There are easy-care houseplants, and then there are Air Plants. Officially known as Tillandsia, these plants hail from the Caribbean, South America, Central America, and the southeastern U.S. If you’re looking for something incredibly easy or unique, the Air Plant is for you. Learn about Air Plant Care and how these tiny plants can add whimsy and greenery to your home.
What Exactly is an Air Plant?
Air Plant is a broad term for plants that can grow without soil. Most Air Plants are members of the Tillandsia genus (and are related to Bromeliads), but plants from other genera also fall into the Air Plant category. There are Air Plants that belong to the Orchid family, some are related to ferns, and others are related to forest cacti.
Air Plants are considered Tillandsia for this article, and the care tips listed below are specific to Tillandsia. You may see non-Tillandsia plants categorized as Air Plants, and this is not wrong, but those plants have different care requirements. This article pertains to Tillandsia Air Plant care.
How Do Air Plants Survive?
Air Plants are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants, but they are not parasites and do not take nutrients from other plants. These tiny plants just hang out on other plants. They do not need soil to grow, so that they can be off the ground and up in the canopy or any spot with good sunlight and water access.
Most Air Plants have roots, but the roots are not used to absorb water and nutrients like most plants. Instead, Air Plants use their roots to hold on and secure the plant to a tree or whatever spot it calls home. Some Air Plants have trichomes, tiny hair-like structures on the leaves used to soak up water and nutrients.
Types of Air Plants
Tillandsia plants typically have green foliage that grows from a center point. The leaves can be thin or thick, flat or round, and often curl back and away from the center. Some Air Plants flower and some have colorful foliage. Some of the more popular Air Plant varieties include:
- Head of Medusa (Tillandsia caput-medusae)
- Sky Plant (Tillandsia ionantha)
- Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides)
- Tillandsia aeranthos
- Tillandsia andreana
- Tillandsia bulbosa
- Tillandsia capitata
- Tillandsia chiapensis
- Tillandsia Cotton Candy (Tillandsia houston)
- Tillandsia cyanea
- Tillandsia didisticha
- Tillandsia funckiana
- Tillandsia gardneri
- Tillandsia ionantha
- Tillandsia maxima
- Tillandsia stricta
- Tillandsia xerographica
Air Plant Light Needs
Medium to bright indirect light is preferred for proper Air Plant care. Low light is not enough to support growth, but direct sunlight will burn the delicate leaves.
How Often to Water an Air Plant
Watering a plant without soil may seem like a riddle, but it’s easy. The way you water an Air Plant depends on the plant. Research your specific plant or try the different methods before landing on the proper process for your plant.
Some Air Plants need a spray with a mister, others need a quick dunk in a sink or bowl of water, and others require a longer soak. To soak an Air Plant, fill a bowl or sink with water; some plant owners prefer distilled water, and place your Air Plant in the water for 20 to 40 minutes. Air Plants typically need a soak every one to two weeks.
Do Air Plants Need Soil?
Air Plants do not need soil. These plants naturally grow without soil and are adept at absorbing nutrients through their leaves.
Temperature for Air Plant
Air Plants like to be warm, and most homes are a good temperature for these plants. Anything between 50° to 90° F is acceptable for Air Plants, but temperature swings are bad news. Keep the plants away from heating or cooling vents and exterior doors and windows, especially in winter.
Air Plant Humidity
Humidity is essential for Air Plant care because moisture in the air is part of how these plants sustain themselves. Above-average humidity keeps these plants lush and thriving. A nearby humidifier or a perch in a naturally humid area will provide excellent Air Plant care.
Air Plant Fertilizer
Air Plants are not heavy feeders, and they can do just fine without being fed. With that said, fertilizing Air Plants will help the plants live their best life and bloom. Fertilize Air Plants using a product intended for Tillandsia and follow the instructions on the packaging.
Pruning Air Plant
Pruning is not a big part of Air Plant care. Remove dead or damaged growth as needed; otherwise, they can be left alone.
Do Air Plants Bloom?
Many Air Plants bloom, and they set spectacular flowers. The blooms are typically colorful and emerge from the center of the plant. Blooming is bittersweet for Air Plants because that signals the beginning of the end. As Bromeliads, Tillandsia Air Plants fade away after flowering.
Air Plant Propagation
Air Plants are short-lived and typically last for a few years, but you can propagate your plant to ensure you always have Air Plants on display. Propagate Air Plants by division. Air Plants send out offshoots or pups, typically after flowering. These baby plants can be removed from the mother plant when they are about half the size of the main plant. Once the new plant is separated, treat it the same as the parent plant.
Are Air Plants Pet Friendly?
Tillandsia plants are pet-safe and are non-toxic to cats and dogs. Remember that plants other than Tillandsia may go by the name Air Plant, so always check the botanical name to confirm if a plant is safe to have around pets.
Air Plant Styling Tips
Think outside the box, or the pot, when styling Air Plants. Place these tiny plants on a tabletop or desk or give them a perch or pedestal. Suspend Air Plants from the ceiling in a hanger, mount them to a piece of wood, or place them in an aquarium. The possibilities are endless, so get creative, but ensure the plant is displayed in a spot with appropriate sunlight and humidity. Also, ensure the plant is easy to access for routine misting or soaking.
Air Plant Care Tips
Tillandsia Air Plants are lovely little plants you can tuck into a vase or suspend in a hanger. These tiny beauties are easy to maintain, making them an excellent choice for first-time plant owners or anyone looking for something unique.