Updated April 26, 2022 by Mark Marino
Without their need for soil, air plants are wonderfully distinctive in the plant world. With many air plant varieties to grow, you can create fun air plant displays so long as you can provide what air plants need to thrive in your setting. Botanically known as the Tillandsia genus, air plants come in more than 600 varieties that are native to South America, Central America, and even parts of the southern US. While most air plant varieties are easy to grow, it’s important to employ the best air plant care tips so that your air plant species stay healthy.
What Are Air Plants?
An air plant is a plant that grows without the need for soil. In the wild air plants grow on other plants such as trees. In their native environments of South America or Central America, air plants such as Tillandsia bulbosa and Tillandsia xerographica use their roots to hang on trees and tree branches where they absorb water, natural light, and nutrients from bird droppings. Since they can’t obtain their nourishment this way indoors, any air plants you grow in a terrarium or tabletop will need to be cared for with the proper watering, light exposure, air circulation, nutrients, and more.
Since there are many types of air plants, their appearance can range substantially. Many air plants feature arching tendrils that make them look like sea creatures. Tillandsia bulbosa, a popular type of air plant, features a bulbous base and long dark green tendrils that turn a dazzling shade of violet before the plant is ready to bloom. Tillandsia xerographica, another popular air plant, features a silvery green jellyfish-like appearance with its wide leaves that form a thick central rosette. As the leaves grow, they begin to dangle from the rosette-like appendages of a jellyfish.
Most air plant varieties remain small, which makes them ideal house plants for nearly any interior setting. Displaying air plants is fun; some people even use hot glue to grow air plants on the walls of their home. Others prefer to grow their xeric types of air plants in clear glass containers such as terrariums or indoors on window ledges.
Growing Air Plants Indoors
To grow air plants successfully indoors, you’ll want to follow these air plant care tips. Although many types of air plants eventually die, with the best air plant care, you can ensure that yours thrive throughout their lifespan.
As mentioned, air plants grow in versatile displays. Glass containers are a favorite among air plant enthusiasts. You can purchase small glass bowls to showcase a single air plant or a large glass container to grow multiple air plants. Some people suspend them from glass containers in their windows to ensure the plants get plenty of bright indirect light and good air circulation. Some people prefer to plant their air plants in spanish moss; just be careful to ensure that your plant is exposed to plenty of air to avoid rot. Many types of moss hold moisture, which can allow root rot to set in quickly.
The lighting needs of air plants depend on what species you are growing. Some prefer indirect light and even partial shade. A few species will tolerate direct sun well, but remember that these plants grow on trees in places like Central America where they receive indirect light that filters through the forest canopy. Most air plants will be content with a few hours of bright indirect sunlight. If you can’t provide them with natural indirect light, you can use artificial light.
Your air plant does not need potting soil or any soil to grow! The roots of these plants do not grow in the soil so you should refrain from planting them in any soil mix.
Air plant watering is easy, but you should avoid using tap water as it has a higher concentration of salts and minerals that can damage your air plant by turning its leaf tips brown. Instead, use bottled water to soak the plant. To water your air plant, you should submerge it, allowing the plant to soak for about 15 minutes. Then, allow the air plant to dry out completely. It’s important for air plant roots to dry thoroughly after absorbing water to avoid rot. Rot can set in from excess water exposure. Place your air plant in an area with good air circulation so that excess water can dry away easily.
Some people also mist their air plants while others avoid misting them, in favor of dunking them once or twice per week. If you choose to mist them, remember to use bottled water. Don’t mist them too much or you could leave the roots vulnerable to root rot.
Air plants prefer temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, do not grow your air plants near air conditioning where temperatures will be too chilly. Also, you might want to remove your air plants from your window during winter if it gets drafty.
Air plants need nutrients to grow well indoors. You can fertilize your air plants one to two times per week with a water-soluble fertilizer that is designed for air plants.
How to Care for Indoor Air Plants
Use the air plant care tips above to maintain your air plants indoors. You can grow your air plants with other plants; they tend to grow well with plants like orchids and cacti. Remember that air plants need access to a light source. If you display them in an area without much natural light, you should expose them to an artificial light source.
Air Plant FAQs
How long do air plants live indoors?
Most air plants live between two and five years. Most air plants tend to die soon after flowering. When choosing air plants to grow, research their lifespan to choose the right type for you. There are lots of air plants to choose from, owing to their popularity.
How do you take care of air plants for beginners?
Air plants require a few hours of exposure to indirect light, water, nutrients, and warm temperatures. Rely on the air plant care tips above to properly care for your plants. Air plants have different care requirements depending on the types of air plants you are growing.
Do air plants have fuzzy leaves?
Some air plants have fuzzy leaves; other air plants can have smooth, glossy leaves. Remember that the types of air plants you have will inform your specific air plant care regimen.
How much light do air plants need?
Air plants require a few hours of bright indirect light each day. If you cannot provide it with indirect light, you should use an alternative light source. Most air plants do not, however, prefer direct sun exposure; some will tolerate it. Keep that in mind when choosing a window or location in your home to grow your air plants.