How To Properly Water Your Air Plants - Backyard Boss
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How To Properly Water Your Air Plants

Air plants (Tillandsias) are members of the exotic bromeliad family. This unique plant specie doesn’t require soil to grow and uses its roots to attach itself to objects for support. However, the absence of soil does not mean the plant can do without water or nutrients. Air plants use their leaves to absorb everything through the air! 

Thus, if you have recently acquired this dynamic plant and wondering how to water it, keep reading!

Material Required

Image credits: patchii via Shutterstock

Watering an air plant is a simple process requiring basic materials. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large bowl or sink
  • Spray bottle
  • Distilled water or rainwater 
  • Wire rack

How to Water Air Plants

air plant on a brown surface
Image credits: yoppy via Creative Commons

To determine the correct way to water your air plant, you must know about its native habitat. Air plants are naturally found in Southern United States, and Central and Southern America. Hence, they can have vastly varied habitats ranging from humid tropics to arid environments. 

If you are unsure about the origin of your air plant, take a look at its leaves. If your plant has smooth, dark green leaves tightly curled or cupped, it comes from shaded rainforests and requires more watering. Contrarily, air plants with silver-green, flat, scaly leaves with fuzz are from a dry region.    

Depending on its origin and subsequent water requirement, there are two ways to supply moisture to the resilient plant. 

Soaking Method

The soaking method is typically used for air plants from a tropical habitat as they require more water. To water, fill a bowl or sink with water, immerse the plant, and let it soak for 10 to 20 minutes. Remove the plant from the vessel and gently shake off the excess water.

After watering the plant, it is imperative to let it dry completely before placing it back in its display container. If you water the plant and immediately keep it in its container, it can cause rot to develop in your plant.

Keep the plant upside down or on its side in an area with good air circulation for about four hours. You can also place it upright on a wire rack to let the bottom part air dry completely. Make sure there is no stagnant water in the leaves or crevices, as it can result in rotting.

Dunking Method

An alternate method to soaking is dunking the plant in water. This method is better for air plants from a dry region, as they need less water. 

Fill a bowl or the sink with water and dunk the plant in the water to allow it to soak the moisture. Only dunk for a maximum of a few seconds and let the plant dry thoroughly in a well-ventilated area. 


Misting the air plant is not a substitute for watering but an additional measure. It prevents the air plants, especially those from a humid environment, from dehydrating in warm conditions. Mist the plant once a week between each watering session. Spray the water thoroughly until the plant is wet but not dripping.

How Often to Water

air plants soaking Tillandsia harrisii
Image credits: patchii via Shutterstock

Whether you use the soaking or the dunking method, water the plant twice or thrice a week from spring until autumn, you may have to increase the watering frequency if you live in a drier and hotter climate. Point is, they need water at least once a week.

Allow your plant to soak for a longer time, about two hours, every two to three weeks. You can also soak them overnight in summer if the leaves look particularly dehydrated. Once it becomes too cold and the temperature drops below 54 degrees Fahrenheit, avoid watering the plant as it may remain wet for too long, causing rot.

How to Know the Plant is Dehydrated or Overwatered

Studio shot of a woman holding two glasses filled with air plants
Image credits: feey via Unsplash

It is relatively simple to gauge if your plant is dehydrated or overwatered. A quick look at its leaves will give you a better insight into the plant’s condition. 

If you notice that the leaves are starting to curl and their tips are turning brown, it signifies that your plant is not receiving ample water. On the other hand, if the leaves are turning brown or starting to look soggy, you are overwatering your plant.  

Water Requirements 

Image credits: Hiroo Mochii via Shutterstock

To ensure that your air plant survives and thrives, you must pay special attention to the water you are using. If you live in an area that receives plenty of rainfall, collect rainwater to water your plants. 

Avoid tap water, particularly in winter, as the water may contain dissolved mineral salts that can block the trichomes (white fuzz on the leaves). The blocked trichomes are unable to absorb moisture, leading to plant dehydration.

If you do not have access to rainwater, distilled water is preferable to tap water. However, distilled water can gradually leach nutrients from the plant leaves, so add fertilizer to the water before soaking or dunking the plant.  

Finally, always use tepid or room-temperature water for your plant. 

Proper Watering, Happier Plant

Air plants require a little extra TLC since they have a distinguished watering method. However, timely watering can result in a flourishing air plant that makes an exotic addition to any home. 

Have you ever owned an air plant? How did you take care of it? Share your thoughts, comments, and questions about it below!