Now, don’t you just love your air plant? No doubt having air plants around could help add more color and life to your apartment or garden. This stand-alone plant and exquisite living art piece makes for great decoration at home or as gifts for loved ones.
Are you getting worried about air plant leaves drying up? How often an air plant needs water? The extent of sunlight or the illumination needs of an air plant? Then you’re in the right place to learn how to increase the lifespan of your air plant.
It doesn’t matter if you keep just for aesthetics or if you’re a real plant lover; I’ve got you covered!
What’s an Air Plant?
Air plants are epiphytes also known as Tillandsia (air fern) and belong to the Bromeliaceous family just like the pineapple. Air plants are one of America’s more intriguing and exciting tropical plants, possessing narrow leaves with capabilities to feed on air and water. Being epiphytes, they do not need soil for growth but depend on other plants instead.
Air plants come in shades of green and silver. At maturity or when it’s time to flower, the plant becomes fiery red with contrasting colors.
Interesting Facts about Air Plants
Did you know air plants don’t have roots? Air plants actually do not maintain the root systems needed for digging into the soil to tap nutrients.
They can grow by attaching themselves to wood, trees, rocks, fences, baskets, telephone wires, tables, window panes or other decorative shells.
Attaching themselves does not make air plants parasites; they only depend on those plants or objects for a supportive base, but not nutrients.
Air plants possess aerial roots that make it possible to take in the air. They depend largely on the right temperature which is a well-lit and ventilated (humid) environment to breathe.
Air plants have long, toughened root-like structures with which they fasten themselves to a surface.
There are over 550 species of epiphytes of this perennial herb scattered all across the deserts, mountains, and forests of South and Central America.
Signs of a Dying Air Plant
- When the leaves begin to feel softer and have lighter color shades, it means they need water.
- When the leaves feel harder and full of water, it’s a sign of hydration.
- When the leaves begin to dry up, wrinkle or have rolled leaves, it is one of the signs of dying air plant leaves.
5 Sure Ways to Increase the Lifespan of Your Air Plant
1 – Provide Adequate Watering
How much water does my air plant need? Watering the air plant once or twice a week should be good enough.
But I though they are air plant and need only air? No water at all, just air, is tantamount to a death sentence for the plant.
You can soak the plant in water for the purpose of hydration for 1 to about 4 hours depending on the need. Make sure to soak the entire plant excluding the flower in a bowl, sink or bathtub of fresh tap water or bottled water.
Please remember, do not return the plant to its base immediately after watering. Always shake off the excess water first.
2 – Provide the Right Amount of Light Exposure
Does my air plant require access to sunlight? Yes, it is very important to allow your plant mist several times in a week. But it should not exceed a few minutes of direct sunlight.
Access to bright, diffused or indirect sunlight gives the plant the needed amount of photosynthesis for growth.
3 – Ensure the Right Amount of Humidity
Humidity or temperature is a very important factor for the survival of an air plant. Your air plant is best suitable for warm temperatures not exceeding 50 to 90 degrees.
Species such as the ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata) can be found in coastal regions particularly the desert areas of Mexico.
However, most air plants do better in moist or humid and tropical regions rather than arid environments like the coastal deserts.
4 – Trim and Groom the Air Plant
We all need a little bit of clean up and trimming to look good, don’t we? Over time some of the lower leaves of the epiphytes should dry up or become withered due to age, climatic conditions and more. You can help by gently pulling off the withered leaves from the plant.
Once you notice the air plant’s leaves have dried tips or edges, you can trim those edges carefully and nicely. Trim the leaves as well as the roots without worrying if they start showing signs of being dried, as they will grow back.
5 – Apply Fertilizer (Optional)
You do not necessarily have to do this often if you can follow the other directions above judiciously. Fertilizing your air plants occasionally can help preserve their lives and help the leaves look robust and healthy.
It is best to use water-soluble fertilizers in the range of ¼ strength. Bromeliad fertilizers are preferred since air plants are from the bromeliad family.
You can mix the water with the fertilizer and feed the plant once in a month during any of the soaking sessions.
For more air plant care tips, see my full guide.
How to Cultivate a Beautiful Air Plant Cluster
With the right amount of water, humidity, and illumination your air plant should be set to flower. Now, there is only one step left in cultivating your epiphyte into a beautiful air plant cluster with flowers.
First, ensure there are no obstructions and it can grow without hindrance and then let the plant set to work on its own while you wait for the appropriate flowering time.
It develops bright red leaves at the uppermost part when it is time to flower. Epiphytes also produce gorgeous-looking bright violet petals and tube-like flowers.
Once it begins to flower it will reproduce Pups at the base of the plant. The many pups produced at maturity will help to continue the plant’s lifecycle.
The last thing you must do is to allow them grow together. There you have it; a beautiful air plant cluster!
Placing Air Plants in a Container
I recommend placing air plants in a basket, window area, on tables, on wooden supports or pillars and other decorative pieces. But you could choose to place them in a container maybe because you have a beautiful vase or container that you really like. Just ensure the lid allows enough room for air.
Remember, it’s an air plant, so they shouldn’t be to isolated from an air supply. Just be creative and explore with caution!
Can you Keep an Air Plant Outdoors?
Why not! The air plant sure can increase the aesthetic value of your balcony and help make an evening out on the porch an exhilarating experience with that special someone. Just ensure to follow the 5 ways recommended above to keep it glowing.
It’s better to keep them in a shady place with bright light, not direct sunlight. Provide adequate watering since the air plant is out in the open and prevent rain from falling on them.
Alternatively, drain water out after it rains, then allow them to dry out for about 4 hours.
Tips on Caring for an Air Plant
- When it is time to deep plant in water, avoid distilled water because the chemical components can interfere with the plant’s normal aeration process.
- Ensure the air plant has access to diffused sunlight for growth.
- Air-dry the air plant for about 3-4 hours before returning it to its place whenever you have it deep in water.
- When soaking air plants in water, do not allow the flowers to get into the water as they will dissolve on contact with water.
- When in bloom, rinse the plants instead of soaking them in water.
- During the dry season or hotter climates, watering or misting more often might be necessary.
- Besides watering, always trim your plants when they show signs of dryness to keep them looking nice.
- Avoid feeding with fertilizer too often as it could burn the delicate leaves of your air plants.
- Have a clear understanding of your room temperature and available light supply. It helps to know what your plants needs will be and how often they will need support.
With the tips above, you’re all set to enjoy your beautiful air plants!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.
catherine donovan barnes
Friday 8th of May 2020
Mine lived for 22 years then suddenly died. Small ballmoss
Lisa | The Practical Planter
Monday 11th of May 2020
Wow, that's impressive! Sounds like you took great care of it!
Monday 12th of August 2019
How long should an air plant live indoors?
Lisa | The Practical Planter
Tuesday 13th of August 2019
Air plants can live for several years if taken care of! They will produce pups that you'll want to remove when they reach about half the size of the mother plant, but if you keep up with separating them, you should be able to keep your original plant thriving. Good luck!