss
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How To Care For Your Air Plants

Air plants, also known as Tillandsia, are some of the easiest plants to care for. Air plants do not require soil, in fact, they should not be planted in soil! As the name would suggest, the plants take their nutrients from the air, but they still require water, nutrients, and light to thrive. The plants are a type of epiphyte, which usually grow on another tree or object in nature. They simply use the object as a host and do not steal its nutrients.

Air plants are incredibly versatile because they don’t require soil. You can really grow them anywhere without the mess or attention that soil requires. With that said, the proper care is essential. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to ensuring your plant thrives.

Tools You’ll Need

air plant and tools
Image credits: ProFlowers via flickr

You’ll need a few tools to care for your air plants. Find all the essentials, as well as a few optional tools, below.

  • Well-lit location
  • Grow lights (optional)
  • Water
  • Terrarium or globe (optional)
  • Driftwood, plant, or other natural material (optional)
  • Gardening wire (optional)
  • Vessel
  • Water mister

How to Care for Air Plants

Now that you have your materials, it’s time to learn how to care for your air plants.

Consider the Species

Different air plant varieties
Image credits: Mike Walter via Unsplash

There are two main types of Tillandsia: mesic and xeric. Mesic is light and silvery in color, while the other is a darker green. Mesic air plants reflect light and conserve moisture, requiring more sun and less watering. The green plants, xeric, come from rainy, humid tropical forests, requiring more water and a bit less light.

All air plants have similar general care requirements. However, you should learn the type you have to provide it more specific needs.

Environment

Air plant in terrarium
Image credits: Ciera Holzenthal via flickr

Since Tillandsia grows on trees and objects in nature, placing them on a piece of driftwood or another plant in your home is easy. You can secure the air plant using gardening wire until its roots have become firmly mounted on the object.

Placing air plants in vessels, such as simple catch-all dishes, cache pots, and terrariums, is also an option. Never place the plants in a container or location where light and air circulation are blocked, or where water can gather. A lack of air and light while sitting in water causes the plants to rot. That means you should not ever plant them in soil. 

Light, Temperature, and Humidity

Air plant in sunlight
Image credits: Chen Yij via Unsplash

Place your air plants in a location with bright, indirect sunlight, such as a southern or eastern window. They can also survive in artificial lighting, whether you opt for a grow light or fluorescent lighting. A plant grown in artificial lighting will require more hours of light (around 12 hours per day) and more frequent watering.

Air plants obviously need good air circulation and plenty of moisture, so placing them in a humid bathroom with a window or grow light is a great option.

Fortunately, the plants tolerate a broad range of temperatures and do well in anything from 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Be that as it may, they are happiest in temperatures from 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

Pro Tip: Keep air plants out of direct sunlight, as this can scorch the plants and result in death.

Water and Fertilizer

Close up of woman florist holding in her wet hand after spraying air plant Tillandsia at garden home/greenhouse, taking care of houseplants. Indoor gardening.
Image credits: DimaBerlin via DimaBerlin

Air plants don’t require regular fertilizing, but fertilizing once a month (in the spring and summer) is beneficial. The plants absorb water and fertilizer through their leaves, so you can add a dabble to the water. Follow the below steps to water the plants, including fertilizer, when necessary.

If the plants are mounted or in a difficult-to-reach area, you can mist them regularly with a spray bottle. Ensure the plant is wet but not soaked or dripping, as the plants are prone to overwatering. Curling leaves and brown tips are a sign your making this mistake. As a general rule of thumb, they need watering once a week in fall and winter and more frequent watering depending on the weather in spring and summer.

Otherwise, completely immerse the plant in a bowl or sink full of water. Dunk air plant from drier climates (mesic, the silver varieties) for a few seconds each time and then allow them to dry off before returning them to their vessel.

Soaking the xeric plants from warmer climates (the green varieties) for 10 to 20 minutes should do the trick, but if they are really thirsty, leave them overnight (up to 12 hours). Then, gently shake off excess moisture and allow them to dry for about four hours. Once dry, return them to their vessel!

Pro Tip: Use distilled water when soaking your air plants as the minerals from tap water, like fluoride and chlorine, can overwhelm the plant.

Time to Get Some Air (Plants)

While air plants are very low-maintenance, they still require some time and attention to survive. Keeping them in a well-lit bathroom and watering them about once a week is the best way to ensure they thrive. Still, there are plenty of options for placement as long as you provide the right conditions.

Do you have any tips for growing air plants? Share in the comments below!

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