Air plants (also known as Tillandsia), get their name from their ability to absorb nutrients from the air through their leaves, instead of being planted in soil. Any roots you may find on an air plant are actually there to help them grab on to things!
While there are many varieties of air plants, there are two main types. Ones that live in the desert usually have thicker leaves, a more silvery colour and are more drought tolerant. Meanwhile, those that live in the rainforest have generally greener, thinner leaves and prefer more humidity and water. If you can identify which type of air plant you have, you are on your way to caring for it better.
Air plants have become a popular house plant and are relatively hardy. But because they aren’t a normal pot-bound plant, they do have special needs. Read on for the three basics of keeping an air plant alive.
Three Basics of keeping an Air Plant Alive
First: Air plants are unique in that they don’t live in soil; instead, they absorb everything they need through their leaves. This includes water and other nutrients. Water is important to air plants, but its the right amount of water you need to know.
The best way to water an air plant is to submerge it in water for a short time. Let it dry off before it goes back to its home, so that there is no excess water that can cause rot. Most air plants can do with a weekly watering, but keep an eye on yours and respond to its individual needs. The environment can always affect things!
If your air plant is starting to go brown on the leaves, it is most likely too dry. Water it more regularly. You may even want to use a spray bottle to give it some extra moisture in-between waterings.
To give your air plant extra nutrients or for a growth boost, submerge it in a liquid fertilizer mix with water. The fertilizer should be half to quarter strength of what would normally be used, and since air plants are actually a type of bromeliad, a bromeliad fertiliser is a great type to use.
Second: Fresh air is one of the most underrated needs of a house plant! Your air plant will thrive with a bit of air circulation, whether that is a well -ventilated area, or near a window. Keep in mind that in nature, an air plant gets its nutrients from the air flowing around it. Now you can see how important this step is!
Third: Air plants generally prefer bright but indirect light. Some can have direct light, preferable in the mornings, for a short time, but don’t let them bake. Similarly, knowing if you have a ‘desert’ or ‘rainforest’ type of air plant can help you understand the best light for yours.
So the three basics of keeping an air plant alive are watering, air flow and light! Balancing these three, while identifying your plant’s individual needs will help it thrive. I hope you feel confident in caring for your Tillandsia! If you’re a fellow house-plant-hoarder, check out the plants page for more tips.