Air plants are one of the most unique and fun plants out there, and their low-maintenance vibe makes them a perfect choice for gifting. Tillandsia, or air plants, as they are more commonly called, have become increasingly popular because of their oh-so-cool look, and because like their name suggests, they live in the air alone. No soil is required here. But don’t jump to the conclusion that because they don’t require soil, they don’t need water! The only problem with air plants is that most of us don’t know how to care for these one-of-a-kind plants when we receive them. Instead of letting your new plant baby suffer a sad death because of your lack of knowledge, read on to learn how to care for these special specimens.
When you bring your air plant to the place where it’ll be calling home, take a quick examination of its whereabouts. Air plants are resilient, but it’s important to keep your environment in mind. For instance, if you find yourself in a drier climate, you’ll want to water your plant more frequently than if you were living in a humidity-high locale. So before you dive into caring for your new little creature, consider its new home first. When it comes to the temperature of their surroundings, air plants are pretty tough cookies. They should be able to withstand the elements and temperatures between 45 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In frost-free or nearly frost-free climates, your air plants can live outside for the entire year. If you’re expecting colder weather, bring those babies inside.
Many people sell or see air plants in terrariums or glass globes, so they assume they must live in this type of container. Putting your plant in this type of home isn’t required. But if you choose to, remember to remove the plant from it for normal watering. When your plant is in a terrarium or globe, you can give it periodic mistings to create some humidity. The smaller and more compact the container, the fewer mistings you will want to give it. Make sure you aren’t overmisting and that your plant dries within a few hours of doing so.
As you would expect with soil-bound plants, air plants also require generous watering, although you do so a bit differently with this varietal. To water your air plant, fill a bowl, container, or sink full of water. Then, submerge your plant face down in it for about 30-45 minutes every three weeks. You’ll want to start this process about one week after your new plant makes its arrival. It’s best to do your soak in the morning and then leave the plant out of its container in a place where it can dry within a few hours.
You never want to let your air plant sit in water for a prolonged period of time. In fact, when you remove your plant from its bath, you’ll want to gently shake off any excess water from the base. Sitting water can cause rot, which can damage or even kill the poor plant altogether.
If you find that your air plant looks a bit more thirsty than usual, you can leave it in water for a slightly longer soak of a few hours, or even overnight. You can also mist them with a spray bottle if needed. If you find your air plant in bloom (yay!), it should be rinsed rather than submerged in water. You should also take special care to be extra delicate with its flowers. After watering your air plant, you’ll notice that its leaves will feel stiffer and full of water. When they need water, they’ll also be softer and lighter in color. Find the leaves on your air place to be wrinkled or rolled? Give that poor plant baby a good soak! This can be a telltale sign of dehydration.
When it comes to the water, it’s not at all the same. If possible, try to use pond, aquarium, or rainwater. If you don’t find yourself able to obtain any of those, bottled water or spring water is also ok to use. Most importantly, never use distilled or artificially softened water. If your home has a water softener installed, give your little buddy water from someplace else. If you are using tap water, let the water stand for several hours to help dissipate any chemicals that might exist in it before watering your plant baby.
All living beings need light to survive, and air plants are no different. Air plants prefer bright but indirect light, so it’s best to place them near a sunny window, but just out of the path of direct beams. Periods of direct sunlight are just fine, but more than a few hours of hot sun will deplete the plants of their moisture, even in an indoor environment. You don’t want to sunburn the poor thing!
If your air plant is spending its life with you indoors, you might consider a place within three to five feet of a window or near an artificial light source. For outdoor air plant care, place them in a shaded area that does not receive full sun. While there are a few air plant varieties that can handle direct sun, the majority prefer indirect light. Think of it like sunscreen: if you would put on sunscreen before sitting in this spot, it’s probably not a great one for your plant baby. A bathroom or kitchen window with indirect light are great choices because the combination of steam ad moisture will keep them super happy. Artificial light can be an option for your air plants, as long as the plants are not too far from the light and receive adequate amounts per day.
Sometimes your air plants might have dry lower leaves, which is completely normal as it grows and acclimates to a new environment. If you see this on your plant baby, have no fear! These leaves can be gently pulled right off of the plant. If the tips of the leaf have dried out, feel free to snip off the dried bit. We suggest trying to trim them at an angle to leave a natural-looking pointy tip. Don’t worry about harming your plants during the grooming process. They’ll regrow eventually, and the dead or dried-out parts never will.
Air plants are as much fun to give as they are to receive, and with the proper care, they’ll grow big and strong for a long, long time.