Air plants are extremely low-maintenance so it’s almost impossible to believe they can thrive on such little care and still look so beautiful. For those of us who pay special attention to our houseplants and the quality of their soil, it’s pretty hard to imagine a soil-less plant!
But they definitely exist and if you learn how to care for air plants, I think you’ll fall in love with them.
I’m sure you’ve seen these little plants at the garden center or checkout line at your local store and marveled at their appearance: modern, sleek, and completely unique.
This makes them excellent home decor pieces which is why they’re gaining in popularity across the country. I think all plant lovers know that nothing sparks up a room like live plants.
What Exactly Are Air Plants?
Air plants (Tillandsia spp.) are native to areas spanning South America, Mexico, Central Mexico, and the Southern United States. They’re classified as epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants and trees in their natural habitat – it’s why they don’t need soil to survive.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that tiny roots grow from the crown, and they use those roots to latch onto trees or plants for survival. It’s pretty fascinating!
There are hundreds of different varieties and they’re celebrated for their long, triangular foliage that grows outwards in a rosette-fashion and with new growth coming from the center, much like succulents.
You can find air plants in shades of silver-light green and deeper green and better yet- they produce flowers!
Sunlight and Air Plants
If you want to grow air plants successfully then providing them with the right amount of sunlight is critical; these plants may not need soil but they definitely need their share of light to stay alive.
In their natural habitat, air plants are shaded by larger plants and trees, so they’re not meant to live in direct sun. Instead, they prefer indirect sunlight.
This means you shouldn’t place them next to a window that’s not shaded by curtains or blinds, because this might provide too much exposure to heat and light and your plant will dry out quickly.
Like succulents, 6 hours of indirect sunlight is best.
Ideal Temperature for Air Plants
Temperature control is extremely important to the health of air plants. As with other houseplants, air plants will not do well in cold temperatures because they grows naturally in areas with temperate winters. This plant was made for warm temps!
So, if you live in a cold area with brutal winters, heating your home will prove critical to the health of your air plants.
The best temperature range for an air plant is between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Water Air Plants
Here it is, what you’ve probably been wondering all along: If they don’t live in soil, then how on earth do you water air plants?
Quite simply, actually. The watering method for these beauties is as easy as can be: submerge them in water for 30 minutes once a week.
This is really all they need. In their natural habitat, they get the water they need from the humidity in the air as well as from rainfall. They’ll soak up all the moisture they need to survive but you have to let them dry out properly to avoid rot.
Here are step-by-step watering instructions:
- Fill a container with water
- Submerge the air plants in the water-filled container for half an hour
- Take the air plants out of the water and place them upside down on a towel or dish rack (the crown of the plant should be facing up)
- Repeat every week
TIP: If you live in a dry climate (like me!) you can increase the humidity around your air plants by lightly misting them with a water-filled spray bottle every few days. This is especially helpful during a dry Winter.
How to Fertilize Air Plants
Fertilizing air plants isn’t necessary, but many growers do it to encourage blooms, new growth, and the formation of pups.
If you’re going to fertilize, make sure to either use a fertilizer that’s specifically made for air plants, or a fertilizer that’s made for bromeliads (a tropical houseplant), because it’s low-nitrogen and non-urea based, which is crucial.
You can either apply fertilizer a few times a year or once a month, but never more than once a month, or you risk nitrogen burn. A great time to fertilize is when the plant starts to bloom.
To fertilize, spray the fertilizer onto the plant after soaking it in water for thirty minutes, then let it air dry.
Where Can You Place Air Plants?
Air plants are pretty adaptable, so you can let your creativity run wild when it comes to where to place them.
People love growing the in terrariums, on top of driftwood, in Christmas ornaments, etc.
I love them in small terrariums but I also think they look beautiful coupled together on top of a stylish container or decorative bowl and atop a stack of coffee table books or on an end table!
Whatever you choose, make sure your air plants get plenty of indirect sunlight and ideal temps.